Sunday 6th September – 13th Sunday after Trinity
The service is now live-streamed and can be found on the church Facebook page.
who called your Church to bear witness
that you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself:
help us to proclaim the good news of your love,
that all who hear it may be drawn to you;
through him who was lifted up on the cross,
and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
The word of the Lord came to me: So you, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked ones, you shall surely die,’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, and they do not turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but you will have saved your life. Now you, mortal, say to the house of Israel, Thus you have said: ‘Our transgressions and our sins weigh upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?’ Say to them, As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?
Jesus spoke to his disciples. ‘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. But 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. If 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. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, 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. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’
Post Communion Prayer
God our creator,
you feed your children with the true manna,
the living bread from heaven:
let this holy food sustain us through our earthly pilgrimage
until we come to that place
where hunger and thirst are no more;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Reflection – Trinity 13
Trinity 13 – Year A
Today’s Gospel reading is taken from a chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, which is sometimes called the “discourse on the Church” or the “church order” discourse. In this part of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus speaks more directly about matters of Church discipline and order. In today’s reading we find one of only three instances in which Jesus uses the word church in Matthew’s Gospel. In Matthew’s record of Jesus’ teaching, we can hear echoes of the kinds of issues faced by the early Christian community.
In today’s Gospel reading, Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus addresses a common occurrence in the Christian community: a dispute between two members of the Church. Jesus outlines a procedure for settling such matters fairly. The victim should privately address the offender and attempt to resolve the dispute without outside involvement. If that fails, then the victim should bring two or three witnesses and confront the offender again. If the dispute is still unresolved, the matter should be brought to the attention of the entire community. If the offender refuses to adhere to the reparations prescribed by the community, then Jesus suggests that the offender may be expelled from the Church.
When someone offends or upsets us, we actually have several options as to what to do about it. We could simply refuse to speak to the other person. Or we could try to get other people to take sides in the argument. We could have a very public row with them. Or, slightly more constructively, we could write them a letter, explaining how they’ve upset us.
But Jesus insists that the first thing we’re to do if someone offends or upsets us, is to speak to the person: go to him and show him his fault, just between the two of you (v 15). That way, no-one else becomes involved, or even aware that you’ve had a disagreement. The issue can be aired between the people concerned, misunderstandings quickly cleared up, and if both people are prepared to listen to each other, it can be resolved with no drama, no tension, no public scene.
Jesus does not discourage disagreement within the community of the Church; he acknowledges the reality of conflict and error and offers his disciples a means for addressing such matters. It is in the conclusion to this teaching that the message of hope is found: Jesus is present with the community and will guide the community in its relations. If decisions are taken in prayer, then the community can be assured of God’s assistance.
This little passage gives us some very practical instructions about how to deal with disputes, disagreements and upsets within the church. If Christians always followed this process when a fellow member of the church had upset them, the church as a whole would be a much happier and more loving community. Jesus’ command is that we love one another, as he has loved us (John 13:34). This is one way of working out our love for one another; helping each other to see our faults, and with God’s help, to overcome them.
As a final point, lest we’re quick to interpret Christ’s words today in an exclusionary sense, where He says if a person fails to listen even to the community, they should be treated like a pagan or a tax collector, remember Christ was precisely the one ready to engage with such persons. The labels are not to be used to keep people at bay, but rather serve as an incentive for us to seek them out all the more in love.