Matthew 18:15-20


So here we are! We are upstairs. We have a real musician – in 4 short months we are on our way to becoming an established congregation here at Christ Church Cathedral. Two or three of us are gathered. Sometimes I cannot believe it.

But what will it take for us to become a community?

The dream that we have build this on, the hope, is that we will be more than simply a congregation here but that we will build a community.
A group of people who will come together and support one another, engage in tough conversations with one another, laugh together, pray together and think through together the implications that the gospel and gathering at the table together has for us beyond Sunday evening.

The Gospel reading tonight gives us some clues. This isn’t going to be all bread and wine celebrations.

As we intentionally include more people into planning and thinking about this service, about community celebrations, about what songs we will sing, and as we continue to just meet and pray together– we are more and more likely to disagree with each other or be difficult with one another.

Church in some ways is like family (and I want to be careful with that because I don’t actually like to equate church with family very much), but you don’t get to choose who else is here, who you sit next to, we are here because we feel called to be members of the body of Christ, in whatever form that takes for us.

This passage in Matthew actually comes in the middle of a bigger piece where he’s talking about the life of the church and how they (his followers) are to be together. In the previous chapter he’s told them that he is going to be betrayed and killed and the disciples are pretty stressed out by this, obviously. So this next chapter is like he is saying to his followers: look you are still going to need to be together after I’m gone, so here are some of the rules.

And the piece that we are thinking about tonight is particular to how it might look when we are difficult with each other.

So Jesus says, if you have a disagreement or someone says something that upsets you, go and talk to them directly and see if you can work it out. If that doesn’t work then you might need to bring in someone else to help you sort it. It all sounds so logical and yet, I think sometimes our way is to walk away and just not engage any more. People leave relationships and church for all kinds of reasons. But, instead Jesus says, ‘if you still cannot sort out your disagreement then you are to treat the other as a tax collector or a Gentile. This morning at the 10:30am service, Phillipa reminded just how Jesus dealt with tax collector and Gentiles; those are the people he ate with – the people he still offered a place to, regardless.

As we grow together and learn and plan together, I know that there are going to be places where we disagree. We are not going to get along all of the time. And it might be another member of the community or it might be me or it might be Andrew. It’s my hope that we can follow what Jesus says, that you will come and talk to us so that we can work it out.

I heard once, in another sermon that we are going to be hurt and disappointed in our church communities because we cannot possibly be all things to all people but that it is the sticking around and working through our disagreements and our disappointments that makes it totally worthwhile. It is through coming out on the other side of these arguments or disappointments that we really get to see each other – where grace shows up.

God’s grace can be shown to us in our imperfection and our frustration. God’s grace is for all of us all of the time, no matter what. Our focus is on reconciliation, with one another and with God.

Our Gospel tonight says that whatever we bind here on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever we loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Our job as followers of Christ is to live as though we are trying to bring heaven here on earth not as though heaven were some place far – far away that we get to go to after we die. But live like we want it here and now. If we can’t resolve issues here in church where else are we going to be able to do it? (I do know that this is not always the case in churches but it is what I hope for here at St. Brigid).

Jesus tells us that when two or three of us gather in God’s name, he is here too: in our love and friendship, in our arguments, our hurt and our anger.

We want to loose God’s love into the world, we need to practice how we do that, right here and then carry it out.

Jesus invites us to love each other. Following Jesus’ example means that we are going to need to call each other on our crazy or poor behaviour. We are going to need to talk to each other when we get hurt we are going to need to work out our differences. But we do that with the love of God in our hearts, we do it prayerfully and carefully and then we are invited to keep sticking around so that we can participate in God’s gracious love as we work towards resolution.

If we had read the passage from Romans tonight, we would have heard Paul remind us that all of the commandments that we have been given by Jesus are summed up in the one command that we are to love our neighbours as ourselves.

It is just that simple and that complicated.

It is on that commandment that we respond to the call to build this community of St. Brigid, knowing that as we gather we will do things imperfectly. We will disagree with one another, we might hurt one another – because that also comes with having two or three of us gathered. How and that we work towards resolution is what is important.

Community is imperfect. Church is imperfect. Because humans, we are most certainly imperfect. And that, in part is what makes us and this beautiful.