Matthew 18:15-20

Many of you here this morning can remember the days before Television, before color, before remote controls, before cable TV, before satellite TV, be the internet, before streaming. As little as fifty years ago, televisions looked radically different than they do today.

They were heavy, square monstrosities topped often with what looked like the antennae of a super-sized insect. When you turned the TV on, by means of a knob on the front of the device (there were no remotes and no cable service), you’d get either a grey, fuzzy screen with wavy lines or the faint outline of a show in progress. You’d choose the channel you wanted, and then you’d have to “fine tune” the reception by means of the giant antennae. Sometimes you didn’t choose the channel you wanted you just watched what came in the best. It became a kind of an art to get good at this kind of “fine tuning.” Those with a lot of patience, a gentle hand, and infinite finesse could get the clearest picture.

The art of fine tuning isn’t reserved only for archaic televisions though. Mechanics fine-tune engines to hum perfectly and smoothly. Technicians fine tune systems of all kinds. Musicians fine tune their instruments. Speech writers fine tune their speeches before they give them. Teachers fine tune their lesson plans before heading into the classroom. Even Pastors fine tune sermons to proclaim a clear message to the hearers. Fine tuning is the art of aligning things in a way that allows them to function at their best capacity, in optimal fashion. Such effort is endeavored in all professions I just mentioned a few.

While fine tuning devices, systems, recipes, speeches, sermons and even music or our thoughts might feel like a do-able endeavor, things get complicated when we try to fine tune our relationships. Let’s face it. Relationships are complicated.

I           n a relationship, it isn’t a matter of one person “fine tuning” another. But the effort to get “in sync” requires mutual communication, mutual listening, getting on the same page in some way, and then salving the broken parts of the relationship in order to sing in harmony again. Each relationship takes fine tuning to reach a balance.

In this way, fine tuning a relationship is more like making music together than adjusting an antenna! It’s not just about functionality. It’s about beauty, harmony, peace, and agreement. Relationships don’t just project an image; they define a community. And each relationship, like a fine piece of music played, takes work.

A community of faith, such as Trinity Lutheran Church, is in a sense like a sacred choir. Each member of the choir contributes a unique voice, timbre, tone, and resonance; yet singing in a choir is not like singing a solo. Singing in a choir requires a great deal of awareness of the vibrato, tone, volume, and tuning of your fellow musicians.

Those who sing in choirs know that a great part of singing together with others requires careful listening, an eye on the conductor, and an ear attuned to every other member of the choir. Each person tries his or her best to stay in tune with the group, to make his or her voice blend, to harmonize well, and to be sensitive to the expressions of the music.

Making music together is a joint, communal effort that requires frequent “fine tuning”with each other, with the conductor, and in a faith setting, with God. For every song sung by a choir is a slice of communal worship, praise, and glory focused on God and directed toward God. A choir is a community praising together within the vehicle of song. The more in tune each is with God, the more in tune they will with each other.   This does not mean that every song will be a harmonious perfection. We seldom (if ever) reach it. But it’s in our striving, our communal and relational attunement that we find our voice, and the beauty of our faith together.

Many people are like me, they can sing and adjust to sing in a choir or small group, but only a precious few are good enough to sing solos, and some who try to sing solos soon find that it is not that easy and they probably should not sing solos. This same principle applies to every relationship. If you want your relationships to work, you will need to both fine tune your wants, needs, desires, and goals to those of your partner, spouse, or friend.

Listening, communicating, agreeing, giving, compromising, and aligning all create the kind of fine tuning that makes for a successful relationship. Whether in your marriage or in your church community, fine tuning with God is always a first necessity toward having the ability to fine tune your relationships with each other, and with others in the world.

In today’s scripture, Jesus tries to explain to his disciples the rules of resolution, the art of fine tuning if you will. He calls upon the members of the faith community to try to resolve discordant relationship issues, first singly, then in tandem with others––to bring someone who is “out of tune” or “dissonant” back into a place of resolution.

If it can’t be done no matter how many “voices” sing together in harmony along with the dissonant voice, urging him or her to focus attention on God and the mission of the church, then let it go, and let God take it from there.

If, however, the dissonant voice hears and remembers that singing together in praise of God is everyone’s primary goal, then resolution will occur naturally, no harm, no foul.

In the church polity we call this actions Church Discipline. . .

Jesus then goes on to remind all of us that “agreement,” that is, harmony, in our relationships is symphonic song sounds pleasing to God’s receptive ears, and that God will hear and grant blessings upon those who live together as brothers and sisters in harmony. For “where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them,” says Jesus.

To be a disciple does not merely mean that on our own we go about studying, praying, worshiping, and doing good deeds in God’s name. Jesus never intended disciples to be about God’s mission alone. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have chosen so many different voices in his own posse of disciples and spent the time he had on earth teaching them how to “sing together” both for the glory of God and for the purpose of God’s mission on earth.

Jesus knew that nothing could be accomplished in the mission of the ecclesia, the church, if we couldn’t learn to do it together, to put God’s mission before any of our own petty concerns, and to learn within our great diversity to respect each other and focus not on our own differences but on our combined mission––God’s mission.

The Mission and Ministry Statement of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church is:

“To Know Christ and Make Him Known”

- To spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ

- To offer a unified congregational worship opportunity

- To glorify God by personal spiritual and congregational growth, reaching out with the love of Christ.

            This is a cooperative statement that cannot be done by any one soloist or one individual. For this statement to be carried forward requires the intense fine tuning of the entire congregation, each individual fine tuning their relationship first with Jesus then all others to work together to accomplish this mission of the church.

The power of Jesus in the form of the Holy Spirit will fall upon all who seek harmony and resolution within the great community of faith. We need those who practice fine tuning of their own spirits toward the purposes of God, and who encouraging those around them to join in the Great Choir of Praise, aligned in spirit, and aligned in mission. Unfortunately, too many of us are self-centered and unwilling to accept others into the fellowship. Such dissonance only causes unfortunate discord and harmony is difficult to attain.

In today’s world, we find ourselves surrounded often by cacophony, dissonance, and a tremendous number of discordant voices. What shall we do? We must sing.

Sing together. Sing in harmony our praise and prayers to God. Fine tune our own voices to the sound of Jesus’ vibe and invite all others to join our choir of celebration. The sound of beautiful music is effective and is appealing to many who have not yet joined the choir of praise. And so is a community of faith bathed in the Spirit and soaked in His peace, harmony, and a higher mission than our own. Together we can accomplish so much more than we can accomplish on our own. We are created to be in harmonious relationships, with each other and with our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.