Thursday, September 4, 2008

Gathered in Jesus Name Matthew 18:15-20

Our Gospel reading this week is a great reading for Rally Sunday. In my congregation kids will start a new year of Sunday School and learning together. Whole families will reappear after months of camping and sleeping in. Rally Sunday is a great day to remember that the church, at its core, starts small, with 2 or 3 gathered in Jesus name.

Church life starts with relationships. (Matthew 22:34-40)
In the first commandment God invites us into relationship with himself. Jesus taught that the second most important thing in this life are relationships with other people.

Jesus words in Matthew 18:15-17 are instructions for human beings trying to relate to one another in the church that we see on this earth. Some times we do well listening to one another. We live side by side as brothers and sisters. Other times we do terribly. We all have had times when we had a failure to communicate with one another.

Jesus invites us to meet each other face to face. He calls us to name the times we've been wronged. We are not to seek revenge; rather we should seek the ear of the neighbor who has wronged us. It's a painful time in ministry and fellowship when you turn to a brother or sister and tell them they've hurt you or let you down.

Jesus invites his followers not to seek a way to kick another out of fellowship but to restore them to fellowship first. Some will seek forgiveness. Some will grow enraged that they would be confronted. Some will just walk away facing the painful truth of what they have done. Its deeply painful, if you're the one who has been asked to sit down and listen as another shares their grievance with you. It's hard to listen but it your chance to be restored.

Bound together.
Jesus' words about casting someone out of fellowship are haunting. We are to treat the former member as a tax collector and sinner. We are to bind and lose them as members not only of a local church; but as part of the unseen mystical body of Christ. These words are not only about binding and releasing sin, they are about binding and releasing brothers and sisters.

We underestimate the organic and relational nature of the church. The church is Christ's body made up of living breathing believers called together by the Holy Spirit. We gather around the Word of God, water, bread, and wine. The Holy Spirit, people, and these 4 basic elements make up the true church. The church is not buildings or budgets. Pastors serving in established congregations might have buildings or budgets; but they are not and will never be the truly constitutive elements of the church.

The church will never be constrained by physical or monetary limits. Jesus is present when a few, maybe 2 or 3 people, gather in His name. We need no building or money. We need faith, hope, love: Gifts of the Spirit binding us together around the Word and Sacraments.


Ivy said...

"We need faith, hope, love: Gifts of the Spirit binding us together around the Word and Sacraments." That says it all. Hope you have a wonderful rally Sun. Blessings.

LawAndGospel said...

I wonder if the part about treating some as Gentiles or tax collectors is not so much about cutting them lose, and shaking the dust from our sandals as it is reaching out to them all the more to restore them?

walk2write said...

I just found your site on Troutbirder. We live in an area (in Florida) where there is a church on practically every block. Your thoughts about church buildings and budgets would probably be considered blasphemous by a lot of people here. I agree with you. We have given up going to "church" (in a building) and go to church in our prayers. Unfortunately, it's difficult to meet people who are likeminded. Most people here think if you're not "churched" then you're not a real Christian or that you're trying to be divisive to the body.