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Episode Info: There is an old story about two men who lived in a small village.  These two men got into a terrible dispute which they could not resolve.  So, they decided to talk to the town sage. The first man went to the sage's home and told his version of what happened. When he finished, the sage said, "You're absolutely right." The next night, the second man called on the sage and told his side of the story. The sage responded, "You're absolutely right." Afterward, the sage's wife scolded her husband saying, "Those men told you two different stories and you told them they were absolutely right. That's impossible -- they can't both be absolutely right." The sage turned to his wife and said, "You're absolutely right." While that story is rather humorous, it is descriptive of life within community when people don’t want to face conflict.  Too often, disagreements and differences just simmer below the surface and people are never honest with each other.  And, as we think about life within the church, many people tend to think there should be no conflict within the faith community.  However, Jesus’ teaching in today’s gospel lesson seems to proceed on the baseline assumption that conflict in Christian community is normal and natural, and should be dealt with honestly, with compassion,  forgiveness and reconciliation.   And, from Jesus’ teaching today, we discover the community of faith is always called to bear witness to the forgiveness and reconciliation Christ is bringing into the world. Today’s gospel reading has been a difficult passage to digest in the Western church.  In the western world, we have been deeply influenced and shaped by the Enlightenment philosophy of John Locke, so much so that the dominant understanding of the local church in the modern world has been that of a voluntary association of autonomous individuals.  This is especially the case in America, where individualism, with its emphasis on independence, self-reliance, and individual authority, is held in such high esteem.  In our culture, church is often a place of self-sufficient individuals who gather for worship on Sunday, as their calendar permits, then leave to do their own thing throughout the week.  But, at the time of the early church and in the community to which Matthew was writing, the faith community was a place of mutual interdependence, where each member was incomplete without the other, where the suffering of one was the sufferiRead more »

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