September 4, 2011
Matthew 18:15 – 20
God’s Recipe for Discipline and Forgiveness in the Church
Let us pray:
Merciful God, who of us has not experienced frustration? Who of us does not meet with experiences which baffle us? There are hindrances all along the pathway of our lives. At best, we cannot see far ahead. Every day impresses the fact upon us that we stand in the need of your grace. May we ask that we approach your throne today with this fact uppermost in our minds, and at the footstool of mercy, let us bow our heads in prayer for the divine guidance we so sorely need. Amen
A prayer by the Rev. Mark Ralph Gilbert, 1941
Last week we moved our daughter into her semi – completed apartment in Baltimore. The storms prevented me from being able to use the word “completed”. Despite the delay we found ourselves in good spirits until we got to the boxes of furniture from IKEA all needing to be assembled. Each box had a different set of directions and tools. Each box was as confounding for me as the next. Every page of instruction doused my hopes of ever getting her furniture put together. “Why can’t they just write out easy step by step instructions?” I consistently murmured to myself.
As I was reading today’s text this memory of instructions, these recipes for putting together furniture came to mind. How easy our Lord has made life for us! His directions for living in a forgiving community are so very clear in this text and then I began to wonder…are they as easy as I think they are?
Discipline and Forgiveness in the Church: A Recipe
a. If a brother sins against you .............. go to him and show him his faults
This step is only between the two of you
a. If he listens .............................. all is well!
b. If he DOES NOT listen :
Go to him with 2 others who can provide testimony
c. If he refuses to listen ............................. take it to the church
d. This step is an example of something called:
“Above Ground” Church Community
“ Underground “ Church Community
e. If he still does not listen to the church:
The final product of this recipe is either
Binding (Unforgiving) or Loosing (forgiving)
What the Community does on earth is reflected in heaven
Why is this recipe, this set of instructions a necessary part of Holy Scripture? They are important as getting the correct nail length in the book case shelf which will insure stability under even the greatest of pressures. They are important because interpersonal relations especially in the church should reflect the love of God in Christ at all times. Being in community means forgiving as we hope to be forgiven; realizing the power and impact that the church as a forgiving people of God has on the greater world. Christians who pray “Our father” presuppose this sacred community in Christ. Therefore, Matthew offers a recipe, a set of instructions for reconciliation which first assumes that the church’s identity is as a community founded in and actively practices the forgiveness as seen in Christ. A church community has the power to heal by modeling forgiveness.