Proper 18 – Year A

Exodus 12:1-14; Psalm 149; (or Ezekiel 33:7-11; Psalm 119:33-40); Romans 13:8-14; Matthew 18:15-20

“Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check out your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.” – Ayn Rand

How do we know when someone has sinned against us? Just because we feel bad does not mean we have been wronged. This Gospel passage about confronting those who have sinned against us in order to get the person to repent has been used self-righteously. We sometimes invoke the words of Jesus based on the premise that we are always right and the other wrong. Real life is seldom that simple. The complications of someone’s motivations are complex and not always clear to us. The wisdom in Jesus’ advice is not for us to be condemning the offender unless they repent. The wisdom is to go and talk to the person who is our brother or sister and check things out. It may simply be a misunderstanding; or we ourselves may be in the wrong. This good news passage is all about clearing the air, not fumigating the enemy. Of course, Ayn Rand in the above quote is exaggerating a bit. Sometimes there is a real contradiction, conflict or contest of wills. Nevertheless, checking out our premises may lead to harmony. This may sound like simply good psychological advice. Where is the theology in all this? Matthew 18:20 ends this passage with Jesus saying that when two or three gathered in his name he will be there. Communicating with those whom we are at odds with is just such a gathering in the name of Christ. Jesus’ presence is itself the enabler of harmony.

Greek

There is nothing in the Greek of this Gospel that is enlightening beyond what we have in the English. However, there are a couple of idiomatic expressions that are interesting. Matthew 18:16 says upon the “evidence” or “testimony” or two or three. The Greek literally says by the “mouth” of two or three. Matthew 18:19 has my father in “heaven.” The Greek literally says my father “in the heavens.” This is referring to the skies above, where God is above everything.

Haiku

Offended badly?

Perhaps only seeing bleared.

Blend as one clearly.