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Walking Together: Reconciliation

Date: 05/02/2023/Speaker: Rev Miak Siew

Walking Together: Reconciliation
5 February 2023
Miak Siew

When I started writing this sermon, I thought I would talk about conflict, but as I progressed, it turned out that a better sermon title is “Reconciliation.”

Because – conflict arises everywhere, even here in church.

Pauline ended her sermon with Matthew 5:48 from the Message

“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

Live like it. What I discerned I needed to share this morning is how we should to deal with conflict – not as how the world deals with conflict, but how Christ taught us to – and that is reconciliation.

First off – what is reconciliation?

Reconciliation is, I think, first and foremost, the restoration of relationship.

Pauline’s sermon was based on the Beatitudes from Matthew 5. Sandwiched between the Beatitudes and Matthew 5:48 is verses 21-26

“You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.

This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.

Or say you’re out on the street and an old enemy accosts you. Don’t lose a minute. Make the first move; make things right with him. After all, if you leave the first move to him, knowing his track record, you’re likely to end up in court, maybe even jail. If that happens, you won’t get out without a stiff fine.”

This passage has always been striking to me.

What do you think Jesus is saying here?

Then -You may think Jesus is saying here is making things right, in other words – reconciliation – is prioritised over making an offering to God. That’s how I used to think until I was reflecting on this passage as I was writing this sermon.

Why do people make offerings in the temple during Jesus’ time?

In Leviticus, there are 4 types of offerings described in detail – sin offering, burnt offering, grain offering and peace offering. And what are these offerings for? God! More specifically, maintaining relationship with God. And in the case of sin offering, the restoration of relationship with God.

So what Jesus is saying here is – we cannot be in right relationship with God, without being in right relationship with the people in our lives, just like the greatest commandment to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, must come with loving our neighbours as ourselves.

It is far too easy to declare that we love God, and fail miserably at loving our fellow human beings.

NRSV version – “So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.”

This is the easy part of the sermon – after all, which one of you here disagrees with what I have said so far? Makes sense right? But lots of things Jesus taught make sense, but far from easy to carry out.

How many of you have some relationship that is not yet reconciled?

To be honest, I have many relationships that are not yet reconciled. There are relationships that there are conflicts that have been swept under the carpet. I have conveniently forgotten about some conflicts I have with folks because it is easier to sweep things under the carpet and move on. But that is just a false kind of peace. It takes a small trigger, and the conflict will bubble up to the surface, often more severe than before.

This sermon is as much a message for me, as it is for you.

Last week, Pauline talked about the Beatitudes and highlighted about being blessed / flourishing.

“You are blessed/flourishing when you face difficult situations that lead you closer to God…that lead you closer to becoming whole and complete.”

Our theme this year is “Walking each other as community towards growth and wholeness in Christ” – and for me, what I want to do this year is to work on reconciliation in my relationships with people.

I know from personal experience this is not easy. But I have also journeyed and grown over the past few years to learn a few things, and that has helped change how I see things.

Whenever there is conflict, we often quickly label the people involved in our minds -> perpetrator and victim, the wrongdoers and the wronged. Sometimes things are not so simple, and we see everyone involved as both perpetrators and victims. What I have come to realise is that I rarely see myself as the perpetrator or wrongdoer From my perspective (and very biased one), I am rarely the primary perpetrator. I may have done something wrong, but I always have a reason for it. “I couldn’t help it. I was trying to help. The other person made me angry and so I have justified…”

Jesus didn’t say go and seek out those people who have wronged you or you are angry with, or you have a grudge against. Rather, he said to seek out those you have wronged, those who may have a grudge against you.

Most of the time, in our minds, in our narratives, we are the protagonists – we are the heroes, we are the good guys, and sometimes the victims. It isn’t easy to see ourselves as the bad guys, the villains, the perpetrators. But we need to be honest with ourselves. And that’s an acknowledgement and confession we need to make – to ourselves, and to God.

Is that the same for you?

I was reading a book on the 12 steps of recovery and came across this statement – “Every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us.”

Something wrong with me?? What??

I struggled to make sense of this for quite a while. I mean there are times I am disturbed – I get annoyed by people who continue to spread misinformation about LGBTQ folks, I get angry at injustices towards those on the margins, those without power – how can there be something wrong with us?

What I have come to understand is this – every time we are disturbed – experiencing emotions like anger, frustration, or disappointment, it is an indication that there is an underlying issue within us that needs to be addressed.

Our external circumstances and the actions of others do not truly dictate our emotions and state of mind. Instead, it is our own beliefs, thoughts, and attitudes that influence how we react and feel. By recognizing and addressing the root causes of our disturbances, we can work towards inner peace and emotional stability, rather than being constantly thrown off balance by external events.

This for me is the starting point of reconciliation- right relationship with myself, then right relationship with others. It is when I am anchored emotionally and have inner peace, that I am able to engage in the work of reconciliation.

In my life, there are times I have not sought reconciliation, or apologised, because of this sense of shame, of worth-less-ness. I am already feeling a lot of shame, and that prevents me from admitting that I am wrong.

But what does right relationship with myself require?

It requires being anchored in God’s love.

** I have learned a little about that anchoring from my experience last year on the Via Ferrata – the iron road. (How trusting in the iron cables is like trusting in God)

It is when I find that inner peace, anchored in the knowledge that God loves me, even though I screwed up, that I am worthy not because of what I have done, and nothing is going to change that love, that I am able to admit when I am wrong.

The instances where I am not able to bring myself to admit that are the times I am not firmly anchored in that faith that God loves me unconditionally. That is why I have repeating to all of you that you are beloved, and God loves you unconditionally. Because that is the starting point of your healing and restoration, and from there you can move towards healing and restoring the relationships in your time, and from there, we can model the kin-dom of God for the world.

Because reconciliation requires humility and it is humility that I can see where I am wrong and acknowledge it so I can remember the sibling who has something against me, and seek them out so we can be reconciled.

But humility isn’t the seeing myself as less-than, or worth-less. We often think that humility is about making our egos – how we see ourselves – smaller. But that is false humility. Humility is seeing ourselves in the right size – as how God sees as – not too big and also not too small, just as we are. I think for many of us who have a grown up with a sense of shame that we are not good enough, or worthy enough, humility is about dealing with that too. You are good enough. God loves you as you are.

One thing to realise though – is that we can seek out and try to reconcile, but it requires the other party to want to reconcile too. And we cannot control that. All we can do is do our part. Leave the rest to God. Sometimes the other person isn’t ready.

The point of reconciliation is restoration to right relationship – Shalom. It is not about resolution.

Resolution is about dealing with the situation or issue in a way that both parties are agreeable to. That doesn’t mean that the relationship is restored.

On the other hand, reconciliation doesn’t mean that both parties end up agreeing. We can still disagree about something and yet be in right relationship with one another.

The problem is when we are not anchored in our belovedness, we anchor our worthiness in other things – like being right, having people agree with our opinions. When our worthiness is anchored in being right, then when people disagree with us, our worthiness gets shaken.

I used to be a know-it-all and anchored my worthiness in how much I knew, and how intelligent I was. So when people challenged my knowledge, I react. I get angry. I cannot be wrong.

Nowadays, I have let go of the need to be correct. Because I know I am beloved, and God’s love isn’t dependent on my correct I am.

Because evaluating my worthiness is judging myself – and you know what? That’s God’s job, not mine. And as I stopped judging myself, I have also stopped judging others. You are not any less of a person if you made a mistake. And judging others is often the root of the conflicts I have.

So I would like to invite you to 1. Be anchored in your belovedness. Stop judging yourself. Learn to be humble – right sizing your ego. Then you are in the space to 2. Reach out and seek reconciliation with those you have conflicts. Remember – reconciliation and not resolution.

“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

Will you pray with me?

God help us learn to love our neighbours as ourselves as we seek to reconcile the broken relationships in our lives.

Help us take the first steps for those too painful or too difficult right now to work on.

The first steps of recognising our belovedness, and trusting that you love us, even though we have made mistakes and sinned. The first steps out of shame and self-judgement and unworthiness, so we are no longer disturbed when we see where we have gone wrong.

Help us learn to let go of wanting things to work out our way and instead desire to restore relationships instead.
May this process of reconciliation help us grow and become whole, and draw us closer and deeper in our relationship with You.