“Thoughts and Prayers”
A reflection by Rev. Dr. Thom Bower
For September 10, 2017, the 23rd Sunday or Ordinary Time and Gathering Sunday
Based on Matthew 18:15-20
This morning’s scripture is Matthew 18: 15-20. The gospel of Matthew was written about 35 years after Jesus died and was resurrected. The followers of Christ have moved out from Jerusalem, out from Judea. Matthew’s community appears to be around the city of Antioch in Syria, in what is today Turkey. Because the members of the church here were made up of both former Jews and former Gentiles, they encountered some degree of hostility from Jewish and Roman communities. A major theme of Matthew’s story is addressing behavior that tarnishes the Christian community’s ability to witness to people outside the community. The story we are about to hear is about public behavior, not individual relationships. It’s about being the church.
15 “If your brother or sister sins against you, go and correct them when you are alone together. If they listen to you, then you’ve won over your brother or sister. 16 But if they won’t listen, take with you one or two others so that every word may be established by the mouth of two or three witnesses. 17 But if they still won’t pay attention, report it to the church. If they won’t pay attention even to the church, treat them as you would a Gentile and tax collector. 18 I assure you that whatever you fasten on earth will be fastened in heaven. And whatever you loosen on earth will be loosened in heaven. 19 Again I assure you that if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, then my Father who is in heaven will do it for you. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them.” (Common English Bible)
Imagine a tray full of glass beads. Most of them are yellow. There’s a few red, and blues, fewer green, black, grey, white. You push those to the side, keeping the yellow in the center of the tray. There’s different sizes, different shapes, different textures, even some different hues. Each catches the sunlight, leading you to pray. You begin sorting through to find about a dozen that will make a nice necklace. Right off you find four, then a couple more.
And just as you select the tenth someone comes by and dumps a new cup of beads on your tray. These are mostly blue some red, some green, a couple yellow; some of them are the same shape as the yellow ones you have already selected. Some of the blue hues are the same shades as the blue you previously set aside. So you sort through the blue beads, and begin to select a new dozen beads for your necklace.
And then a cup of red beads gets dumped on your tray.
If writing a sermon is like stringing beads onto a necklace, then this is sort of week I have had.
Through the week as I kept moving the sermon beads, as I prayed with each one, I thought “Perhaps this gathering Sunday is about praying together. Perhaps the needed action for this season of Lyonsville’s life together is prayerfulness.” So this morning I am combining the reflection and the morning prayer. It’s a little different, but let’s try. I’ll offer some reflection, we’ll have a short silent prayer, I’ll pray aloud, and then we’ll sing a bit of Nearer My God to Thee. Continue reading