Biblical Text: Matthew 18:1-20, (Ezekiel 33:7-9)
I started using the word clouds a long time ago for the image. Originally I thought it was artistic cute: a Word cloud for preaching the Word. But, as I made them I started to realize they did have something to say, and what they had to say too seeing a few. There was always the simple surface fact of the most commonly used words. Like above – Luther and Jesus. I learned and adapted over the years that if “God” was the biggest word, the sermon was probably too generic. I looked for Father or Jesus or Spirit to show up. But there are a variety of shapes that show up. The clouds that are dominated by 2-3 big words and everything else is small are usually the simplest. They tend to be more about proclamation. At the other end are ones like the above. There are lots of words that are large enough to be read, but none that really just pop. Those tend to be less pure proclamation and more teaching or invitation to ponder. The every Sunday preacher has to have a bigger repertoire than the occasional. The lectionary preacher even more so, if he wants to preach the text and not just what is on his mind that week.
Matthew 18 is a deeper text than we normally treat it. Depending upon if our preference is for Young Luther or Old Luther (listen to the sermon), we tend to reduce it to “The Process” for solving disputes in the church, or reduce it to the ridiculousness of even thinking about the law parallel to Jesus’ hyperbole about cutting off body parts. We aren’t going to do that and the Father would not want that, so thinking in sin counting terms must be just wrong. I hope that this sermon was an invitation to think beyond those simplistic reductions. The Christian Life has a simplicity to it, but those are caricatures. That simplicity is the one found on the other side of a complexity.