Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Matthew 18:19
Again truly I say to you, that if two of you agree together on earth regarding any deed you should ask, it will be done for them by my father in heaven.

            To agree together, to speak in harmony, in concord, as one. Elsewhere the Holy Spirit calls us to be of one mind, united in our thinking and our way of seeing the world (Philippians 2:2). Of course, not just that we are together with each other, but also united with Christ, that our thinking is conformed to Christ’s thought, that our speaking agrees together with Him (Romans 8:29-30). This is the way of the church, in our synod we agree with the Book of Concord, and we agree largely with the Christian teachers and preachers since Christ; though we might not sound exactly the same because they spoke German, Latin, Greek and Aramaic; still this is what our church is called to, to agree together in Christ.

            Yet sometimes it’s hard to say the same things, I mean listen to the news; the politicians and government can’t even agree within our country, or themselves. And our LCA is also struggling to speak with one voice on many issues, those divisions regarding the Holy Spirit’s work both now and 40yrs ago, different opinions of our members, opposing opinions of our pastors; can we really say we are ‘synod’, walking together in unity? And even our own congregations, our own families, fathers, how often does sin divide us.

            Has any of you had a Christian sin against you?  Have any of you sinned against your brother or sister in Christ? Temptations to go our own way must come, stumbling blocks to trip us in the way; Jesus says, but woe to those through whom they come (Matthew 18:7). To the teachers, pastors, to parents, to all people; better to be thrown to the bottom of the sea than cause another to sin (18:6). Sin causes division, if you need an easy example look at the paedophilia of clergy breaking apart many congregations, parishes and church traditions. But then if our goal is unity with Christ and each other, how can we deal with this? How can we deal with our own sin, with the sins of others, division, how can we deal with sin as Christ’s church?

            To agree together with Christ. What does Jesus say? To you who have been sinned against, who’ve been hurt and offended, go and point out your brother’s fault, your sister’s sin, just between the two of you. If they listen you have gained your sibling, and just like that lost sheep there is great rejoicing in heaven (18:13). When we agree together in Christ regarding what sin is, that what was done was evil to greater or lesser extent, and we forgive each other their sin, just as Christ forgave you, just as we pray in our Lord’s Prayer, the same words with all the saints and Christ, then we share in the peace and joy of Jesus, love and reconciliation with each other and God Almighty. We may truly feel His presence.

            And this is the wonderful thing! Jesus has promised wherever two or three are gathered in His name there He is with us. Together under His name at home, at our dedicated church building, or even in a prison cell. Jesus has promised and His word is sure. Today we have gathered together in Jesus name, by the name and command of our Lord. Under Christ’s command and authority, we have confessed our sin, thought, word, and deed. In each other’s company we have recognised our sin before our Father in heaven. And more than just two, we have agreed on this together, asking for our Father’s mercy and forgiveness. We gather according to Jesus’ promise and command, and just as He has promised, it is done for you, you are forgiven. This is what it means to be part of Christ’s body, reconciled with our Lord and Saviour and each other. We are family, forgiven sin, given new life, living together in love to the glory of God. And God have mercy and strengthen us to care well for each other, to love those close and far off, that we might not just hear the promise but receive a foretaste of His love in our parish.

            And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Joseph Graham.