Sermon theme: Take up your cross
Take up your cross and follow me..."
This is what can happen when you don't agree with others (or they don't agree with you) about who should be bound and kept out of the community, and who should be set free to be as much a part of it as anyone else.
In Matthew 16 when Jesus tells us to "take up our cross and follow him" (v.24) he is calling us specifically to follow him in opening the kingdom and welcoming into the community of grace, people whom others may think should be excluded (vv. 17-19), and to accept the cost that may come when we do this (vv. 21-23).
The reference in v. 19 to "binding and "loosing" is to the work of the rabbis in interpreting what God's law prohibits and what it allows, and making clear what kind of people are bound to their sin or brokenness and excluded from the community of the righteous, and who is free (or loosed) to be included in the community. Early on in the Gospel, Jesus takes on this work himself in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) where he repeatedly criticizes the rabbis' interpretations of God's Law for excluding too many from the community of grace and reinforcing the self-righteousness of a few. Then he continues to preach, teach, heal and forgive people in a way that emphasizes the wideness of forgiveness and mercy at the heart of God's Law, and makes the point that even though the rabbis and religious leaders who exclude people seem to have God's Law on their side, they are wrong in their interpretation.
He knows this puts him at odds with the traditional leadership and will lead to crucifixion (v. 21), but he says this is the proper work not only for him but also for us as his disciples (vv. 22-26).
- Who is bound today and kept outside the circle (and how are they bound), either individually because of their sin, or as a group because of something unacceptable or prohibited about them?
- What do we understand God's Spirit and God's Word to be saying about this today?
- What might be the cost of affirming and acting out the Spirit of mercy in God's Law?
- What happens when Christians disagree, or interpret God's Law differently?