September 8, 2002

Matthew 18:15-20

"If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him - work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you've made a friend. If he won't listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won't listen, tell the church. If he won't listen to the church, you'll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God's forgiving love.

"Take this most seriously: A yes on earth is yes in heaven; a no on earth is no in heaven. What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this. When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make, a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I'll be there."

[The Message ]


1. This is a wonderfully circular process that deepens the connection between folks.

2. At first blush it would seem, from most translations, that there is a final breaking of relationship. Some say "excommunication" some say, "let them be to you as a Gentile."

Here we get the openness to start over. The question must be raised about our relationship with those outside the pale whether more gently as Gentiles or more hard as the excommunicated. Is there not a special emphasis upon reaching out to those who do not experience the expansive love of GOD and ourselves in their life? Is this call not less than the call to share our resources with one another as sisters and brothers of Jesus?

3. So be careful where you say "no" for it soon becomes a place where we must say "yes." When we say "excommunicated" or "Gentile" with one breath must we not, with the next breath, say "friend" or "sister/brother."

This business with the "keys" to heaven is no easy matter that can be decided by creed or technique. Thank heaven GOD/Jesus/Spirit/Etc have been willing to start over from scratch with you and with me. May we have the grace to pass that grace on to others.

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