Will We Be Different on Monday?
with Rev. Laura SHerwood
September 17, 2023
This Sunday’s sermon explores the message from Romans to see how being Christian means acting non-judgmentally toward each other – first in the Church and then everywhere else.
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
5 One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6 Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8 If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written:
“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will acknowledge God.’”
12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.
Read the Full Text
I was in a Potbelly restaurant recently in Skokie and was surprised to see a picture on the wall of a scene from the 1985 movie The Breakfast Club. This movie came out at the peak of my high school years and remains one of my nostalgic favorites.
The basic plot is not new, but classically relevant to every generation. It begins with 5 “high-schooler’s” who are stuck serving an all-day Saturday detention in the school library. None of them are friends, but they all seem to know or at least know of each other. The first part of the movie shows how each falls into some kind of stereotyped category such as “rich-kid” “sport’s jock” “nerd” “weirdo” and “delinquent.” They have each made assumptions about the other based on these categories and treat each other as less important, less valuable and less significant because of them. They have never tried to move beyond these superficial judgments and on this Saturday find themselves getting into serious arguments and altercations because of them.
Judging/Labeling each other is a normal human behavior even in the Church
One of the reasons a movie like this one speaks to many generations is because it is so typical of the way people behave toward one another – starting before we become adults. For some reason, we learn early on how to label and judge others based on superficial things like looks or abilities or because of other more serious differences. Just knowing we shouldn’t do it – doesn’t make it easy to stop. After a while, it becomes easier to accept the labels, to live with the divisions instead of working to get beyond them.
These normal human tendencies have also been a part of the life and history of the Church and have clouded what should always be a model of Christ’s humanity instead of our flawed version.
The problem of Judging in the Roman Church
In the Roman church, the members there had also fallen into this trap of labeling each other because of their differences and bitter arguments about the right and best way to follow God and to be the Church. Their long-standing feuds had led to them taking sides against one another.
They were fighting over everything – what they should or should not eat, on which days they should or should not fast, what religious holidays they should observe and even which day they should “go to Church” Saturday or Sunday? I think there may have even been some of the earliest debates about what kind of music to have in worship. Can you even imagine people in the same Church disagreeing with one another like that?
The deeper problem was that they disagreed with each other so severely that they had begun to judge one another’s faith and, in effect, each other’s value before God.
As Christ-followers we are called to resist this kind of behavior
Paul writes to the Romans about how they are supposed to accept each other and not judge. He urges them to embrace their one-ness in Christ as the most important label or identity any of them could ever have.
He tries to help them see that the Church is supposed to be different than the rest of the world. We are supposed to treat each other as beloved siblings, despite our differences, despite our disagreements, despite our histories with one another. Life is supposed to work differently in the Church, among fellow Christians, because we have touched a different kind of life in Christ.
Paul is saying to them and to the church throughout time that the new life we have found in Christ is supposed to be just that – a new life – right now while we are still alive. We are supposed to actually live differently now and treat one another with as much grace, forgiveness and love as Christ has treated us.
Life is supposed to be different in here
This new way of life must begin within the Church, Paul argues. For if we can’t show this new quality of life to each other, to fellow Christians, then how can we expect to show it to anyone else? If we can’t practice our new life in Christ within Christ’s Church, what chance do we have of bringing Christ to the rest of the world? Calling ourselves Christian doesn’t mean anything if we aren’t Christian from within, from our hearts and souls and among our brothers and sisters, all our siblings in the faith.
As Paul says, “We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord: so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” The important thing we have in common is the understanding that everything we do in life belongs to Christ and everything we have to look forward to after death is because of Christ and the only judge that ever matters is God. Any judgment we make against each other only becomes a stumbling block to our own faith, to our own ability to grow more and more into Christ and nurture the Church’s ability to be an effective witness for Christ.
We have begun our Interim Journey together. A good part of this journey, especially in the beginning, will involve time to reflect on who and what this Church has been to help discern how this Church is being called into the future. As we do that work, there could easily be disagreements, even divisions that come to light – maybe some that have been there for a while and others that are new. It is perfectly normal to have disagreements and differences, as long as they don’t lead us to judge one another or treat ach any one as less valuable – because if we do that to each other, it will be become our witness to the world.
Breakfast Club – Will anything be different on Monday morning?
Toward the end of The Breakfast Club there’s a pivotal scene where the 5 teens are all sitting together on the floor. They’ve just had what we would call in the Church a “conversion moment” when they can finally see each other for who they really are. They’ve come to understand that inside they really aren’t that different – each one has problems, insecurities, dreams and plans. And they all want the same thing – to be loved and accepted for who they are.
After these realizations, Anthony Michael Hall’s character, the “Nerd,” says he feels like they are all really his friends now and everyone sincerely responds that yes, they are. Then he thinks ahead to when they will back in their regular routines among the whole student body and says, “But I wonder if it will still be true on Monday morning or if you will just go back to treating me like you did before?” They all quickly say that of course they won’t. Within the confines of detention, they have been able to create a new community where the old standards and stereotypes do not apply, but will it still be true on Monday morning? It is the unanswered question at the end of the movie. After all they’ve been through together and seen in each other, will they let it change the way they act once they get back into their “real” lives?
Life is supposed to be different out there, too
Paul would ask us the same question and it is the question underlying what he is saying to the Romans. The new life in Christ does create a new kind of community where society’s standards of power, wealth and division are turned upside down. As Christ-followers, we must first realize this new community among ourselves within Christ’s Church AND THEN we must take that new way of living out into the rest of our lives.
It reminds of what a colleague of mine from Indiana once said, “Christians do not go to Church, they are the Church.”
Will we be different on Monday morning?
Life is supposed to be different in the Church; anyone who comes into this place at any time on any day of the week should be able to see the difference in the way we live and act. But the greater truth is that the Church is not a place where we go, but it is something that lives inside each one of us. May God continually work within us to transform the way we live with and treat one another here and wherever we are on Sunday afternoon, Monday morning, and every day of every week. In the name of our Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit. Amen.