Matthew 18:15-20 • September 10, 2017
Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
In the introduction for today’s worship that’s printed in our bulletin, we read, “Conflict is a part of relationships and life in community. Jesus’ words in today’s gospel are often used in situations having to do with church discipline.” For those of you that know the constitution of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in detail, you know very well the importance of the 18th chapter of Matthew. There are 22 chapters in Good Shepherd’s constitution. One of them, the 15th, is titled “Discipline of Members and Adjudication.” In this chapter of our congregation’s constitution, Matthew 18 is our guide.
SOOOOO…it’s Rally Weekend and we have Matthew 18 before us. We have 2 options.
We can focus on church discipline, sin, retribution, treating each other like tax collectors and Gentiles in the misinterpreted ways that we often do in the church.
OR, we can spend some time reflecting on another way God might be calling us to think about Jesus’ teaching in this section of Matthew’s gospel. Because I think Jesus is challenging us to stop remembering for a little while and to start re-membering. The church today needs to start re-membering again.
Today, we remember that fall programing is beginning. I hope and pray that we also re-member just how many ways God invites us to learn and grow together in faith. If you’ve done nothing to grow in your faith beyond going to worship once in a while after you were confirmed, I challenge you to take a leap of faith this year and become a regular and fully engaged member of a Bible study or adult faith formation class.
Today, we remember activities at Good Shepherd like eating pancakes, blessing backpacks, and donating blood – although we had to cancel the blood donation activity because of no participation. Hopefully we’ll be able to reschedule that later in the year. Beyond church activities, I hope and pray that we also re-member how significant our lives of service are for our brothers and sisters. Brothers and sisters that we are sitting next to right now and others that we may never actually meet in person like those whose lives have changed forever because of hurricanes or wildfires or illness or earthquakes.
Jesus’ challenge for you and me is to stop remembering and start re-membering. Pastor Amy Ziettlow stated this challenge clearly this past week as she wrote, “The first mark of the church is to be one. Christ calls us to the holy work of re-membering one another through the steps of reconciliation. We are a re-membering people.” I couldn’t agree more. You and I are a re-membering people.
And I believe our failure to be a re-membering people might be the greatest sin that the church commits. We have failed to remember our holy work is of re-membering. The reason so many people, many of whom you and I know well, are leaving the church or any organized religion today is because we are failing to re-member each other.
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus refers to binding and loosing. Binding and loosing are often interpreted by the church as ways to build walls of division or systems of hierarchy that inevitably keep people out.
The holy work that Jesus calls us into in the 18th chapter of Matthew’s gospel is about bringing people in, restoring relationships and systems that are broken by sin. Jesus invites us to celebrate this holy work wherever two or more are gathered in his name. As we do this holy work, and wherever we do this holy work, Jesus is with us. Helping us to re-member one another into the body of Christ.
On this Rally Weekend, this holy work of re-membering should cause excitement and joy and renewed commitment to who we are as brothers and sisters in the body of Christ formed by God into one community of faith. May this day bring forth renewed commitment to one another as fellow members of the body of Christ who are called to be one as Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.
Right now, you may be thinking, being members of the body of Christ is fine to think about when I have time to fit worship or squeeze a church activity into my already over-scheduled life.
But Pastor, don’t make me think about being a member of the body of Christ when I’m just trying to survive getting through the grocery store in one piece.
And Pastor, don’t make me think about being a member of the body of Christ when I’m badmouthing someone on social media or at the local coffee shop because they have a different political or cultural viewpoint than I do.
And pastor, you better not even dream about making me think about being a member of the body of Christ while I’m cheering on my favorite sports team, hoping my team will destroy the opposing team. Even though, I’d like point out that the players and family members from that opposing team are probably sitting next to you right now aa we worship Jesus.
Believe it or not brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus’ teaching for us today reminds us that our love for one another is lived out most fully inside and outside the walls of a church.
As I’ve already offered, I believe the reason why the Christian movement is dying in many parts of the world today is because we have forgotten about each other.
Forgotten about the holy re-membering work that Jesus calls us into.
The most important part of your life is not accumulating more things than your neighbor. The most important part of your life is not making sure your schedule is busier than your competitor’s. The most important part of your life is not about which political party you stand beside. The most important part of your life is not about whether or not your sports or business team destroys the opposing team.
The most important part of your life – is your life in Christ.
And in our shared life together in Christ, we need to help each other remember that we are all members walking beside one another in this journey called faith.
And so, on this Rally Weekend, celebrate how God is assembling you and me together in groups of 2 or 3 or 300 or 10,000.
Assembling us together so that every member of the body of Christ knows that we need them in ores for the body of Christ to be whole – no person, no matter how far they have strayed or how broken your relationship with them has become, no child of God is left out. No community burdened by the tragedy of hurricanes or fire or earthquake or any other disaster is ever forgotten.
In other words, no one – not even a Gentile or tax collector or your most despised enemy is lost from the love of God poured out for us through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus.
You and I are sinful beings living in a broken world. Our hearts and minds and actions prove that on a daily basis.
In spite of that unfortunate fact, thanks be to God that the truth of our life together in the body of Christ is that Jesus Christ, the savior of the world, re-members – yesterday, today and in all the tomorrows to come. Amen.