Sometimes something happens that is so clearly providential, that you just have to go with it, even if it costs you a little extra sermon-writing time on a Saturday afternoon.
Our story begins on Friday afternoon after the sermon for the week had already been put to bed, so to speak. I came back into the church and one of our erstwhile members was there, working with Cheryl. It wasn’t long before I discovered Mike was getting some resources for doing the children’s message. He also asked for some insight on doing so.
As I listened to what he was preparing, my first thought was, WHAT? Really. You see he was asking about at a passage from much early in the Gospel of Matthew than I was expecting. He was working on the passage, as it would turn out that’s clearly announced in the bulletin. The very passage I sent to Cheryl a few weeks back, working ahead on worship material.
But, as I said, it wasn’t the passage I’d written on. That one, Matthew’s account of the transfiguration, was the one I’d written the sermon “Pitching tents on sinking sand” all about.
Now, should any of you feel a tinge of disappointment right now, learning that won’t be the topic of today’s sermon, I humbly proffer my public apology and assure you it will be the sermon I’ll preach next Transfiguration Sunday. That or any Sunday where either I run terribly behind or when the one I’ve written for the week just plain stinks. So, now that I think about it, that sermon is bound to come far more quickly than next February.
Well, I just KNEW Cheryl and Mike had things wrong. Knew it in my heart. I quietly excused myself and rushed back into my office to find proof that these other two were in error. You see, I don’t make mistakes, not very often. Of course, Natalie might have a different, much more accurate opinion on that matter but that’s another story altogether.
So, I open the file I sent. And there it was, the glaring error. I’d left off a one, sending Matthew 7 when I meant to send Matthew 17. Cheryl, of course, gave me the opportunity to proof the bulletin, of course, as she always does. But I mainly until this week used that time to look at her work, not my own. Because, like I said, I don’t make mistakes, well, at least not very often. Don’t ask Natalie.
So, all of the sudden the children’s message Mike was talking about made a whole lot more sense. And not just for the kids, I assure you. Hearing the words as I read the passage I realized, maybe God’s Word really was speaking to me. Because assuming one is right and everyone else wrong happens to fall quite niftily under the clear headline of what we’re about to hear.
Hear now the Word of our Lord from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter seven, verses 1-5.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.”
This is the Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.
This particular passage comes to us from a section of the Gospel of Matthew called “The Sermon on the Mount.” It begins at chapter 5 and continues through chapter 7. In the preceding chapter, Jesus has been tempted by the Devil, spoiler alert, he doesn’t yield, soon thereafter he’s calling his first disciples and healing the people throughout Galilee. His miraculous powers have attracted quite an audience, as you may well imagine. Perhaps wishing to get a moment of rest away from the petitioners, Jesus ascends a mountain. His disciples follow him and Matthew’s Gospel tells us, at that point, Jesus starts to teach.