Reflection for Proper 18, Sunday Sept 6th, 2020 by Sue Berry
Readings: Matthew 18:15-20, Exodus 12: 1-14, Romans 13:8-14, Psalm 149.
All of the readings today look at different aspects of being part of a Christian Community, from obedience and unity to forgiveness and prayer.
In Exodus reading, we see the Israelites preparing to leave Egypt and begin their journey to enter the Promised Land. They obey God’s instructions to put blood on their doorposts and to share a community meal in their homes, before fleeing the horrors of slavery and oppression, endured in Egypt. God makes a way for them to move towards freedom, to a new way of living and being.
It’s a reminder of the provision which God has made for us through the work of Jesus on the cross; helping us to escape from our sinful nature. Each time we partake of the Eucharist it celebrates what Jesus has done and the divine exchange that takes place of repentance, forgiveness of sin and continuing transformation in becoming more like Christ. The meal is individual and communal.
The gospel reading in Matthew addresses conflict in the Church. It’s not an ‘if’ but a ‘when’. Jesus knew how our sinful nature ensnares us and that left unchecked within our own lives and that of our community, division and wounded-ness happen. Jesus gives principles to address such situations.
Paul in his Letter to the Romans also addresses such community issues, stressing love and forgiveness as essential in the life of a Christian. He reminds believers to love one another, for loving your neighbour both fulfils the law and honours the ten commandments. He ends the chapter by reminding them to put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no room for the sin that can corrupt.
When Jesus is Lord of our lives, temptation loses much of its power. However, we still need God’s guidance to help us the wider church family, avoid dead ends and blind alleys. If we seek to be right with Christ in our relationships, He will help us to avoid hurting others and ourselves.
Matthew the final verses of the gospel reading, also addresses the prayer life of a Christian community which is for the benefit of all. Jesus was and is a man of prayer. He models for us the way to approach the Father with courage, hope, faith and love. He promises us that where two or three are gathered, there He is also. He’s even present when we pray alone. God answers with wisdom and in love, although it may not always be as we expect.
One inspiring account of church members praying together can be found in the story of two ladies who prayed for the people on the Isle of Lewis, one was partially sighted, the other infirm both were saddened by what they saw in the lives of young people in their community and how far the community had moved away from God.
Over a period of months, they sought God asking Him to bring change – the result was a visitation of the Holy Spirit and it came to be known as the Hebridean Revival in 1949. People met God in new ways, people were touched by the manifest presence of God. Lives were changed. The stories of what happened to people are well documented.
The enemy works to divide church communities, to stop the advancement of God’s Kingdom and a sharing of the gospel of Jesus. When we come together in unity to reach others with the love of Jesus beginning and continuing in prayer and action as the Holy Spirit directs, it is powerful and commands a blessing.
In the pandemic it has been difficult to meet in person but we can come together in prayer wherever we are.
In prayer we align our lives with His purposes for His glory.
Prayer opens our hearts to needs.
Do we long for people to meet God?
Do we long for change in the world we live in? In our families, communities and nation?
It starts with the church coming before God in prayer and unity.
We can pray for each other, our homes, families and friends, the wider church family, schools, businesses, workplaces, community groups, as well as organisations like Local and National Government.
Ask God to bring His Blessing, Protection, Love and Care to all the people we are prompted to pray for so that they will find God where they are.
Father, wherever our attention has wandered from your calling,
wherever we have fallen short of your will for us and failed to keep the spirit of the law of your love
Forgive us and transform us.
So that we walk again the path that leads to life.
Father we thank you
For the way you care for us and provide for all our needs
May we share the good news of your love by the way we respond to you and to one another. Amen