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Sep 10th: Reconciliation Through Christ: Seeking the Lost and Bridging Divides, with Rev. Kally Elliott.

Posted: Sun, Sep 10, 2023
Reconciliation Through Christ: Seeking the Lost and Bridging Divides with Rev. Kally Elliott. Series: One Thing A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. Scripture: Matthew 18:12-20. Join Kally as she discusses a call to pursue reconciliation with those we disagree with politically and spiritually through open communication and prayer in Christ’s name.

A Part of the Series:

Rev. Kally Elliott


Reconciliation Through Christ: Seeking the Lost and Bridging Divides with Rev. Kally Elliott. Series: One Thing A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. Scripture: Matthew 18:12-20.

Join Kally as she discusses a call to pursue reconciliation with those we disagree with politically and spiritually through open communication and prayer in Christ’s name.


The scripture this morning comes from Matthew chapter 18, verses 12 through 20. So what do you think if a shepherd has 100 sheep and one of them has gone astray? Does he not leave the 99 on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray. And if he finds it truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the 99 that never went to stray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost. If your brother or sister sins against you go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If you are listened to you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to take one or two others along with you so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If that person refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if the offender refuses to listen, even to the church, let such a one be to you as an outsider, and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, Truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven, For where two or three are gathered in my name. I am there among them.

Recently, another member of the church said to me, you know, we’re in the middle of a civil war, we just haven’t all turned to weapons that kill yet.

In a 2021 Pew Research Center report, they said political affiliation has become the most powerful way that people assess who to be close to, and who to reject far surpassing differences by age, race, ethnicity, gender, educational attainment, and religious affiliation.

But I don’t need to tell you that you already know this. Because over the past several years, the political situation in the United States and really the whole world has become more than most of us can bear. You experienced the animosity, even the hatred in your social media field in community politics, but probably most painful of all within your own family. In an article again from 2021, and behavioral scientist, psychologist Joshua Coleman writes, political difference seems to be an increasing cause of family estrangement. Blood is no longer thicker than water, especially if that water is political affiliation.

In 2023, two years after that article was written, this problem has only gotten worse.

The divide is becoming a vast and dangerous Canyon. And yet almost every single person that I talked to, is grieving. Deep, deep grief is felt about losing people we love over a political candidate, or social issue, or even a conspiracy theory. Often what I hear first is anger. utter dismay at their loved ones views vehemence at how wrong they are. But when I dig a little deeper, I almost always find a deep, deep sadness.

Most of us want to find a way to reconciliation. But most of us also feel hopeless that we can ever heal the divide.

In his book, The Great divorce CS Lewis paints a picture of hell, that should haunt us all. In his book, hell is like a vast gray city, a city inhabited only at its outer edges, with rows and rows of empty houses in the middle, empty, because everyone who once lived in them has argued with the neighbors and moved and argued with the new neighbors and moved again, leaving empty streets full of empty houses behind them. That Lewis says is how hell grows so large, empty at the center and inhabited only on the fringes, because it is easier to move away from those with whom we disagree, instead of staying put and working things out.

And it is easier to move away from those with whom we disagree. I know this, because I have done it myself. You know, when I move away from those with whom I disagree, I don’t have to get riled up every time I engage with that loved one. On the other side, I don’t have to hurt because I can’t understand how we’ve become so very different. I don’t have to gather my facts or feel stupid when trying to argue a point, trying to change their mind.

It is easier, definitely way more comfortable, to move away from those with whom we disagree.

But you know, even when I do, I still carry around the deep sadness at the loss of my loved one.

And moving away does nothing to heal our nation. And what’s more, Jesus doesn’t call us to comfort or safety. But he does call us to follow him.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells his father followers look, if your brother or your sister your sibling sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. Go point out, talk to them.

Reconciliation for Jesus is not just an idea. It’s an action. It’s something we do.

But I think we as a nation and as a church as individuals, even our kind of past that we’ve we’ve tried. We’ve tried to talk to our siblings, we’ve tried to build bridges only to have the Other Side Burn it right down. So so then what now? Is that even going to work? What now? I think Jesus says you have to keep trying.

It’s actually the one thing Jesus is absolutely clear about in the Gospels. You know, most of the time Jesus speaks in metaphor and parable, He talks about things like fig trees and sheep and lost coins. But here talking about relationships, he makes himself very clear. First, he says, If someone wrongs you, personally, go to your sister or your brother and talk to them. And then if that doesn’t work, get a friend that you both trust involved in. If that doesn’t work, well then then reach out to a mutual mentor. Keep trying. Keep trying, even if they are not listening to you. Keep trying. Now, if you are in an abusive relationship, this does not pertain to you and the pastors of this church are here to help you find the help you need to leave and heal.

But for the rest of us, Jesus is clear.

We don’t give up on people.

Just before Jesus begins these strangely clear instructions, he tells a story in which a shepherd realizes that one of her sheep has gone missing.

throwing caution to the wind, she leaves the entire flock all 99 of them her entire livelihood to go on a dangerous search for this one lost sheep. I mean, what is one lamb out of 100? For Jesus, that one lamb is everything.

I imagine this Shepherd, Colleen to her young sheep, kind of like a mother calls her children who are lost, come home, come home, where are you come home, we miss you.

This, Matthew makes says is how we are to treat each other. Go to them, talk to them, seek them out. Don’t stop until you get them back.

And if finally none of this works, well then go ahead and treat them like an outsider or a tax collector. Which seems a bit harsh.

And not really Jesus’s vibe either, doesn’t it? I mean, unless you remember that Jesus’s entire Ministry is built around seeking out and welcoming outsiders. And that Matthew himself was a tax collector and a tax collector that Jesus sought out called and walked beside every day of his ministry. So no, I don’t think Jesus has been harsh here. I don’t think he is saying if you, you know, if you follow steps one through three, and it doesn’t work for you, well, then who cares? You can move on, you’ve done all that you can. I think instead, he is saying, look, you’ve got a God, who risks losing everything to go after one person. So if steps one through three don’t work, keep trying, actually, try even harder with love and compassion, to pursue restored friendship with that person.

I don’t know. But most days, it feels like we are way too far gone for this sort of thing.

If we can’t even have a conversation, how can we possibly hope to find our way back to friendship? I think hope is found in the promise Jesus makes here in the Scripture. He says, you know, where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m I’m there. I am there with them. It’s his way of saying, you know, where you can always find me.

It’s in that nervous, awkward moment when you approach someone that you’ve wronged, or been wronged by and say it to their face. It’s in that space between you when you ask to understand why they think what they do.

It’s in that pause you take before you respond. It’s in the moment you realize you cannot agree. But perhaps you can still love.

That is where we experience the presence of Christ. In those hard, painful, messy moments when we are face to face and working through the way we have wronged each other the ways in which we disagree.

Recently, I came across this article by a woman named a Rana Petrowski. Roberts, who works in faith and public life in Washington DC, in which she writes about her own attempt at working through the political divide with her father. She writes, this summer I returned to my rural home of Gardnerville, Nevada for rest and retreat, I expected tranquillity and instead, I found a clash. I had prepared for conversation with my father for weeks. But before I could roll back my tongue and with love and respect to enter into a conversation with my father, things escalated. Dad and I both started to get upset. And I knew we were about to enter the point where we both had deaf ears and loud mouths. I knew then as I know now that political debate doesn’t change minds, I knew that I loved him. I knew that I don’t know everything, and I knew that I might easily be a fool. So on a whim, I asked my dad if he wanted to pray with me.

It was a long prayer.

I didn’t change my father’s mind, and he didn’t change mine. But we left the conversation still as father and daughter, not as political rivals.

When we joined the communion of saints in prayer, we entered a narrative larger than our current political moment. We declared together that Christ is king.

That was a political act. And as a result, the rules of political combat were changed. In fact, it became evident that combat is maybe not the right method at all.

In this liminal space, Heaven slightly broke through and diffused the worded missiles that my father and I had hurled at each other.

Now, maybe this example seems far fetched for you, you’re not the praying type or to ask the loved one from whom you are a strange to pray with, you would just be kind of weird. Then maybe, maybe you’re just asked them to pause with you to reflect on what you both want from the relationship. Maybe you stop and you remember why you care about this person in the first place.

Jesus tells His disciples, whatever you bind on earth, you bind in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven, to reconcile with someone to bring them close to you, again, is to bring heaven to earth.

That’s why it’s so messy and awkward and uncomfortable. Because we’re not used to it. We’ve become so used to the world as it is, so much so that it feels hopeless. But a hopelessness is not an option for those of us who want to follow Jesus. Because we trust in a God who never gives up hope in us.

So I wonder, with whom might you begin? Who do you miss? Because they have moved so far to the other side. And it’s been so long since the two of you could find each other’s heart.

Who do you long to call in, to gather in your arms to love but they just seem too far away? Who have you written off or given up on? Whoever comes to mind? Maybe, maybe you can reach out to them. Maybe you can invite them into a conversation or even a prayer? Maybe even reconciliation? Because it’s in that relationship where God promises to be present with you.

And it’s in the healing of that relationship that all of our healing will begin. Amen.

Related Ministries:

Online and Television Services, A Spacious Christianity
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