Thursday's Thought for Sunday's Service
September 7, 2017
This week's Thursdays Thought for Sunday's Service is based upon Matthew 18:15-20:
““If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or 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 that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.””
(Matthew 18:15–20, NIV)
Binding things together reminds me of several different images: tightening my wallet to save money; taping a package to keep it from opening during transit; zipping up a tent flap before bedding down at a campsite, to hold in the warmth and protect from the elements. Loosening things reminds me of yet other kinds of images: breaking apart a jigsaw puzzle to put the pieces back in the box; letting go of a rope swing to briefly fly and then splash into a pond; moving away from the security of a long-time address to occupy a new home at another location.
Holding on, binding up; letting go, releasing from… I think we can understand these opposite concepts well enough with physical objects to conceive how binding and loosening may possibly feel in relationships. Although different, we might still sense that wherever people gather to relate socially, there is potential for binding together in unity, joining in ways were many hands make a wider work possible – or loosening by division, where separation is necessary for the sake of security and self-interest. The concepts of binding and loosening might also lead one to perceive how this might function in the spiritual realm.
When we gather in the name of Christ, the scripture reminds us of an added presence. It’s the presence of God. It’s for this that Jesus argues tightening our hold in faith makes sense. Loosening our grip on belief, not so much. Both binding and loosening have a role to play, however. Where we can faithfully cooperate, we are encouraged to work together through the church, expressing God’s presence in our world. When it becomes precarious, because sin makes it difficult, then loosening up, letting go, or even separating for a while at least, is called for. Jesus’ teaching connects in a way that is logical and practical, helping faithful people offer a more effective witness within a limited physical space.
Rev. Richard Wagner