September 25, 2008

extreme poverty

Living, or perhaps better said, struggling to survive on less than $1 a day is the status quo for more than one billion people in this world. 1/7th of the population of the planet lives in "extreme poverty." Truth be told, the amount of people who fall into the "struggling to survive" category is much larger yet, which is why the United Nations saw the new millennium as an opportunity to motivate change in the systems and powers that make the rich, richer and the poor, poorer. The 8 goals are aimed at changing the world - a huge task no doubt - and have a goal of 2015 for their completion. You can read the list of goals and their measurables here.

At the UN in New York today global leaders of all types; political, religious, humanitarian, etc. are gathering for talks on the progress (or lack their of) and the bishops of the Anglican Communion have asked all Anglicans to committ to prayer and fasting this day. Additionally, Mike Kinman over at EGR asked that bloggers unite to flood the blog-o-sphere with information on the MDGs. This is my contribution to that cause.

I spent a week in the San Jose, Costa Rica in the summer of 2006 working with a group called the Abraham Project. They are building and running group homes for orphaned children in the outskirts of San Jose. On Wednesday of that week we joined the staff of AP on their monthly pilgrimage to Christ for the City's feeding ministry. We loaded into vans with coolers full of rice, beans, meat, and kool-aid to offer what would most likely be the only hot meal these families would recieve all week.

It is impossible to be prepared for such an event. Thinking about... theologizing about... praying about extreme poverty is one thing. Seeing it face to face is entirely another. It is a heartbreaking thing to see children who walk streets filled with human waste and live in homes made from broken down road signs and corroguated metal. It is even worse when you know, full well, that their parents would do anything to change things, but the first rung of the ladder is out of reach unless they join the illegal drug industry. The system is broken and the victims are without power to change it; without even voice to make enough noise that someone might here.

Swiss theologian Emil Brunner wrote, "The Church exists by mission, just as a fire exists by burning. Where there is no mission, there is no Church." Today the Church yells with full voice "WE EXIST!" which means that mission is happening. Today I stand in solidarity with people across political, theological, and socio-economic lines to say, "The systems of oppression must change, and we can do something about it." Today I pray for those in power that God might impress upon their hearts his compassion for the poor and his hope for his Creation. Today I give thanks that the Kingdom of God has been inaugurated by Jesus Christ's life, death, and resurrection and recommit my life to its continued inbreaking into the stiffnecked, hard hearted world.

Let your hearts be broken friends. Let your eyes be opened. Let your hears hear. And then let your lips and your blogs and your pens and your wallets speak that the Kingdom of God is near.

Today is September 25th, the day which was set aside by the Bishops of the Anglican Communion as a day of prayer and fasting for the Millennium Development Goals especially as they each relate to the root cause of extreme poverty (those 1 billion plus people living on less than $1 a day).

I will be blogging more on the topic later today as I reflect on my one and only experience with extreme poverty in the slums of San Jose, Costa Rica.

In the meantime, I ask that you join me in the prayer of Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation.

Most loving God, as your desire for mercy for the poor is unrelenting, may we be unrelenting in our pursuit of mercy for all; as your compassion for the suffering of the poor knows no limit, may our hearts overflow with compassion for all; as you long for justice for the poor, may we strive for justice for all. Open our eyes to the structures of oppression from which we benefit, and give us courage to accept our responsibility, wisdom to chart a sound course amid complexity, and perseverance to continue our work until it is finished. Breathe your life-giving Spirit afresh into your Church to free us from apathy and indifference; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

September 23, 2008

the last week

We are making that awkward church year transition from "ordinary time" i.e. the season of the work of the Church. We do this by having a mini-holy week as we prepare ourselves for the schizophrenic season of Advent which begins the new church year.

I am, and have been for a while now, somewhat obsessed with the events of Jesus' last week as the incarnated Son of God. While it is strange to have these last week stories in the midst of ordinary time, I am grateful to have to deal with them, and their wide reaching ramifications yet again.

Authority seems to be the issue at hand in Matthew 21.23-32, but if one peels just the skin off the onion it seems that authority is not the real issue, but instead follow through. Are you claiming authority that isn't yours or using authority that has been given you? Are you saying "yes, yes!" but doing nothing for the kingdom or are you saying, "whoo. God, nope, not me!" but doing the work anyway as Moses exampled so wonderfully in his life?

If you are saying yes for the sake of appearances, Jesus wants you to know that the end of appearances has come and you better get your ass in gear lest the kingdom leave you behind.

Good stuff in this last week. Jesus gets offensive, for a while, and in our offense we can gain a lot.

readings for proper 21, year a

September 18, 2008

on the collect

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I'm sitting in front of our home computer, i.e. Cass' computer at 6:45a with a to-do list a mile long running through my head. Today will be my 4th 12+ hour day in a row, and I still don't have a sermon. I know I got to this point later than many of my classmates, and I love that I'm not sitting in my office doing bulletins and organizing calendars, but still, I'd love to have a sermon done by now.

As I prayed the Collect for the Proper 20 (above) I realized how easy it is to place things in the wrong category. Sermons, no matter how deep and profound, are still earthly. Sunday School lesson plans, no matter how spiritually enlightening, are still earthly. Sitting in a back bedroom while a woman dying with cancer shares her life story, no matter how much other crap might need to be done, is a heavenly thing.

We all have weeks like I'm having this week. We get slammed with dinners and youth group meetings. We get bombarded by family visitors and major deadlines. We sit at our E-Trade account trying desperately to stay ahead of market volatility. Earthly things rise up to bite us and we invariable get anxious. It is good to have a prayer that puts things into perspective for us. It is a heavenly thing to discern what is earthly and what it heavenly. Then, the task is remembering which is which and holding fast only to those things that are eternal.

I'll pray for you if you pray for me.

does God not have Email?

One of my favorite movies of all-time is Mike Judge's classic, Office Space. It begins with the main character, Peter, getting railed by his boss(es) for "not getting the memo" on the new cover sheets for the TPS reports. Since this 1999 cult classic "not getting the memo" has become "not getting the Email" and I find myself wondering sometimes if God even has Email. If he does, there must be so much spam in his inbox that he often "doesn't get the Email."

Take the case of Jonah and Nineveh, for instance. God told Jonah to preach doom to this most evil city (think Vegas with Michael Vick as Mayor), and he did. So Jonah sat back and waited for the doom to take place. So he waited... and waited... and waited. Apparently God didn't get the Email that Jonah had, in fact, completed his task. Maybe God thought Jonah was still walking around Nineveh preaching.

As we know, God did "get the Email", but he got several others as well; all sorts of Emails from the people of Nineveh apologizing for their sinfulness and asking for a second chance to live out the rest of their days for the Lord. Weighing all the options, having read all the Emails, God chose to give Nineveh just that chance.

I guess what I'm saying, in a very round-about way, is that when I think God hasn't gotten my Email I need to remember that he has gotten millions of others, and he has carefully weighed all the options and decided on the path that is best for his plan for his creation, and unlike Jonah, I need to be happy with it. It isn't always easy, and I often wonder if God might have labeled me as spam, but I know that in his perfect will all things are done for good.

September 17, 2008

the grass is always greener

A parishioner told me yesterday that I wasn't allowed to leave Foley until she was buried from this church. Realistically, JL could be 30+ years from her appointed trip to paradise. Needless to say the conversation got me wondering. As St. Paul's and I charge ahead in our second year together I have already had one church contact me about their search for a new rector, and more, I'm certain, will come; being 28, married, and breathing has certain advantages. There are minutes, hours, days, and even weeks in which the idea of being the Rector (i.e. Senior Pastor) of a church sounds nice. There are more weeks and months when the idea seems ludicrous. Still, sometimes it seems as though the grass would be greener...

And then I run across the text from Exodus for Sunday. If this isn't the extreme end of greener grass, I don't know what is. "The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, 'If only we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.'"

If only we had died in Egypt. That would have been better than this. As crazy as it sounds the grumbling of the Israelites is not unfamilar to God. I can't help but wonder how many times in a day he hears something like it?

I once heard in a sermon that "if only we had elected John Kerry, Hurricane Katrina would have been avoided." I think she literally meant the storm and not the terrible mess of a recovery. I think we do it all the time. The grass, it seems, is greener no matter what the circumstances were and are.


But God provides. God improvises. God hears our complaints, and when it accords with his will (or at least won't get in the way of it) he offers green grass in the here and now. Sure, it may not be as green as we think dying in Egypt might have been, but it is green.

Can you see the green grass where you are?

September 16, 2008

Those Sermons

Here are the two sermons and one homily that I gave using only notes. Enjoy.

Craig Ferguson - "If you don't vote, you're a moron"

I might be going overboard with the video posts today, but a bunch of people recommended a bunch of good stuff to me this weekend. Below is Craig Ferguson monologue rant on the upcoming Presidential election. It is good, and it is, quite frankly, the sort of raging centrism I'm hopeful is emerging in this country.

Clean Water

As classmate of mine from High School passed this 15 minute video along to me (see embedded below). It is from the World Water Congress meeting in Vienna not to long ago and, though awkward in its videography, it deals with a very important issue as the Episcopal Church focuses this triennial on the Millennium Development Goals.

Take some time to watch it.

day laborers for the Kingdom

Tony Jones, while interviewing a conservative critic of his, was asked (in paraphrase) when he had accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. His response was, "every morning."

There seems to be something to that; following Jesus is a day to day operation, rather than a once and for all event. I'm reminded of this having read the Gospel lesson for Sunday; the landowner is always out looking for new talent, we are just called to be ready to work.

image from

readings for proper 20, year a

September 11, 2008

sermon for proper 18, year a

Last spring I played in an adult soccer league over in Pensacola. We were an interesting team, a mish-mash of people who knew each other, people who knew the people who knew each other, and people who showed up and joined the team when we were down a few players; people who didn’t know anybody. One of the guys who was in the “knew the people who knew each other” category was a guy named Brian, but he goes by BK. BK is a rough and tumble sort of guy. He is a Marine who served two tours in Afghanistan and two tours in Iraq. I think he is a gunner on a helicopter. He is tattooed all over. He is built like a Rugby player. He wakes up at 4am to begin his PT routine with a 6 mile run, and he finished his PT routine with our games on Tuesday nights. BK has a bit of a temper, so when he was asked to leave the field so that someone could sub in for him he often rattled off a series of curse words and then sulked on the bench. Most of us didn’t really care what BK did or didn’t do, but BK’s wife, Missy, played on our team also, and she cared. One evening when BK threw his usual fit there were a group of small children nearby who no doubt heard his string of profanity. Missy gave him a stern talking to and then sat down next to me, and knowing I am a priest apologized, thinking that I was offended by his off color rant. Having grown up on the soccer field I am not unfamiliar with rants the like of BK’s and so it really didn’t strike me as terribly offensive, though the children nearby probably didn’t need to hear the f-bomb used so liberally. My response to her was, “It is ok. The Church is in the forgiveness business.”
Missy sort of laughed that off, and I think that maybe this week’s gospel lesson popped into her mind that evening. These five verses have throughout history been used by those in positions of authority to punish, excommunicate, and shun. Perhaps most famously among protestant theologians, John Calvin wrote in his commentary on Matthew’s gospels that “by mentioning [the Gentiles and tax collectors], Jesus was indeed flagging those people who at that time the Jews regarded ‘with the greatest hatred and detestation… unholy and irreclaimable men.’ Jesus wanted, to remind his disciples of folks with whom one may never associate.” To be fair, Calvin was writing in a time when those who were sinning against him were great in number. He had been called everything name in the book in rants that sounded a lot like BK’s. For him it was nice to have a holy and sanctified “three strikes and your out policy.”
There are plenty of people in our own lives and in the larger context of the
National Church and the Anglican Communion with whom we’d like to use the “three strikes” policy, but I’m afraid that reading Jesus’ recommendations this way is to not see the forest for the trees. If we read these verses all by themselves, sure, they could be “three strikes and your out,” but to read them in the context of chapter 18 and quite frankly Matthew’s entire gospel we get the sense that Jesus’ plan of church discipline is a little more open. This teaching comes “in a chapter (as well as within a gospel) that urges patience, that recommends an abiding and long-term grace, that highlights the need to seek, and seek, and seek the lost and wandering.” It is hard for me to imagine Jesus, having just told the parable of the shepherd leaving 99 sheep to find one that was lost, would then teach his disciples how to keep the 99 happy by excommunicating and shunning one that is lost. It is hard for me to imagine Jesus, who immediately followed this teaching by telling Peter that he is to forgive not seven times but seventy-seven or seventy-times-seven, would tell his disciples to give up on someone after only three attempts at restoration. It is hard for me to imagine Jesus, who responded to the accusation of eating with sinners and tax collectors by saying that he came to call not righteous but sinners, teaching a pattern of life in which the righteous are given the power to define who is in and who is out.
Instead, I imagine Jesus, the friend of sinners and tax collectors (MT 11.9) offering the path of discipline this way:
“Unfortunately the Church will be made up of people who are human and will, from time to time, fail to live up to the vision of the Kingdom of God. If and when that happens, address that person in private; don’t make a big deal of it to make you look good and the other look bad. If that doesn’t work, and it won’t always work, take a couple of spiritual elders with you; still try to keep it quiet, there is no sense in making an example of someone who sinned since all have sinned. If and when that doesn’t work, then you have no choice but to bring in the larger community. Let the person know that he or she has failed to live up to the communities rule of life by not loving God and loving their neighbor as themselves. It will be hard, and it may not produce fruit, but the sinner should be educated in the error of his or her ways. Finally, if and when that doesn’t work, treat them as a Gentile or tax collector; make them the special focus of your outreach and love. Follow my example, not the example of the Pharisees and welcome them back into the community, teach them the ways of the Kingdom, and show them grace and forgiveness as often as it is needed.”
The Church is in the forgiveness business, despite almost overwhelming evidence to the contrary. We are called to the business of forgiveness by Jesus who promises that when two or three are gathered in his name, he will be there also. “In the language of the day ‘name’ does not mean the literal name of a person, but that person him or herself; their ‘character’ or their ‘spirit’. When Jesus speaks of ‘gathering in his name’ he doesn’t mean that people are going to be mentioning his name literally (though we do often), but rather they will gather in his spirit; in agreement with his teaching, following the model he set forth. Into these gatherings Jesus promises he will come; communities built on a spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation.”
Being a member of a Church brings with it a lot of responsibility. While it would be a whole lot easier to write off those who have hurt us, have called us names, have not loved us the way we think they ought, we are called instead to live as a community in the character of Jesus. We are called to love God and to love one another. We are called to reprimand, to teach, and to forgive. We are called to live lives modeling the Kingdom of God so that others might come to know Jesus as he lives among us. Key to that Kingdom living, it seems is treating those who sin against us as Gentile and tax collectors by offering grace and forgiveness at every chance. The Church is in the forgiveness business. Amen.

9/11 and forgiveness

As many of you know, I live in an area that runs, for the most part, toeing the line of the Republican party, and when it strays, it errs toward being more conservative that the current way of being a Republican. So it struck me as odd, or maybe amazing, when in our lectionary group it was asked, "What would the world look like if on 9/12/2001 US Air Force planes began dropping humanitarian aid packages on Afghanistan rather than bombs?"

It is easy seven years and 1000 miles removed from on of the most horrific of days in American history to ponder this question; I realize that. I know that, even 2.5 hours away from all three crash sites, my world changed that day. I didn't lose anyone that I knew; other than, perhaps a naive innocence that to this day I long for.

Still, this thought continues to run through my head. What would it look like to forgive 77 or 70X7 times? How do we forgive this debt knowing how much God has forgiven of us? I am reminded of the event known in my hometown as Amish 9/11.

On Monday, October 2nd 2006 Charles Carl Roberts IV backed his pickup truck up to a one room school house in Nickel Mines, Lancaster County, with plans much more sinister than killing 6 children and then himself, but that is what ended up happening.

On Tuesday, October 3rd 2006, forgiveness had begun. Amish neighbors and community leaders visited the Roberts' family to comfort and forgive; they even attended Roberts' funeral.

As I remember the events of seven years ago, pray for the families who still mourn and the victims who still battle the scars of that day I can't help but wonder how many have forgiven, despite what our politicians tell us, and are ready to see America at large do the same?

September 9, 2008

postmodern paul

For all the work done by Christians on the extreme ends of the spectrum (both liberal and conservative) to boil Christianity down to set of rules which one must follow in order to be saved I offer in return Romans 14.1-12.

For conservative Christians, Paul is the source of most of the rules. It makes sense that Paul would be a ruley sort of guy; he was, after all, a Pharisee. And maybe its because of the whole "New Testament" name that credit is given to the newer (read found later in the Bible) material (even though Paul's letter's most likely pre-date the written text of 75% of the gospels).

It is interesting then that Paul, rule guy that he is, would take the time to write a paragraph that is so clearly postmodern. Well, not postmodern, since modernity wouldn't come around for another 1400 years or so, but it is a very open and conversational approach to Christian community. "Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them." Or, in other words, it ain't up to us, so let's follow God to the best of our abilities. Surely, we are called to discern as a community, but the group that I run with is just one of hundreds of thousands of such groups, and we all come up with slightly different understandings of God's will for his Creation.

And that is OK.

As the Collect for Sunday says, "O God, because without you we are not able to please you mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts..." Amen.

readings for proper 19, year a

September 5, 2008

it isn't the devil that is in the the details

There is an old saying that I came to understand fully in seminary that goes, "the devil is in the details." Seems to me after studying the lessons for this Sunday that God is certainly into details as well.

God in his well known role as the LORD has a plan for getting his chosen people out of Egypt, but it requires some pretty specific things.

Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the 1 tenth of this month they are to take 2 a lamb for each family, 3 a lamb for each household. 4 If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its 5 closest neighbor in obtaining one; 6 the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. 7 Your lamb shall be without blemish, 8 a year-old male; 9 you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 10 You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; 11 then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it 12 at twilight. 13 They shall take some of the blood and put it on the 14 two doorposts and 15 the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 16 They shall eat the lamb that same night; 17 they shall eat it roasted over the fire with 18 unleavened bread and 19 bitter herbs. 20 Do not eat any of it raw or 21 boiled in water, 17.1 but roasted over the fire, 22 with its head, legs, and inner organs. 23 You shall let none of it remain until the morning; 24 anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. This is how you shall eat it: 25 your loins girded, 26 your sandals on your feet, and 27 your staff in your hand; 28 and you shall eat it hurriedly.

In the lesson from Romans, Paul (having been inspired by the Holy Spirit) offers some details in how a Christian community might live together.

1 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet"; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, 2 "Love your neighbor as yourself." 3 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law... 4 Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and 5 put on the armor of light; 6 let us live honorably as in the day, 7 not in reveling and drunkenness, 8 not in debauchery and licentiousness, 9 not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, 10 put on the Lord Jesus Christ, 11 and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Finally, Jesus, God the Son, offers a detailed program for how we might deal with the inevitable, one who sins against you.

"If another member of the church sins against you, 1 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, 2 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, 3 tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, 4 let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Seems as though God is, on some level, in the details. I have come a long way from my upbringing in Paulianity - where the rules are what save us, but I can't help but thinking that maybe there is something in following the rules (or should I say the will) of our Father in heaven. Maybe our response to the great gift of salvation through Jesus Christ should be paying attention to the details; the rules, yes, but even more so the details of God's good Creation. Seeing the great care with which God created the heavens and the earth. Seeing the goodness which he bestowed upon all of humanity by creating us in his image. Realizing that our best effort given to the glory of God is, no matter the task, holy.

The devil, my friends, can be removed from the details.

September 4, 2008

owe no one anything but love

I woke up this morning to an Email from some bigwig with the Democratic Party.  Apparently someone at VTS gave my email to them, so I get emails almost daily from the DNC with a bigwig's name slapped on it, Obama, Hillary, Michelle Obama, etc.  This morning's was a counter attack to the "McCain attack squad" going on the offensive at the RNC convention last night.

I didn't watch, so I'm making no judgments on what was said, what I'm struck by this morning is the way in which our political system has given up the biblical model of turning the other cheek, walking the extra mile, and owing nothing but love.  It seems as though all our politicos can seem to owe one another is an attack ad.  With both sides claiming to be "faithful" why is it that Kingdom living is so beyond our expectations?  Why does being "faithful" only mean holding the right opinion on issues about which Jesus never spoke?

Most likely it is the fault of us; the general population or to be more specific Christians living in America.  We've given our leaders a pass.  We've lowered the bar such that "faithfulness" is a checklist of litmus test issues rather than a lifestyle under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

We should expect more, but do so only by offering and expecting love.

September 3, 2008

watch yourself

"Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there among them."

These words of Jesus are used often by Christians.  They have become almost cliche and are the source for at least one decent church joke - "where two or three Episcopalians are gathered there is always a fifth... a fifth of jack, a fifth of gin... a fifith of..."

What I am realizing today is the reverent fear with which we should hear those words.  If two or three are gathered in the name of Jesus, then he is there too.  Think about what it means to have Jesus there too.  How often do we gather [supposedly] in the name of Jesus only to rail against our critics or adversaries.  And what does it mean when we follow his prescribed method of discipline to take two witnesses with us (presumably in Jesus' name)?  How different is the way in which we approach the "sinner" if we know that Jesus is there watching?  Why or Why not?

I'm thinking very carefully today about my own actions, and how I take the Lord's name in vein when I forget he is with me and act as if I don't need him.

I guess it is all about discipline really.  My own self-discipline - creating a lifestyle of forgiveness not because Jesus might be in the room with me, but because it is the only response possible as a sinner forgiven and redeemed.

September 2, 2008

a new way

You may have noticed that there has not been a sermon text posted here in a couple of weeks. You may even be worried about me. Thank you. You need not worry, however, I have, in fact, preached both of the last two Sundays, but without a full text, only a brief set of notes which I will post here as soon as I find a working scanner.

It all started on Friday, August 22nd as I drove with Cassie to Birmingham for a brief stay in the Pittsburgh of the South. My cell phone rang somewhere in the vicinity of everyone's favorite evangelism tool
and it was TKT asking if I could get a sermon together for Sunday. I said yes, like an idiot, and spent most of Saturday while SHW was in classes trying to find an internet connection. I arrived at Holy Spirit in Gulf Shores as a rent-a-priest with a chicken scratched piece of paper from The Wynfrey Hotel and proceeded to not get so lost that I think a half-way coherent sermon came out of it all. In fact, I was convinced that God could work through me and a sheet of chicken scratch when on Friday while at The Hangout watching the Tip Tops perform some fantastic cover music a woman stopped on her way to the bathroom to tell me that she had visited HSGS on Sunday and it was her first trip to an Episcopal Church and my sermon really touched her.

Well, now, isn't that special.

Since I had fought with three full-text sermons for this Sunday back home in Foley I thought I'd trust the Spirit again and just arrive with notes, and it half worked. 7:30 was far from meaningful or coherent, but I felt very comfortable by the time 10am rolled around.

So if this trend continues I will not be posting full texts of my sermons here anymore. We have a digital audio recorder that, if I remember to use, will come in quite handy as I can post an audio version here, but we'll see how that goes. All that to tell three people I might not be posting sermons here anymore, WOW.

Anyway, I'm preacing again this Sunday and am seriously considering adding verses 21 and 22 to the Gospel text. I don't know how you can read Jesus' advice on discipline without Peter's question on forgiveness. It is all about forgiveness. What else could Jesus mean when he tells us to treat the other "as a sinner and a tax collector"? Jesus treated them pretty well, it seems to me, hung out with them, invited them to parties, healed them and their families. Seems as though Jesus is telling us to forgive, to try for reconciliation, and then to love them as a neighbor and as ourselves. Granted, I don't do this very well, but I imagine it'll preach just fine.

readings for proper 18, year a