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Saturday, July 9, 2016

Today’s Reading | Matthew 18:10–20

“Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.

“If another member of the church sins against you, 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, 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, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 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, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (NRSV)

Jesus knows he is speaking to people who live by agriculture. So why does he keep using examples of people doing it so badly? Seed sowers not paying attention to where they are sowing seeds, and shepherds leaving ninety-nine percent of their flock on the mountains to go look for one stupid lost sheep . . . these are things that don’t happen. Leave ninety-nine sheep on the mountain to go look for one and you may well come back to forty-nine sheep, due to thieves, predators, or general sheep-like stupidity. You lost one. It happens. Save the rest—they are your family’s lifeline.

Agriculture is an area in which stewardship is readily apparent, where waste has immediate and profound consequences. And Jesus’ audience knew it. So what is the point Jesus is trying to make?

He’s talking about children, and the regard and care we have for them. In contrast to, say, sheep, we don’t treat children as a commodity. Children are special. We sacrifice for them. We sacrifice ourselves. We’ll do anything to find a lost child. There is an unspoken question in Jesus’ example: I know you’d abandon one sheep, but how about a child? How about an adult?

Irony is a powerful way to make a point.

This passage is about reconciliation. The ugly truth is we write people off all the time. Our lives are full of people we’ve cut loose, where we’ve cut our losses and gone our way and left them to their own devices. You can see these people on the street every day, the ones who have been cut loose. And Jesus tells us that we are treating them like animals, like a commodity that is not worth the effort of keeping and finding.

Christ challenges us to see differently, not to look at people like they are things to be exploited, but to humbly realize that they are not lower than we are but the same. And when we realize this, perhaps we have found a key to the kingdom.

Dear Lord, as we move through our day remind us that we are called to bring people up, to bring them together, to be reconciled to one another in humility and the knowledge that we are all the same in your eyes. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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