Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost (10 September)

Our Gospel passage this week comes from Matthew, Chapter 18

Today’s Gospel passage parallels with the Gospel from two Sundays ago. Both passages use the word ‘Church’ – the only two places the term appears in the Gospels – and both passages speak of binding and loosing, and even though this passage is primarily concerned with matters of Church discipline, its focus is on reconciliation, not punishment. The ultimate goal is to ‘regain the member’ and every effort is to be taken to prevent embarrassment or shame for the offender. This passage comes in the middle of a larger section in which Matthew has Jesus dealing with matters related to ecclesiology and life in the Church. The nature of the Church of which Jesus speaks resonates with Paul’s understanding of the Church as the body of Christ. For Paul, the Church is a place of mutual interdependence, where each member is incomplete without the other, where the suffering of one is the suffering of all, and where the honour of one leads to the rejoicing of all. When we enter into membership in Christian community, we bind ourselves to one another with Christ as our head. The fact that we risk relationships with people outside of our own gender, nationality, language, ethnicity or socio-economic status is exactly what makes us Christians. The overcoming of such differences is what distinguishes us from the world. We are not free from each other; we are free in each other. In other words, we are most free when we bring the collective wisdom and discernment of the whole diverse body of Christ together. Therefore, the ministry of reconciliation must be at the heart of any Christian community’s mission. Being in Christ involves living into the difficult discipleship of fellowship. We seek to care for one another even when injured or offended, which requires discipline in binding and loosing ourselves to repent and to forgive, all sustained in Christ. If we, the Church – no matter how small or big, will agree in Christ, then God will respond. The Church will really be the Church, because Jesus will be present. Are we ready to forgive and be forgiven?