Blessings and Reformations

Let us pray. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
Last week, our congregation came together to not only offer prayers for those affected by Hurricane Harvey, but also to collect money to help in the relief work of Lutheran Disaster Response and the Gulf Coast Synod. This is the church at it’s best. Stepping in and helping those in need and those who suffering. My colleague, who serves a congregation outside of Houston, put on their church’s facebook page a link to shopping wishlist of items the church could use to help in the rebuilding efforts of the church and it’s members and in those in the community. Within 4 days, this congregation received over 30 packages of items filled with things they would need to help rebuild and recover from the Hurricane. The Pastor posted a thank you to those who helped, but he also said, “This is the church at its best.”
At its best the church is a place where people are fed, forgiven, welcomed, where needs are met, things are shared, and where the love of God is encountered and experienced. At its best church is a place where we look forward to be a part of and experience. At its worst, church is a social club, a place where there is hostility, hatred, unkind words, gossip, bullying, snide comments and remarks, where the Gospel is not preached and God is not encountered. We all can probably point to a time in our lives when they church has been exactly what the church should be and another time when the church is anything but what we need and what we expect.
Church communities are hard. They are a place where people of all different background, experiences, beliefs, and understanding come together as a family to worship the one who created us and loves us beyond measure. It is a place where many of us have our own opinions on how something should be done and how things should look and should be. And so you get 20 or 100 people together in a room for a particular moment in time and suddenly there is conflict. People are not agreeing on what something says. People not agreeing on what should be done or what should happen next. Words are spoken, eyes begin to roll, deep sighs are shared, and sometimes things are thrown. It is not just yelling and fighting that makes the church the worst.
No the church is at its worst when we fail to see the need of others. When we fail to live as God’s children, the ones who are called to go out into the world to share the love of Christ with all of those we meet. To feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned, and be Christ to one another. When we the church fail to do this, we are at our worst.
This passage for us today is all about community with one another. Our Gospel texts lifts up how we are to engage in conflict with one another in the church family. And often we focus on this part of the text. But I would like to focus on something else. I would like us to look beyond this text and what it says we are to do when we are in conflict, but to what it says we are to do in community with one another.
I think this text highlights one of the most important things about community, it is not easy. When more than 1 person gets together suddenly there are more opinions and needs than before. Community can be extremely difficult for all parties involved. Which is why I think Jesus highlights how much more important it is to love, respect, and care for one another. If we stop focuses on the legal issues of this text, the who we need to go to when things are wrong, then I think we will start to see that when we come together as a community to discuss, listen, and discern what God is saying us that nothing is out of our reach.
This passage reminds us that we say or do when we are in community is always in the presence of the Lord. Think about that for a minute. What we do and how we behavior and the things we fail to do are in the presence of the Lord. And the promise is that even though community can be hard work, the promise is we are not in it alone. God’s presence is always with us.
While community is hard work, it is also here in community where we are fed and forgiven. Where we are strengthened to go where God call us to go and to be who God calls us to be. Life in community is a blessing and a promise. A blessing that supports us when we are failing, when our world and lives become increasingly tough, when we fail to see the presence of God in our lives, and when we are struggling. And it is a blessing to the communities in which the church I located. When the church can support and care for the needs of those who are broken ad those who are in need.
As you may have heard almost 500 years ago, a monk named Martin Luther posted 95 theses on the church door in Wittenberg. He wanted the church to reform, to change direction and to list, discern, and pray for what God was speaking to the church at the time. He knew living in community was challenging but that it was also a blessing. So he would often have individual’s groups of people over to his house to discuss, to learn from one another, and to be community together. So today, I am inviting you to look at this church family, the community in which you live and participate and to take the post-it note from you bulletin and write on it. Write the blessings you see from being in this community and also one way in which you think the church is being called to move forward. After worship you are invited to take with you and place it on the door in the Narthex. You can complete your post-it anytime during the service or following worship.
Let us pray. Gracious Father, we pray for your holy church. Fill it with all truth and peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it; where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in need, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord. Amen.

Pastor Katie has served St. Paul Hametown since July 2012. She is a graduate of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg with a Masters of Divinity and a concentration in Theology and Public Life. She is married with three children.

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