Faithlife Sermons

When two or Three are Gathered

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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

the injustice

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!

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