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23 OT A ~ "A Word of Correction" ~ Rev. Benjamin Roberts, DMin

I’ve often wondered why Jesus chose to have two sets of brothers among the twelve disciples. There are Peter and Andrew and there are James and John. There are two sets of brothers among the disciples and maybe that is why Jesus, when he is teaching about relationships in the family of faith, begins, “If your brother sins against you.”

There are very few things that are more difficult than fraternal correction. It is easy to correct people we do not like. It is even easier to correct people we do not know. But today Jesus invites us to consider fraternal correction. This is the invitation to offer correction for someone we both know and like.

Jesus offers us a method, but I think it is more important that Jesus shows us his motivation. Fraternal correction is for the benefit of the community. Jesus tells us that when two or three people are gathered together in his name that he is among them. Jesus desires to bring us together. Correction is not offered to bring division. Correction is offered to restore and build communion.

Jesus desires to bring us together so that we can enjoy his presence and so that we can be his presence in a world that is so terribly divided. Our communion with Jesus and our communion with each other in Christ Jesus is the medicine for the sickness of the community and the world. Jesus desires us to live in communion with him and with each other. We desire to live in communion with Jesus and in communion with each other.

So how can we offer correction? How can we speak a difficult word to someone we both know and like?

Perhaps there is a way that is not as difficult and still is effective. If our goal is to build community and communion, then a word of correction can be given as a word of invitation and encouragement. Think about that for a moment. I could look to the scriptures and title a homily “The Road to Hell” and speak about the fires of damnation and unending torment as a consequence of sinful actions. It would probably do very well on social media. There are plenty of people who love to hear preaching about how other people will be condemned.

But there is another option and it is also deeply rooted in the scriptures. I could title the homily “Walking with Jesus” and speak about the beauty of the life of grace, faith, and love. One of those homilies could be seen as a word of correction, the other homily would be heard as a word of invitation and encouragement. The ultimate goal of both homilies, I hope, is the same: greater communion with Christ Jesus and with each other.

Now a parish is a company of preachers. By our baptism, we are preachers of the good news of God’s love for you, and for me, and for the world. We want to be preachers of encouragement and invitation who proclaim conversion and correction in love. And here we come to the banquet where those who respond to the invitation to conversion and correction are fed at the feast of peace, praise, and reconciliation. Here we will be nourished, as brothers and sisters, and live in the holy communion of God.

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