class=MsoNormal>Come Lord Jesus, be with us in the time of reflection on your word, guide us to have ears to hear, andhearts alert to your prompting – In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – Amen
We have this Sunday some very memorable passages from the gospel of Matthew
Each one can be consider on its own – each one has been told again and again for it’s clear
instruction on a specific topic
The first might be known by some of you as our Lord’s instruction on how to deal with conflict
It is known by some as the Matthew 18 principal of conflict
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.(Matthew 18:15-17)
The second memorable passage might be thought of as Jesus’ instruction on “letting go”
On releasing and letting go of the pressures of life
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. (Matthew 18:18)
Thirdly, we are instructed about the power of coming to God in prayer
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. (Matthew 18:19)
And finally we have our Lord’s simplest and most straightforward definition of Church…
Which contains in it the promise of the real presence of our Lord
20For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:20)
Six verses – four powerful, clear and memorable instructions
Taken by themselves, as they are often done, we have topics worthy of a great deal of
discussion – the church has over history used any of these four directives on a vast
multitude of situations
Consider the first – our Lord’s instruction on how to deal with conflict
There have been numerous times, in my short time here at Farringdon, where I have discussed
this principal and it has helped to guide through matters
I have also witnessed first hand when this simple principal has not been used and great
damage to the body of Christ, the Church, has occurred
When someone has perceived that they have been sinned against and instead of
following this step by step formula towards reconciliation
Instead of first bringing the matter one on one personally or secondly
calling upon elders, or witnesses to directly deal with the matter
Individuals have started right away at gossip
Dealing with the perceived injustice by talking behind someone back and belittling them or
casting aspersions on their character
And the Lord’s work towards reconciliation is never attainable
Never attained because the simple step by step process is never applied
I am certain that God’s heart is pained by this failure
I am convinced that God wants reconciliation more than just about anything else
Community in spirit is one of the chief goals of Jesus’ earthly teaching
Over and over we read that Jesus went about the land teaching about the
kingdom of Heaven – and that kingdom is best witnessed when the people share
together in the Love of God
We pray our most common prayer – The Lord’s prayer by stating:
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven
And later this morning we will be sharing in the rehearsal
of the heavenly banquet – we will be celebrating the
communion… with God and with each other
So why does reconciliation not happen?
Why is conflict and gossip so prevalent in Church, the one place where it should not happen?
Why when the teaching on conflict is so clear – just three verses, directly from the
mouth of Jesus the Christ
We have conflict, because it is hard work – it is the work of maturity in faith
It is difficult to come to a person – one on one – and say “you have wronged me”
It is difficult, if stage one doesn’t work, to follow it up and bring in others – to say
“brother/sister in Christ, you have done wrong or said wrongly about our brother in
And I can honestly say, that I have only a couple times in my entire life in the
Church ever heard it reaching step three – whereby the Church is made aware of
It is hard work and it is mature work and the other way out is so easy
Of all the things Jesus told us to do, this might be one of the most difficult.
Confronting someone who has hurt us is not an easy thing to do.
It is much easier to talk to others about what the person did or avoid the person and the issue altogether.
Some people even think that, to move on from the hurt, is the equivalent of
condoning the hurtful action.
Yet rarely do these sorts of actions lead to healing, forgiveness and peace.
That is why Jesus gives us these clear instructions regarding how to handle some of life's trickiest
He knows dealing with sin is the only way for it not to control us.
He knows that being honest about sin is the only way to promote and experience the kind
of life God intends for us.
Following Jesus' instructions is not necessarily easy, but doing so does lead to life, healing and peace.
Yet that happens not enough… opportunities of healing and peace are too often missed
Grumbling to whoever will hear or whoever is sympathetic to one’s cause is... so easy to do
And might I suggest… that we all do this…
Kelly can attest that as clergy spouse – she is on the front line on many of my
conflict resolution situations
Strive as I might to keep work at work and the home a safe haven – at the
end of the day sharing with Kelly some of the trials of my day, just happens
But that is not God’s heart for the situations that arise
God’s heart is clearly laid out – Jesus gave us three straight-forward steps towards reconciliation
And I know, first hand, as most of you do – when you take step one, maturely and with the love of God and neighbour in mind
Rarely does it get to step two
When you go to someone with a loving heart and address the injustice between each of you – Love usually prevails
Rarely is someone’s heart hardened to the gesture of reconciliation through love
That is part of the good news of our Lord’s strategy
One of the follies of the Church is to use this three step process as a means of getting rid of someone
It is my belief that was never the intention of our Lord
Our Lord’s strategy, when lived out, is all about rebuilding the grace within a community…
You might be thinking to yourself – how do I know that – how do I claim to know the heart of God on this matter
Well consider two very important contextual details
First – right before Jesus lays out this simple three step plan for conflict resolution He tells the parable of the lost sheep
Remember the parable
12What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost. (Matthew 18:12-14)
Secondly – consider how this instruction concludes:
If the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a
tax collector (Matthew 18:17b)
Remember… our Lord Jesus came to save all – came to Gentile and tax collector – sat
and ate dinner and celebrated life with them and taught to them
Remember that the author of this very gospel is Matthew, a former tax collector
Saving the lost sheep of Israel – teaching, healing and sharing with the marginalized
Bringing all into the fold of the Shepherd
Grace… as bookends
That is the Lord’s strategy of conflict resolution
The subject matter of this passage could not be more fitting for Christian communities in every age,
place, and situation.
One of the things that plagues most Christian communities (and other communities no doubt)
is the inability to handle confrontation, disagreement and our mutual accountability when it
comes to sin.
We simply don't know how to live together, fight together, and stay together.
And this is because we, all of us -- and not just our brother or sister -- are sinners.
Jesus offers a simple guide to help us handle our sin and its consequences here.
But far more importantly Jesus promises us that he is present, that his presence is real for us,
when we are gathered in his name -- both in agreement, and in sin.2
This is the most important gospel message of our passage today
Whatever you bind or loose on earth will be bound or loose in heaven, and if two of you agree on
anything you ask, IT WILL BE DONE for you by my Father in heaven
For… where two or three are gathered in my name, I AM THERE AMOUNG THEM
We, Christians have something that no other faith in the world has
We have Jesus
We have our Lord, come as one of us, walked as we walked, faced the realities of life
as we face life – was tempted in every way as we are tempted
And then promised His real presence – wherever two of three are gathered in
His name – HE IS THERE!
We Christians have a labour assigned to us this Labour Day weekend
We have a labour of the love of God
To strive to live and share the Grace of God, as we live as a community
We are not given a receipt on how to deal with conflict
We are given a receipt for reconciliation – for gathering in the Love of God
For bringing all together – even those that sin against you
All the lost sheep – into the fold of Shepherd
Starting one at a time – in person… and in the mature Love of God
Let us take this promise of the presence of our Lord with us, beyond this sermon time
Let us take it into our communion time – together with each other… and together with the real
presence of the Lord God Almighty
And let us take the promise of presence of our Lord into our homes, our places of work,
with our friends and with our families and neighbours
Let us gather in the Name of the Lord… and with the Lord
Thanks be to God - Amen!