Saturday, 3 September 2011

September 4th, Pentecost 12A, Ordinary 23A, Mathew 18 v10-20

Jesus reminds his disciples that God is passionate in his restoration of a strayed "little one", a passion his disciples should share.

The parable of the lost sheep,

Planaw, "to wander away", is used three times in the parable. As God is not willing to let even one child of faith go astray, neither should we. "What do you think?  A man owns a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away and gets lost. Will he not go and look sor the one that wandered off. If he finds it, he is more delighted than with the ninety-nine that never went astray? (Prodigal son) The emphasis is on the determination of the shepherd to go all-out to find a lost sheep.
People get worried by the disregard for the safety of the ninety-nine, particularly those who know something about the grazing of open-pastured animals. The point is that God doesn't want any of these "little ones" to be lost.The will of God concerning "little ones", that they should not perish, becomes an imperative for the believer. The disciple must be like God, that is, must act as God, the good shepherd, acts and so share in his activity of saving the lost.
 
Matthew now puts together three independent didactic sayings of Jesus that touch on church discipline.

The first saying is often treated as a method for dealing with someone who has hurt us - sinned against us. A believer, a "little one", has wavered in their faith, and as a result their standing before Christ needs to be restored. To this end the church  must bring the "little ones" face to face with the gospel again. "If a member of the church sins against you". The sin is undefined, but given the instructions it must be serious, so surely stronger than "should do something wrong", "against you. The context is the consequence of "skandalizw" earlier in the chapter, of having a stumbling block placed before you. Paul's letter to the Galatians could be classed as an example of restoration at work.(work of mediators)
Bring to light the problem, and here, to do it privately rather than publicly. Have it out with him. If he listens you have won your brother over. If he doesn’t listen take a few others (as witnesses; Deuteronomy 19:15 establishing the point that a person cannot be convicted on the evidence of just one person). To confront the problem emphasizes the need to exhaust every possibility in the effort to win back the disciple. Then treat him as you would an outsider. This does not mean treat him with contempt or cruelty.
 
In seeking to restore the brother or sister who has strayed from the faith, the Christian community seeks them out to restore them. Here the authority is given to the Christian community. The church is being given the authority to arbitrate on matters of God's will and declare a verdict on the matter (Sharia Law). Members either confirm God's condemnation or forgiveness. Whatever you loose, abolish upon the earth will have been loosed.
 
A second saying on the authority of the church.  The saying may promote the idea that when two or more Christians believe for something in prayer, it will be done for them. Yet, by adopting this interpretation many have had to wrestle with the problem of unanswered prayer. The saying may be teaching that when two or three meet in Jesus' name, God will be present, revealing his will to them. The congregation can then pray, believing that it will be "done for" them. We are free to ask for anything we like, but God acts upon his promises, not upon our perceived needs.

Jesus promises that he will be with his people, even when there are just two or three present, to the very end of the age.

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Dust and Ashes by Brian Wren

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