Sermons

Sun, Sep 10, 2017

The Gospel the world needs

Series:Sermons

More than a quarter of a million Rohingya--

mostly women and children-- 

have fled across the border into Bangladesh...

following increased conflict in western Myanmar.

Long standing repression from the Buddhist majority...

has given rise to some militant groups among the Muslim Rohingya...

who attacked several police stations and a military base...

killing fifteen.

More than three hundred militants were also killed.

Reprisals from the military and Buddhist vigilantes have been swift and severe...

with thousands of villages burned to the ground...

and large numbers of Rohingya shot, stabbed...

or burned alive inside their homes.

 

In Cambodia, the nation's opposition leader has been arrested...

accused of treason.

It comes in the wake of the government's closure of nineteen radio stations...

and a newspaper--

all of which had been critical of the government--

and amid threats to ban the main opposition party.

Commentators have described the arrest as "politically motivated"...

a violation of the constitution...

and a "disastrous setback" for democracy and human rights in the country...

warning of a looming descent into outright dictatorship.

 

In the early hours of Saturday morning...

a man was stabbed and killed after a brawl broke out at a restaurant in Melbourne's west.

The brawl ensued after an uninvited group attempted to enter a private function...

and the restaurant owners tried to evict them.

The victim was stabbed multiple times...

while several objects and the door of the restaurant were damaged in the brawl.

 

In Brisbane...

supporters and opponents of marriage equality have clashed during an angry stand-off outside a church...

following the High Court's ruling that the postal survey go ahead.

"Yes" protestors, outside, tried to disrupt a meeting inside the church of a "No" group.

Footage of the incident shows pushing, shoving, and shouting...

but one "Yes" protestor was injured...

when, allegedly, some of the departing "No" group drove their cars into the protestors.

 

Meanwhile the national toll of women killed as a result of domestic violence...

this year...

stands at thirty-three.

 

We live in a world of conflict, don't we?

Everyday there are reports of it in the media... 

in a variety of forms.

We see it both on an international and global scale...

as well as closer to home and on a smaller scale.

Maybe it's just that there's more reporting of such things these days;

or maybe there is a growing trend in our society--

a product of the pressures that we face in our modern world...

and of the poor relationship modelling that many of us have experienced.

In reality, it's probably a mixture of many things.

And, perhaps, it's also that we have forgotten how to resolve conflict without resorting to violence... 

or to drastic measures.

 

Well, this morning's reading from Matthew's Gospel offers us some practical advise on the matter.

First of all...

if you have a problem with someone's behaviour--

if someone has done or said something that has hurt you-

go! 

Talk to them--

especially if it's serious or important.

Don't pretend like it didn't happen.

Peace at all costs doesn't work, because nothing gets resolved.

It only festers away like an abscess.

Ignoring it doesn't make it better...

nor does simply sticking on a metaphorical bandaid.

Much more drastic treatment is needed or it won't heal.

Eventually the wound will just burst open...

and it will be an awful mess with far more serious consequences.

Nothing is resolved by ignoring hurts.

Nothing is resolved by pretending someone didn't do or say something.

Nothing is resolved by pretending that it doesn't really matter.

Usually, what we end up doing is nursing our grudges... 

blowing them out of proportion and perspective...

until, in anger and spite...

we blow up and make matters much worse.

Not only does that not lead to personal resolution or healing...

but it also leads to an irreparable breakdown in relationship.

It only fuels conflict.

Conflict can't be resolved unless we acknowledge it and face it.

But, let's be honest--

we're not particularly good at that, are we? 

Especially in the church--

we don't like dealing with messy issues.

We're scared to name behaviour as inappropriate.

And we avoid confrontation if we can--

because, too often, we're caught up with trying to be "nice"... 

rather than being honest.

 

The author also suggests not waiting for the other person to make the first move.

After all, you can wait an awfully long time--

because the other person might be unwilling...

or unable...

to admit that they have caused any offence or hurt.

No!

If you have been hurt, you make the first move.

Go to the other person.

Explain how you are feeling--

and why.

Respect yourself enough--

and respect the other person enough--

to take the risk of trying to deal with it:

not in anger;

not by lashing out with accusations or sarcastic comments;

but openly, honestly, sensitively.

Explain your perception and interpretation of what has happened...

and how you're feeling about it.

 

But then, the author suggests, do it in private...

and do it in person.

If it isn't helpful to let a conflict fester away inside...

it also isn't helpful to expose it to the world--

whether it be by gossip...

or innuendo...

or mud-slinging.

In the end, those are all simply forms of revenge.

In resorting to such things, you're only trying to hurt the other person for hurting you.

And, like all forms of revenge, they're ultimately destructive--

because hostility only begets more hostility.

Violence only begets more violence.

Instead, act with integrity.

Respect yourself...

and treat the other person with respect--

in the same way that you would like to be treated.

Deal with the issue where it belongs--

in person and in private--

because genuine resolution only comes through respect and sensitivity.

 

But, then, if you can't sort it out privately-- 

person to person--

the author suggests finding someone else to help... 

finding someone to act as a go-between...

as a mediator or a facilitator.

If that doesn't work, however, the author suggests taking the matter to the whole church.

In other words, make use of collective wisdom.

Now, I think that his rationale says more about the culture at the time when he was writing.

They were, after all, strongly collectivist in their interpersonal orientation.

Generally, I don't think that sort of thing would be helpful for us, today.

And yet, perhaps what he is really suggesting... 

is that when your first efforts don't succeed, don't give up.

Don't just walk away.

Rather, keep trying.

Try whatever you can to resolve it--

honestly...

openly...

respectfully...

sensitively...

with integrity.

Do whatever is necessary and appropriate to resolve it--

if you can.

Because, in the end... 

it is as two or three are gathered together--

made one... 

reconciled--

that Christ is there.

Wherever conflict gives way to peace...

wherever hurt gives way to healing...

wherever death gives way to life--

Christ is there.

And it's as we confront with respect and integrity...

and we strive for resolution and reconciliation...

that we show ourselves to be people of God.

It's when we do that, that we're actually proclaiming the Gospel--

and it's a Gospel that our conflict-ridden world desperately needs to hear.

 

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