For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.Wow!
An amazing statement.
We’re rather more than two or three this morning. Yet over the past weeks many of us will have been away from our usual habits and practices, away from work or school or whatever we’re usually used to doing. We may not have been at church so often this summer. I know I certainly haven’t been at All Saints’ very much at all since July as I have been away with groups of young people to Taize and on our own youth holiday as well as at Greenbelt last weekend for my own holiday.
However even though I have been away from my regular church going routine, I’ve been gathered together with fellow Christians; sometimes in twos and threes sometimes in vast crowds.
Jesus doesn’t say
For where two or three are gathered in my name,
…that’s very nice
Or For where two or three are gathered in my name,
… it’s not quite the same but it’s almost church
No Jesus says
For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.
All it requires of us is to come into community in his name and God does the rest. God promises to be present if we come together into community. What matters is the intention.
Of course, many people have experience of meeting God on their own and their personal prayer life is one which is important for them. Some, though demonstrably not the people here, don’t see the need to come to church. “I can be a Christian at home.” There are many ways of seeking God in private devotion, through reading, prayer, bible study, music, meditation and these are things which God does want us to be doing. Yet this is not all it is to be a Christian. In this Gospel today, Jesus is telling his disciples for the need for community. He first tells them how to deal with arguments, because unfortunately it is part of human nature that we come together and will disagree. I can’t help but think there is a slight touch of humour when Jesus says;
If two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my father in heaven.This is not about individual devotion but about community.
at this point I have to admit I nicked some wisdom from the blogosphere:
There are those who fear that in community, the individuals will be washed away. But in reality, the opposite is the case. It is only in a community, one with another, that we discover who we really our. Jesus taught us to pray "Our Father..." not "My Father..."
In Paul’s letter to the Christians at Rome, which we also heard today, He hastily summarises the laws, the big stuff and moves swiftly on to the actual stuff of community. “Love your neighbour as yourself”
Community for Paul is not an option of Christianity, it’s what it’s all about.
Paul’s letter speaks to me a lot for this morning. He is telling the people at Rome that they KNOW what it is that they should be doing and yet he also knows that they need telling.
Standing up here in front of the church community and teaching about the bible is something I love doing but sometimes I do find it hard to get the words right.
I think today is partly one of those days because I know one of the things I want to talk to you about it one of those topics that can make people uncomfortable.
Approaching the subject of how much people pray or read their bibles is a tricky business. I remember being asked, as a young person, to share how often we read the bible, how often we prayed. This is not what I want people to do this morning.
So few people ever feel that they spend enough time reading their Bible or praying and yet people are often wary of asking for help and guidance as it might show that they don’t know. A person could spend a lifetime doing nothing but contemplating God, reading the scriptures and praying and they still would not be doing ENOUGH. They would still not fully comprehend or understand God. The point is, it is not for us to DO enough.
For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.As part of our vision at All Saints about being a Christian community we said that we wanted to focus on discipleship.
This is the first step towards doing that. It’s not a test for you. In fact I think it is more likely to be a test for the Pastoral team : those of us who are responsible for teaching you about faith!
You have a piece of paper in front of you with questions on. These are, primarily to help you think and reflect. We have also given you the option of asking for further information and if you would like us to let you know about some resources we can give you or groups we might be starting then you can write your name and contact details on the back but you don’t need to.
Learn about the Bible through talks / lectures / discussion.
Learn about the History of the Church through talks / lectures / discussion.
Discussion of Church issues with a group
Discussion of the Bible with a group
Prayer in a group
Daily Bible reading
Daily Bible reading with study notes
Daily Prayer in private
Daily Prayer in a group
This is the time to reflect and take stock
As our old testament reading said:
This month shall mark for you the beginning of months.It is a time for the new term and new beginnings.
I know people make new year’s resolutions but often I find that September is the time when people take stock and think afresh about things. So now, many of us will have put our holidays behind us and be looking ahead.
What will you resolve to do?