Friday of Pentecost 15 – Matthew 18:1-20

1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire. 10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. 12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. 15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” The two women who sat across from me wore worried expressions on their faces. They had been members of my parish for decades. The congregation had spent about ten years in an ongoing conflict which pitted pastors against people and factions within the congregation against each other. No one had won. Brief pastorates had not helped either. Finally, after many had left, a semblance of peace had returned. That was about the time that I showed up. So far, things had gone reasonably well. Now these two old hands were sitting there, worried. One of the chief protagonists in the conflict had indicated a desire to come back, having spent time in another congregation. The household was unhappy there and wanted to try it back here. For the last several years the congregation had known a respite from the conflict, but now they felt that peace threatened. They asked me what I would do. The individuals involved were much older than I was, retired, and I was a young pastor, fresh out of the seminary. A meeting was scheduled between the two men who had been involved in the conflict, both of whom had left for a time and now were returning. I have never appreciated a Bible passage as much as I appreciated this chapter on that day when I sat down in church with these two men, decades older than me. Jesus was among us that day. We spoke frankly but without rancor. Forgiveness was tearfully sought, and forgiveness was tearfully and lovingly given. If you have ever wondered why Jesus rose from the dead, it was to be living and present in moments like these. Old enemies can reconcile when Jesus is in the room. Do you have a difficult discussion looming on the horizon of your life? Many do. Our world has rather forgotten how to have productive and difficult discussions with people with whom we disagree. We shout and scream but little changes and few are moved to see or think differently. We might believe that things will never change. But remember, Jesus has risen from the dead so he can keep this promise to you. Where two or three gather in his name – he is there.

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