Proper 18 (4–10 Sept)
O God, from whom all good proceeds, grant to us, Your humble servants, Your holy inspiration, t h at we may set our minds on the things that are right and, by Your merciful guiding, accomplish them; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
A Christian’s responsibility toward an erring brother – In love we seek to gain a brother. Matthew 18:1-20
Jesus gives a procedure for settling disputes among His followers. Jesus is teaching his disciples, the church. Since Christians are sinful, personal relations may be ruptured. If so, Jesus gives a threefold procedure to settle the differences. Moreover, Jesus gives the power of the keys to forgive or not to forgive to the community. The power of the gathering is demonstrated in prayer, which will be answered if the church agrees on the petition. When several gather in Jesus’ name, he promises to be with them. In these three cases, the church’s importance to faith and life is demonstrated.
Why can’t I be a Christian without joining the church? Many are asking this question today. Believing they can be a Christian outside the church, a percentage of the American population refuses to join the church. A study conducted last year of what is called the “Millennial Generation” indicated that only one in four is unaffiliated with any religion. “Far more than the share of older adults when they were ages 18 to 29.” Two out of three rarely or never visit a church, synagogue, mosque or temple, according to a survey conducted by Life Way TM Christian Resources. More of our twenty year olds are content to be spiritual without becoming religious. They are comfortable finding their own morality without attending a worship service. [see note]
What is the advantage of belonging to a group of Christians? Is the benefit great enough to justify joining? Some today see the church as a mere commodity - something we are asked to invest in. Is it something we put into because we get something out of it in return? So why go? We come, because we live in anticipation of what is to come. We come, not to be active, but to be passive. We come, not to be entertained, but to be quiet, to listen to the voice of the Shepherd. We come, not to see “what we can get out of the service,” but to receive from the Lord’s hand His gifts.
We come because we become a part of something greater then ourselves. We come to be a part of the life and rhythm of the church. Our participation is anything but haphazard. Church is not similar to going the grocery store – something that we can check off our list, a task we find ourselves forced to do during the week.
We go because we are called to be part of a family, a community of faith. Why can’t I be a good Christian on my own? We gather because of who we are. We come to a worship service and then, in service, we worship Christ. Consider the value of Christians getting together as church.
1. The church has been given the power of the keys — v. 18. I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
The power of the keys is the authority given by Christ Himself that promises effectiveness in this ministry of reconciling us to each other. In the Catechism Luther asks the question, “What is the Office of the Keys?” [And, in this instance, the New English Version is probably a better or at least a clearer translation…] The Office of the Keys is that special authority which Christ has given to His church on earth to forgive the sins of repentant sinners, but to withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant as long as they do not repent. We go because we are called to be part of a family, a community of faith. Where is this written? The Lord Jesus breathed on His disciples and said, Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven. [John 20:22-23]
A. God alone forgive sins. But He works through His people. He does this to warn the straying and to comfort those who are penitent.
B. It is God’s Word that really does both the judging and the comforting in Christ.
Transition: What’s the value of Christians getting together in a church? We assemble to become a house of prayer.
2. When the church prays, prayers are answered Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. — v. 19.
What is the Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer? “Our Father, who art in heaven”. What does this mean? God would by these words, tenderly invite us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children as their dear Father.
A. We need to be a people of prayer. Without daily prayer, growth in God would be minimal at best. We can only be our strongest when we are seeking the Lord. May we here at Friedheim be remembered as being a house of prayer! Not just a church where we come to talk to God, where we come to a worship service but rather a place where we glory in His Name. Where in service, we praise His glorious name.
B. In prayer, we uphold one another. In our petitions, we are taking our needs, burdens, joys and sorrows to the throne room of grace. And, we’re thankful as the Savior answers each petition!
Transition: As we gather to speak to our Lord He sakes back to us through His Word. That is why worship, by definition is more then things we do for God. Worship is passive. God is the one who is giving and we do nothing but receive the gifts He chooses to give us. He speaks to us specifically where He chooses to make Himself known in His Word and in His means of grace.
3. When the church assembles, Christ is present — v. 20. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”
We must be fully aware of just who this ‘brother’ is about whom we are to be concerned.
A. We are not alone in this work. Christ is at the center of all that we do. He is the unseen, yet present guest in every conversation. We do not go it alone. Christ is present with and among us. Common faith in Christ links us together like mountain climbers who are time together in one cause. John would remind us in his first Epistle – We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does love remains in death. [1 John 3:14]
B. The church confirms the forgiveness of your sins. Based on our repentance and faith, the church assures us that God for Jesus’ sake has forgiven our sins. This confirms and assures us that our prayer for forgiveness has been answered.
C. The church is a channel for forgiveness. Through the church’s Word and sacraments, the Holy Spirit effects forgiveness of sins. God the Spirit forgives through the sacramental ministry of the church.
Who is “you”? “You” may be an individual Christian or “you” may be the group of Christians (church). It is worthy to note that this passage does not deal with the one who sinned but with the victim of sin. He who is sinned against is to take the initiative to get the matter settled. One would think the guilty one ought to settle accounts, but the sinner may not consider himself to be in the wrong. The victim is to show the sinner what harm he has done and an understanding needs to be reached that the Christian fellowship may not be disrupted by personal tensions.
Note: The Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette published June 6, 2010 by Ron Shawgo “Class of 2000 Revisited" The author interviewed members of the class of 2000 in 1997 when they were freshmen and then in the spring of 2010 after being out of high school for ten year.