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Sermon for Trinity 13

What is “Church”? Listen to or read a sermon by Revd Stephen that reflects on the gospel reading for Trinity 13, Matthew 18:15–20

Here are some disturbing images of the Church –

  • it is full of ‘Sunday only’ Christians;
  • churches are always begging for money;
  • going to church is boring!

Then consider these really worrying but, sadly, not uncommon things that people say –

  • I can be a good Christian without going to church;
  • I believe in Christianity, but not in church;
  • I don’t need church to be religious;
  • my faith is personal – church is irrelevant.

Today’s reading from Matthew is one of only two times when the word ‘Church’ is used in the gospels.

Recently we heard Jesus say: You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.

Today, we come back to the concept of ‘church’.

Again, it is a sad fact that churches everywhere are transformed into ‘idols’ – museums fixed in time – and, therefore the source of conflict.

In today’s gospel reading we encounter Jesus foreseeing the inevitable conflicts that will arise when people come together – yes, even in church!!!

We are also being shown how to solve those conflicts through the power of the Holy Spirit, and in the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

All too often, communities of faith forget the obvious – they forget that the head of the church – the real head of their beautiful museum – is Jesus Christ himself!

Too often, there is talk of ‘successful’ churches, rather than Christ-centred churches.

Too often, we strive to replace the good news with good times. The Cross of Christ, which invites us to love, suffer and serve, is replaced with fun and initiatives – it is replaced with a cult of social acceptability!

We are all normal human beings – that is, we all have our imperfections, flaws and deficiencies. Today, Jesus is calling us to help each other deal with those imperfections – and with the way in which we sin against each other.

The church often describes itself as a family. Well, what do families do? They help each other to grow up and become more mature.

As Christians, we should rejoice that the head, and guiding light, of our family is Jesus Christ himself – the only one without imperfection, flaw or deficiency!

The word ‘Church’ comes from the Greek word ecclesia – which also means ‘fellowship’.

Jesus said: Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

The Church should be a community of loving and praying people – a community of people who love you, and who you love. The Church should be a fellowship – a community – a family – it should also be a community of prayer.

Over the last few months we have been seriously challenged to consider what Church means to us.

When churches re-opened (and this is where we are now), they re-opened for their primary function – that is, prayer and worship.

It will be through our total commitment to prayer and worship that we will begin to see great things happen in this and every other Christian community.

It will be through our setting aside of ‘self’ and ‘pride’ that we will see the Church of Christ make a big difference in this world.

As Christians we are not called to be inward-looking isolationists, absorbed in our own spiritual likes and dislikes.

We are called to be part of a community – a Christ-centred community which is never afraid to confront the powers of evil when they manifest themselves in selfishness, pride and insensitivity.

As Christians we are called to live as a community that recognizes its call to the mission field – where the focus is not on maintaining our private preferences and passions – rather, it is on the needs of others.

Let us all set aside that which prevents us from sharing the wonder of belonging to a baptized community of Christ with everyone we encounter in our daily lives.

Let us all accept that, no matter how challenging it may be to us as individuals, we are being offered true meaning in our lives through the Church – the family which has taught us to live in the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

Amen.