Ordinary Time (Proper 18)
Where Two or Three Are Gathered…
Ezekiel 33:7–11; Psalm 119:33–40; Romans 13:8–14; Alma 14:88; Doctrine and Covenants 161:3c, 162:8c
“As We Gather” CCS 73
“Blessed Be Your Name” CCS 252
Call to Worship
Blessed be the name of our God;
Let us sing praises,
Let us give thanks,
For God works righteousness forever.
—Alma 14:88, adapted
Hymn of Praise
“Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” CCS 101
“Amen, Siakudumisa!/Amen, Sing Praises to the Lord!” (sing several times) CCS 109
Encourage participants to sing in a different language than their own.
Dwelling in the Word
Breathe deeply and slowly.
Listen to the following words without analysis or critique:
Be patient with one another, for creating sacred community is arduous and even painful. But it is to loving community such as this that each is called. Be courageous and visionary, believing in the power of just a few vibrant witnesses to transform the world. Be assured that love will overcome the voices of fear, division, and deceit. —Doctrine and Covenants 161:3c
Again breathe deeply and slowly as the words are repeated. What one word or words stand out to you?
As you listen the final time, how does this scripture speak to your life?
Hymn of Community
“Blest Be the Tie that Binds” CCS 325
OR “Weave” CCS 327
If time allows, ask for those who wish to share their insights from this spiritual practice.
Prayer for Peace
Light the peace candle.
Sung Prayer: Ministry of Music or Congregational Hymn
“Let There Be Peace on Earth” CCS 307
OR “The Peace of Mind” CCS 320
For more ideas: The Daily Prayer for Peace services offered at the Temple in Independence, Missouri, can be found on the church’s website as Calendar Events at www.CofChrist.org/daily-prayer-for-peace.
Based on Matthew 18:15–20
Hymn of Spirit
“Holy Spirit, Come with Power” CCS 46
OR “Touch Me, Lord, with Thy Spirit Eternal” CCS 574
Disciples’ Generous Response
Scripture: Doctrine and Covenants 163:4a
Blessing and Receiving of Mission Tithes
For additional ideas, see Disciples’ Generous Response Tools at www.CofChrist.org/disciples-generous-response-tools.
Hymn of Commitment
“Lord, Who Views All People Precious” CCS 637
OR “Now Let Our Hearts within Us Burn” CCS 658
Doctrine and Covenants 162:8c
Ordinary Time (Proper 18)
Exploring the Scripture
The main theme of the Gospel of Matthew is the promise “God is with us.” From the expected arrival of the child, Emmanuel, in chapter 1, to “I am with you always, to the end of the age” which closes chapter 28, we are assured God is among us. Today’s passage echoes that promise.
Wherever and whenever two or three people who bear the name of Christ are together, they are part of the body of Christ. Therefore, God is with them. These verses invite us to recognize God, even when there is conflict with another member of the body. If one Christian sins against another, and the fault is pointed out in private, it is not truly private because God is present.
The practical point is that a Christian should first go and talk directly with the person with whom he or she is in conflict. No one else needs to be involved or hear about the conflict. Concerned about the break in the relationship, he or she is willing to do everything possible to mend what is broken.
If, however, God is not present enough in those two members to help them find reconciliation and healing, more of the body of Christ is needed. Though the justice code of Jesus’ time required witnesses in ways that might not apply now, the concept has merit today. One or two added disciples can be the ears or eyes of Christ by being a prayerful silent presence during the conversation.
If the second step fails, the whole body (the congregation) may be able to be the place and people where God is given space to heal a wounded soul or a broken relationship. The Message version of the Bible expresses the verse this way: “If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love” (v. 17). We might apply this differently today, but the congregation can create an encouraging environment where people find their way toward healthy relationships. If confrontation is necessary, the attitude is never one of “I’m better than you.” We all wound. We all are wounded. The goal of confrontation must always be restoration.
At first read, “let such a one be to you as a Gentile and tax-collector” can sound judgmental and punitive. But, a disciple is guided by the ways Jesus treated tax-collectors like Matthew and Zacchaeus. Even among Gentiles and tax collectors (the outsiders, the unclean, and “sinners”) early Christians were to affirm, “Here, in this place and these people, God is among us.” The people Jesus associated with will enter the kingdom of God before the religious authorities (Matthew 9:10–11, 10:3, 11:19, 21:31–32).
Verse 19 does not mean we can get anything we want from God if someone else agrees to join in asking it from God. A truer interpretation may be that when two people truly seek reconciliation, and ask God about it, God will grant their wish. Relationships will be restored.
When we are reconciled to God we become new. When we are reconciled with a sister or brother, we become new. The relationship does not go “back to the way it was” before the wounding or conflict. In reconciled relationships we journey into new ways of being with one another.
- The Gospel of Matthew, from beginning to end, affirms that God is among us.
- Wherever Christ is present (even when only two to three of the body of Christ are gathered with intent) the spirit of reconciliation is present. Healing and restoration are possible. They are, in fact, promised!
- The “Gentiles” and “tax-collectors” among us are to be treated as Jesus treated them. God is among them and they will often lead the religious leaders into the reign of God.
Questions to Consider
- What is your personal testimony of God being amid your life this past week?
- What is your testimony of God being amid your congregation and Community of Christ in recent times and in the past? How can you affirm that where two to three were gathered in God’s name, God was present?
- How has God been present when you have experienced a rift in an important relationship?
- The passage describes specific steps to reconciliation among Christians in conflict. What experience (either success or failure) can you share that shows those principles in your life?
- What challenge will you invite the congregation to embrace based on this scripture passage? Are there other scripture passages or stories from secular or Christian history that explain that challenge and opportunity?