*"If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone.” – Matthew 18: 15*
The word “church” doesn’t appear often in the Gospels. My Concordance (a kind of index of words in the Bible) only cites one example. The word appears in the quote above, but isn’t listed in the Concordance. There’s a lesson here for me, something like, “Do your homework. Or don’t trust the index.”
The original Greek of the New Testament uses the phrase “If your brother…”, instead of, “If another member of the church…”
The church as we know it obviously didn’t exist in Jesus’ time. The spiritual life of Judaism centered on the temple - as close to our modern idea of church as you’d have found then. But Matthew was writing his Gospel at a time when a small, but growing, group of brothers and sisters was beginning to gather into a community that would become the Christian church. It was a holy gathering, but very different from what we know today.
They had their problems and disagreements. Surprise, surprise. One such problem is that ancient trait we have when we disagree with each other. We don’t actually talk about it together very well. We often complain to someone else, and let the disagreement fester.
Later, Jesus says, “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” I’m not quite sure what this means, but it sort of sounds like, “As you sow, so shall you reap.” If our life in community is infected by struggles we don’t talk about, our community will likely not be a very healthy one.
There are few of us who don’t know this feeling. Once, in another work life, I attended a meeting of community leaders who were trying to convince my company to locate in their town. The moment I walked in the door, I wanted to escape as fast as I could. This group of people so obviously disliked each other. I stayed politely for the duration of the meeting, but never looked back after I left.
A worshipping community tries its best to break free of this kind of infection. We’re a gathering of seekers and questioners. We sometimes try to pretend we’re not, but we usually come around. That is, if we pray and sing together, and promise to stick together, even when things get dicey.
Your wisdom and presence is welcome – yea, needed - in this sacred enterprise. We worship at 10 AM.