Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany February 16, 2014
First . . .
The verse on the cover of the bulletin bothers me. I know that it’s just a portion of Matthew 5:21, but there is one important word missing from that verse. As they are printed for today, these words from Jesus sound soothing and pleasant; they can even seem comforting. The statement could be a prayer of blessing or a benediction pronounced to close a service of worship. “Be reconciled to your brother or sister”: these are nice words from Jesus.
We often want to read nice, supportive words from Jesus. It can be troublesome to uncover challenging words that require us to take action. Reading something that calls for a change in behavior can be disruptive to established routines and to regular habits. Instead of challenge, we often want reassurance. We want to read soothing words.
Look up the Bible verse to add in that missing word; then the phrase from verse 21 reads, “FIRST be reconciled to your brother or sister.” The emphasis of the verse changes with that one small word. This phrase from Jesus is not a blessing. Rather, it is a call to action. There is an urgency to carry out what Jesus said to do.
The words of Jesus guide us to restore our relationships. Before offering a sacrifice to God, before worshiping the living God, Jesus said, work out disagreements and differences. That means no holding grudges, no getting even with someone, no letting anger get out of control. Relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ are more important than what is happening during worship of God.
Jesus sends you to work out forgiveness. When you deal with what has upset another person, then you can have the right attitude for worship. “FIRST be reconciled to your brother or sister.”
Bruce Weaknecht, pastor, Egg Harbor City Moravian Church, Egg Harbor City, New Jersey