Math ValuesMatthew 18:15-20 15“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16But 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. 17If the member 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. 18Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19Again, 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. 20For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
The Archimedes Principle story will help us learn from our Gospel. The story comes from a rare movie called “Pi”- and if you know some Greek, “Pi” is the Greek symbol for the mathematical formula “3.14….” Pi multiplies the diameter of a circle to equals its circumference 3.14… times.
And since it’s school time again for many of our church youth, we’re all going to go back to school now for a few minutes to recall a lesson called “The
Archimedes principle” which measures density, yet listen for the moral of the Archimedes Principle… you may be tested.
In the movie Pi, a main character named Sol is speaking to Max, when he says:
“Remember Archimedes of Syracuse? The King asks Archimedes to determine if a present he’s received was actually solid gold.
Unsolved problem at the time. It tortures the great Greek mathematician for weeks. Insomnia haunts him and he twists and turns
on his bed for nights on end. Finally, his equally exhausted wife, she’s forced to share a bed with this genius, convinces him to take a bath, to relax. While stepping into the tub he observes the bathwater rise as he enters. Displacement. A way to determine volume. And thus, a way to determine
density, weight over volume (and whether the King’s gift is solid gold). And thus, Archimedes solves the problem. He screams “Eureka!”—Greek for “I found it!”—and is so overwhelmed he runs dripping naked through the streets to the King’s castle to report his discovery. Now, what’s the moral of the story?
“That a breakthrough will come…”
Wrong. The point of the story is the wife. Listen to your wife, she will give you perspective. Meaning, you need a break, Max, you have to take a bath, otherwise you’ll get nowhere. There will be no order, only chaos. Go home and take a bath.”
In Today’s Gospel story, Jesus tries to make sense of a process by which to determine what a church should do in a time of inner challenge. Jesus lays forth a method by which to test how deep the conflict goes, and how Christians ought to proceed when managing the situation.
Jesus invites us to listen to one another first. And if that’s not working, usually because of pride, Second we are to listen to God’s church, and if that’s not working because of sin, then, well it seems like Jesus is saying that person needs to get a new life, like a tax collector or Gentile.
Seriously, though, Jesus knows that there’s going to be a lot of pressure to find the management solution to this human problem of conflict.
So, Jesus is trying to teach us how God manages those times. Ideally, there would be a moment in conflict- a sudden Eureka moment, like in the
Archimedes Story- when everyone involved suddenly gets what the others have been saying all along, and Eureka, that’s it.
Now move on…
However, to get that Eureka moment, as in the moral of the Archimedes Principle, the Gospel story involves listening to those closest
around us. Like in the movie PI, the character explains that listening to the advice of others can help us to discover breakthroughs.
The concept of listening and not listening to what others need to tell us is crucial to the gospel. Jesus says, “If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.
But if you are not listened to…” Jesus says…
And so let’s listen carefully to what Jesus says next.
Jesus says, “…If the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
A Gentile and a Tax Collector?
Is this a good or bad thing?
But often times this saying is heard as an insult, sometimes people interpret Jesus saying this, as if Jesus is saying that its ok to treat people without respect.
But, the exact opposite is true.
For example, today’s gospel is according to Matthew, and remember with me… that it was Matthew who was himself a gentile and tax collector. (Mt10:3)
Actually, Matthew is illustrating an important step in conflict management. Remember that Jesus is teaching them how to deal with conflict. This important step in conflict management acts out new roles. During an ongoing conflict, Jesus says, it is helpful to look at things from a fresh perspective.
Jesus says, think of the conflict, and then think of that other person who is giving you grief, well think of them wearing a chicken costume, no, I mean …
Well, whatever breaks the tension, Jesus says look at the people with a new perspective.
The first step involved listening carefully, and not turning our back on those with whom we are in conflict. The final step helps us see the situation in a new light.
The next thing Jesus says, is that whatever we bind and loose on earth will be likewise in heaven, this is the very power of love, to desire the best for each
other in heaven and earth, to invite God’s grace upon our enemies and grace to families in conflict. But Jesus says, even this, is going to be difficult for church going folk…, but not for God.
This is Christian love, and this is why love is actually hard work. Yet, this is how love works with God’s rules about love. This is how love works to
bring those Eureka moments that give our lives understanding. God has worked hard to love us, so hard that he gave up even his life to love us.
Later on in the movie “Pi”, the character Sol says: “That is the truth of our world, Max. It can’t be easily summed up with math.” Like Archimedes, the Eureka moments make life exciting and fun.
So, listen again to the moral of the story, it’s to listen to one another, listen to our loved ones, listen like Archimedes listened to his wife.
Jesus wants us to understand each other, and first and foremost, to listen to each other, for the love of God. Amen.