top of page

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Ages 6-9): Problem Solving

 
 

In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus and his disciples head towards Jerusalem, the great holy city. Last week, we heard Jesus try to explain to his friends that in Jerusalem he will die and on the third day rise to new life. The disciples do not really understand because the Resurrection is something entirely new. Jesus knows that in his Risen life he will not walk with the disciples in the same way that he walks with them now. So, as they walk along, Jesus gives the disciples some instructions they will need when he is Risen, when they feel like he is gone.

“If your brother or sister sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the brother or sister listens to you, 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 the brother or sister 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 a Gentile and a tax collector.

These instructions all talk about problem solving, do they not? Three steps. We like clear steps to follow so that we know how to do the right thing. But why these three steps? What is the goal? What are we trying to do?

Photo by Leo Wieling on Unsplash

Problem:

"If your brother or sister sins against you..."

Jesus asks us to think of a situation in which someone we care about hurts or upsets us with their words or actions. We can think of times when this happens at home or at school.


Step 1.

"go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone."

How many people does Jesus mention? Just two. That is a small number. Why just two? Two people is a small number—two people keeps the problem small.


We can imagine someone hurting us with their words or actions, either by accident or on purpose. If we go to them and say, "You hurt me when you..."—what would they feel? They might get a little angry. They would probably feel bad. They would definitely have a chance to say sorry. Both of us would have a chance to make things right.

What can we say about our relationship with the person who hurt us? After we talk, just the two of us, are we closer together or further apart? Talking together builds a bridge between us.

"If the brother or sister listens to you, you have regained that one."

Together again. Problem solved. Closer than ever, together we grow.

Photo by Nick Fewlings on Unsplash

Step 2.

"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."

Jesus is clear. It does not always work. Sometimes people do not listen when someone tells them they are wrong. This time, Jesus says, bring some other people along and try again. The person has already heard that they have hurt us. Now other people come to listen to the story—both sides of the story. Does Jesus want them there to help us gang up on the person? Is that what Jesus means? No. Remember, we want to regain that person, to bring them back, to build that bridge. Building bridges requires the help of many people. Others can help keep all of us calm. It may take awhile. Sometimes people need time to realize that all these people are right and they are wrong. These steps give us time.


Step 3.

"If the brother or sister refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church"

Remember, in Jesus' time there are no churches in Israel, only synagogues. So when he says "church," he means people who gather together. What do they gather together to do? They pray. When someone has hurt us and they do not listen to us or even to two or three other people, we gather together to pray.


Prayer never hurts. It can only help. It might help us see what else there is to do. It might help us see that we have done wrong, too. It might help to build that bridge between us.

Photo by Scott Law on Unsplash

Step 4.

"and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector."

Step 4?? We counted just three steps. But if the problem does not get solved, what are we to do? Do we just watch as the bridge between us crumbles? Do we walk further away? Is that what Jesus means when he says they are like a Gentile and a tax collector?


Probably not.


We remember a few weeks ago hearing about the Gentile woman who had great faith. And we know Jesus eats meals with tax collectors.

Gentiles and tax collectors—Jesus concerns himself with these people.

He thinks too highly of these people to just watch as bridges crumble.

So, if someone does not listen even to the church, what do we do?

We give them to Jesus.

Step 4 is Jesus' step.


We gather together to pray for that person.

For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

We gather together to pray and Jesus is with us!

What we cannot fix, Jesus can fix.

What we cannot build, Jesus can build.

Together with him, we will mend this world.


29 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page