A Sermon for Epiphany 6 by The Reverend Dr Sam Cappleman
Sermon for Epiphany 6, February 13 2010
Choices, Reconciliation and Collaboration
Last night many of us enjoyed the Quiz Night at St Mark’s. Lots of questions, and lots of choices of answers on many tables for some of the questions. And choosing the right answer was not always easy.
A few weeks ago I mentioned a film called the King’s Speech. I think then some of you may have gone to see it. But one of my favourite films of all times came out in 1999 and was called ‘The Matrix’ which I’m sure many of you will have seen.
It’s about a future in which reality as perceived by most humans is actually a simulated reality created by machines. Computer programmer and hacker Thomas Anderson, who becomes known as ‘Neo’, is drawn into a rebellion against the machines, together with other people who have been freed from the "dream world" and into reality. Neo wants to answer the question, ‘What is the Matrix’ and he meets up with a group of underground hackers led by Morpheus who offer him a chance of learning the truth.
Famously, Morpheus then offers Neo a choice between two pills: A blue pill that would return him to his old world, and a red pill that would allow him to learn the answers he is looking for. Neo takes the red pill, and the rest is history.
In some ways it’s very similar to the choice Moses lays before the Israelites in our reading from Deuteronomy today. They too have to choose between the old life and death and destruction, or the new life and prosperity. This is a big decision. It was an old life, new life, blue pill red pill moment.
It’s as if God Himself has said the them, ‘You’ve been following me through Moses and Aaron through the desert, sometimes happy, sometimes grumbling, but now you have to make a decision that says whether you want to be part of my new created world order moving forward or not.
Do you want to walk with me alone, keep my decrees and precepts, my commands and laws and walk with me into the Promised Land and be blessed or do you want to turn away from me and be cursed.
It was a choice between being reconciled to God as a community of His chosen people, or being separated from Him.
Jesus too speaks about reconciliation in the gospel reading from Mathew. We often remember the bit about adultery and divorce but fail to see it in the context of the reconciliation Jesus speaks about first.
As you’ll see in the notes, Jesus may well be comparing and commenting on the teaching of some of the prominent Rabbinic teachers in this passage from Matthew. Remember Matthew was probably written for a mainly Jewish readership and Jesus has just been speaking about how the early believer’s righteousness needs to exceed that of the Pharisees…
But it would appear that His primary concern is with those things which would drive division and rifts and tear families apart and stop individuals and communities being reconciled to each other as would be the case with divorce and adultery in those times as many families intermarried and had strong blood links across the entire community.
Being reconciled often includes two key facets. Facing the truth, the bare and sometimes painful facts about a situation and secondly, doing something about it.
This seems to be what Jesus is stressing here, not just about a small, specific component of Rabbinic teaching, over which there was apparently much debate but about the big and the small things that can divide families and communities.
If we are to be fully reconciled to God we need to be reconciled to each other. And according to Matthew’s gospel we are the ones to take the initiative in the reconciling process. It’s not if we have anything against our brother and sister we are to act, but if they have something against us. The responsibility for reconciliation is with the believers.
That too may involve facing the truth about a situation and then doing something about it. We can face the truth but then we still have to make a decision. Do we want to take the Matrix Blue Pill and go back to the old way of life and not move on or do we take the Red Pill and step out into the future in faith.
Think of all the broken relationships we know, between individuals, families, communities and nations and the division that brings to the world. Broken relationships which do nothing but cause bitterness and hate.
Jesus says, ‘Love your neighbour as yourselves’, but it’s so hard to do. And yet it is precisely what we are called to do. To bring healing to the places of conflict, even in our own lives. To break the chains that oppress and bring liberation and freedom to all who are weighed down by broken relationships. That has to start with ourselves.
Paul makes it clear why being reconciled to God and each other is so important. We are called to be God’s fellow workers - collaborators with Him in His work. We cannot be effective collaborators if we are divided.
Paul is saying it’s not about who is more articulate or compelling a speaker, Paul, Apollus or someone else. It’s not about who we think will make a better teacher or leader. It’s about getting stuck into collaborating with God in His work, the ultimate fulfilment of the law we might say from last week’s readings.
We can’t be engaged fully in collaborating with God if we are not appropriately reconciled to each other and to God
That will involve choices every day, sometimes big, sometimes small, but choices nonetheless. Choices that will have lasting impacts on our lives and the lives of everyone around us.
Perhaps today is the day to start to take a step towards a reconciliation we’ve been putting off for some time. A time to make a choice, that things will be different in the future, a time to take the red pill, not the blue one so that we can be even better collaborators with God in His work.