Jesus said, "If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector."
Gossip as its heart is a destructive force. We once played a game at EYC and summer camp called gossip. The game is simple. Everyone sits in a circle and one person whispers a word or phrase in the ear of the person next to them. They in turn whisper the same word, and around the circle it goes. When the last person hears the word they then tell the group. It never ends up being what the first person said.
I do not think it is any different for us at All Saints or in Clinton. Being conscious of what we say and how we say it is important, and Jesus in this passage reminds us of how we are called to deal with each other in and thru the love of Christ. It is a directive to talk to each other and not about each other. Jesus gives us a directive on how to deal with sin and to deal with it directly. This parish will grow and we will become more of what God intends us to be, only if we trust one another enough to be honest with each other. It is at the heart of Christian community and at the heart of what Jesus calls us to in faith.
I also hear something else. This passage is a call for humility. We must not only be open to confront sin in our midst but we must also be open to acknowledging the sin in our own lives. I think this passage is easy to hear when we believe that we have the truth for someone else, but much harder to hear when others see our sin and confront it.
Our Eucharist is an amazing thing. It was put together over 2000 years ago but at its heart is the worship that the first disciples did together. I also think that the patterns of worship we use are used by all or most all Christians. The essence of what we do is three parts of worship. We have the liturgy of the word, the liturgy of the table, and between them is something that we too often forget or don’t take seriously. Before coming to this table and after hearing God’s word proclaimed, we are ask to seek absolution with God and each other. At the heart of the transition between hearing and receiving is an act of humility.
I don’t know if you realize the importance of this moment. I think too often it is just what we do, but the reality of this moment is that we are to seek to know our own sin and seek God’s forgiveness. But we are also to seek each other’s forgiveness. It is that pivotal moment which transforms you from sinner to saint. It is that moment in which you become acceptable to come before God and offer your gifts and yourself.
Placing something in that plate and coming to receive communion is not how you become acceptable before God. I want to suggest it is just the opposite. Don’t put anything in the plate if you have not sought forgiveness. It is not your ticket for communion. Do not come to this table if you have not sought absolution. That is not how you get here. This is the only place in the world where you cannot buy your way in. No, it is through confession and absolution; knowing God’s love and grace; seeking out those you have offended and asking for forgiveness that makes what you offer acceptable. It is seeking God’s forgiveness which transforms you from sinner into saint.
How do you prepare for your confession? How do you prepare each week to come to this table? I would love for you to prepare each week for this moment. I would love for you to come to this service with a 3x5 card or in my case, a notebook, for which needs to be forgiven. I would love for you to have spent some time preparing for this Eucharist by recognizing your own sin and then seeking God’s forgiveness. Imagine what would change if when you came to the Offertory sentence and that moment was a response to God’s forgiveness. Imagine what would change if you came forward to receive communion and that moment was in thanksgiving for God’s forgiveness.