Posted on Thu, Sep 8, 2011
Rev. Dr. Merritt's sermon for September 4, 2011
“The Journey is Better…Together”
Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt
September 4, 2011
Remember what Dr. Robert Holden has suggested to us for this morning, “The truth is we win no extra points for not asking for help. In fact, all we get is extra struggle, extra pain, extra burden and extra loneliness – all unnecessary…If we are alive, we need help! Shift happens when we ask for help and really mean it. Intention rules the world. If we really want help we will receive it.”
God we thank you for your word and for the words of wise women and men like Dr. Holden. Teach us to trust and depend on you while you are teaching us to trust and depend on each other. Make the words of my heart and the meditations of all of our hearts pleasing and acceptable to you. AMEN.
So, what is the meaning of all this language about “binding and loosing”? While we’ve been studying Matthew this season, I’ve grown to enjoy the work of Rocco Errico. Errico is both a New Testament scholar and an expert on Aramaic language and idioms. When he writes about this passage, he says, that the phrase “binding and loosing” refers to forgiveness. When we forgive, the matter is over. When we hold on to a grudge, it remains alive within us and we know that kind of holding on doesn’t really hurt the person against who we hold the grudge, but it continued to do damage to us; the ones holding the grudge.
Sometimes we’re tempted to dismiss our own responsibility for these situations by saying, “I’ve got ____” Perhaps, “I’ve got issues,” or “I’ve got baggage,” or “I’ve got this or that disorder,” or even, “I’ve got this mental health diagnosis.” Whatever the issue or grudge we choose to hold onto, we know that it becomes fixed in our consciousness and today’s Gospel tells us that it is also “bound” or held in heaven. Immediately after that, however, there is good news. Hear it, “Whatever we loose on earth is also loosed in heaven. When we turn loose of it here, it’s turned loose of in heaven. When we let it go here, it is let go in heaven. And do you know what happens after that? WE experience healing and wholeness. WE are released from our own guilt and shame. We are released from the effects of fear and regret. Are you hearing the difference here? Whatever we hold onto has a profound effect on US. And whatever we release sets us free, not only here and now, but forever on out into eternity. I can tell you one thing this morning, I want freedom. I want to be released from old hurts and grudges. I want to live free from fear and regret. I want to live in the freedom of a God who says to me and to all f you, “When we are free in Jesus, we are free indeed!” Can I get a witness?
Now, let’s take it a step further. Do you know what happens when we experience that kind of release and freedom? That kind of experience begins to move beyond ourselves and out into the community. I love what my friend Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins said this week, “Beyond personal healing, this loosing (forgiving) is a way to promote healing in relationships and community as well.”
Professor David Lose at Luther Seminary writes, “Authentic community is hard to come by. It’s work, but it is worth it!” We’ve worked hard on living in good community with each other these two years. We agreed from the very start to honestly and mindfully put into practice some valuable guidelines for our work together. We adopted a model that come from Visions, Inc., a Boston-based consulting company. These guidelines include: Trying it on. Even when something sounds unusual to us and like it’s bound to fail; we can try it on and see how it works for us. We agreed that it is okay to disagree and that it is not okay to shame, blame, or attack others. Thinks happen, including mistakes, and there is just no benefit in us shaming, blaming or attacking others. We agree to practice self-focus. That means I can only speak for myself. We don’t listen to communications that begin with the words, “Several people,” or “A lot of people,” or “A group of people, “you know what I mean. We DO however, pay a lot of attention to statements like “I feel” or “I think.” Next is one of my favorites, we agreed to practice “both/and” thinking. More than one reality can exist at one time. For example, it is both beautiful outside this morning, and it is too hot to stay out there for too long. Both/and. We agreed to be aware of our intent and impact. Many of you have heard me say this over and over again, when I’m about to present the bottom line as I see it. “I’m aware of my intent and of my potential impact, and here it is ____. That does not give us permission to be mean or ugly to one another; it just gives us permission to speak our own truth. It also gives us just a moment to examine our own intent one more time before making a statement. We agreed to take 100 percent responsibility for one’s own learning. You know, we publish EVERYTHING around here. We put out our weekly Trinity E-talk which is just full of information. We put out a Friday reminder that hits the highlights again. We put information on bulletin boards and tables and we make a lengthy list of announcements every Sunday. There are no secrets around here and so we all have to take100% responsibility for our own education by accessing all the information that has been provided.
Finally, we committed again to confidentiality. This is a concept that has often been misinterpreted. Confidentiality is different from secret. For example, if someone comes into my office and says, Rev. Jim, I’m going to kill myself, and if I make an assessment that leads me to believe they’re serious about that, I will intervene and do my dead level best to interrupt that cycle. That’s confidentiality at its best. There are no secrets between Deacons and the Pastor or Board Members or the Pastor and (both/and) we share that information in a confidential manner. All of these guidelines have contributed to us walking peaceful and productive paths together.
Why are we so committed to them? Because, my sisters and brothers, it is true that The Journey is Better…Together. When we stand arm in arm with one another we can accomplish so much. When we share our burdens with the Lord and with each other, our burdens really to become half burdens. When we celebrate successes together, our joys are doubled and tripled and multiplied all over again. What we bind together is bound on earth and in heaven. What we loose together is loosed on earth and in Heaven. That’s what community is all about. It’s about a positive contribution to our world and to the very Kin-dom of God. It means that we are becoming conformed to the image of Christ, not just for ourselves, but also for others. The Apostle Paul tells us 'it is time to wake up--to put on Christ.’ The image of Christ is not an add-on but grows out of our unique journey. Paul also echoes what Jesus has already said is the greatest commandment: to love yourself before you can love others.
I’m having the time of my life on this journey with you. I can vouch for it without reservation, the journey with Jesus is SO much better…Together. God bless you today.
“A reading from The Wisdom of Positive Psychologist Robert Holden”
“When a challenge feels too much, it means it is too much for you alone. All you need is extra help…The ultimate fantasy of a DIP – a Dysfunctionally Independent Person – is that you make it to Heaven all on your own. Then at Heaven’s Gate a magnificent party is held in your honor at which you receive a Lifetime Achievement Award for never having asked for help. It is decreed your epitaph will read, ‘No one ever helped me.’ This is as good as it gets for a DIP. The truth is you win no extra points for not asking for help. In fact, all you get is extra struggle, extra pain, extra burden and extra loneliness – all unnecessary…If you are alive, you need help! Shift happens when you ask for help and really mean it. Intention rules the world. If you really want help you will receive it.”
*Gospel Reading Matthew 18:18-20 (NIV) “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my [God] in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”