Sunday 6th September 2020.
‘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.’
In this week's Gospel Jesus talks about “church” - indeed it is one of the few occasions that He is recorded as having done so in any of the Gospels.
However, it is unlikely that Jesus was referring to what we might recognise as the church today. Of course, by the time Matthew was writing his Gospel, helping us to make sense of the things that Jesus said, the Church did exist, but in a very rudimentary form.
The word we translate as “church” referred to the people – the followers of Jesus in those communities he visited, in the places where he had preached and healed and taught. These were people who were gathering together to try and make sense of the implications of believing that, somehow, when they encountered Jesus they had encountered God.
So what was church? Matthew's Gospel describes church literally as a place where two or three are gathered together in the name of Jesus.
In the Acts of the Apostles we are told that the first Christians “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42).
Once we recognise that we might interpret “apostles’ teaching” in our day as being “the New Testament”, then this is as good a description of the essence of church as we could wish:-
The Word. Fellowship. Communion. Prayer.
All with the assurance that, when we gather in our Lord's name, He is with us.
Deacon David Bean