Remember, Sunday is Communion Sunday – Come hungry and ready to be fed!
The text this week comes to us from Matthew 18-
“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.16But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
This is one of these text that we silently wink at and then each other we will unpack it a bit Sunday in church but for now let’s at least begin
If another member of the church sins against you… what do we do – just talk about them behind their back.
If another member of the church sins against you…just call a bunch of people in the church to complain about them. You may even want to start a letter-writing campaign against them.
If another member of the church sins against you…just send them a nasty email. Copy the clergy. And, while you’re at it, CC the Senior Deacon or the Regional Minister.
If another member of the church sins against you…don’t say anything. Just avoid them. Un-friend them on Facebook. And, if you can’t avoid them on Sundays, then just leave the church.
In the eighteenth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus talks directly to his followers to tell us what our fellowship is to be like. If a brother or sister in the faith hurts you, angers you, saddens you, or does you wrong in any way…you go and talk to them about it directly, one on one. You don’t send someone else in secret – or start a whispering campaign – you don’t go around corners – someone is not happy with something you did – sounds like middle school drama – I know something you don’t know – or kindergarten sandbox – Jesus is clear – go directly to them.
Not only does this manner of working out difficulties lead to forgiveness, it also does so in a graceful way. The offended party isn’t dragging the offender through the mud. If it gets worked out here, no one else needs to know.
Forgiveness is available without fear of embarrassment in the fellowship. It can be done quietly. Lovingly. Gracefully.
However, when that doesn’t work, you bring another person or two with you. This “ratchets” things up a bit, but still provides for grace amidst discretion.
And then, if things can’t be worked out there, you bring it to the whole church.
I’ve seen churches be totally undone by backbiting and whisper campaigns. It can be devastating-and not just to attendance and finances-but it’s devastating to the Christian witness of that faith community, and the Universal Church.
For when that happens, the church ceases to be a place of forgiveness, grace, and mercy. One might say that it ceases to be a church in any discernible fashion.
Forgiveness is meant to be at the core of who we are, and to be honest with you, if we can’t do it between ourselves in the church, how can we ever be agents of reconciliation in the world? Right here, Jesus gives a clear blue-print for how our communities might be holy places where holy relationships might flourish. And, it’s something that we need to practice until it is so ingrained in our DNA, we can’t imagine living another way.
Because, for Jesus, there isn’t another way.
This week’s Connecticut Conference Spirit reflections come to us by Kathy Peters. Kathy is the pastor of Chester Congregational Church.
Romans 13:8-14 (NRSV)
Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
The Dog Days of summer are gone and school has begun. The end of Labor Day festivities indicates that the lazy days are over and “real” life is back. (The fact that the lazy, hazy days of summer are just a perception and that we are not always good at taking Sabbath time or allowing ourselves such days is a topic for another time!) This by all accounts has been a difficult, war-filled summer, and perhaps we are “happy” to see it end. We live in a world that seems to have forgotten the “law” of love.
My dog is a lover! No matter who you are, what you look like and if you smell a bit funky all the better…he loves you! His tail wags in greeting and his whole body moves with joy if you say hello and pet him. He is one bundle of unconditional love. He does not hold grudges or remember that you called him “bad dog” when he ate the garbage. He will never take anything that is yours though he will look longingly at your dinner plate. He has never killed anything…well maybe an occasional moth or a bug. He will sit by your side, listen without offering a bit of unsolicited advice and is always willing to accompany you on a walk. When you return home at the end of the day, his bounding joy at your presence just fills your soul. You just cannot hurry through life when taking a moment to love like my dog!
Dog Days of the summer kind have been around since ancient times and there is even a reference to them in the 1611 edition of the King James Bible. (Google it!) But if every day we could adopt the ways of my dog: unconditional love, joy in experiencing life, napping often, living the law of love, imagine the possibilities. I hope each day to “wake up” and be the kind of person my dog thinks I am.
Love does no wrong to a neighbor, and we are all neighbors. When will we learn to love?
See you Sunday
Coffee Hour This Sunday
We need volunteers. Any goodies would be greatly appreciated. Clean up would also be helpful. Lynne and Mackenzie will be there early to set up and make coffee, juice and tea. Thanks so much.
22nd Annual Polish Dinner
Saturday, November 1st, 5 to 7 pm.
We would love to have you join us again this year. We will need many hands to make this another successful year. Any donations are welcome.
SNOWFLAKE FAIR – SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 22ND
9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Various forms, information, and important dates are on the back table in the fellowship hall. Be sure to check out our “Positively Pink” basket today to see what we have collected so far ~ more items are needed (proceeds from tickets sold for this basket will go to Seymour Pink ~ last year we rounded up to an even $100). A box for donations of miscellaneous items to be incorporated into our basket raffle will be in the hall the end of August. Our first craft nightwill be Friday, September 26th at 5:30 p.m. at Lynne F.’s home. Please bring $5 for pizza and any craft idea you may have. Please see Laura or Jeannette if you have any questions or call the church office.
SUNDAY FLOWERS: We still have several Sundays available in September for you to sign up in the church vestibule to give flowers – In celebration of joyful friendships & special thanks, someone’s birthday, anniversary, or in memory of someone, and to the greater glory of God!
OFFICE HOURS THIS WEEK
Tues., Wed. & Thurs. – 9:30 AM-4:00 PM
Tues., Wed., & Thurs. – 9:30 AM-1:30 PM
Rev. Ed is here Tues., Wed., and Thurs. from 9:30 AM until 4 PM. He would like to meet members of the congregation, and puts morning hours aside for that. Please call first if you plan to come in the afternoon as Rev. Ed goes out to visit at that time.
PRAYER SHAWL MINISTRY
Our church’s shawl ministry is appreciated by many and we continue with its mission. Lynda Boynton has agreed to guide this endeavor with new ideas, patterns and prayers that she has gathered from other prayer shawl groups. If you would like to learn more about the Prayer Shawl Ministry of our church, please join us in the gym at 11:15AM TODAY.
Here’s a fantastic opportunity for you to be part of the fun and fellowship as well as providing the important music ministry of our church. No experience necessary – on the job training available. Just drop in and join us this Thursday at 6:30 PM. The following Thursday, Sept. 18, we are going to have a Pizza Party! Someone was very kind to treat us to pizza. After that we will be having rehearsals on Sundays which is convenient for people that travel from Thomaston, Oakville, West Haven, Derby and Ansonia, and Naugatuck too!
Attention Youth: Our next Give2 event is on Saturday, September 13th, when we will be going to Locket’s Meadow farm in Bethany. This farm is special in that it’s a sanctuary for at-risk farm animals. There are over 40 horses and many are used for therapeutic work and to entertain visitors. We will have more details (time, etc.) by next week. Please let know Mandy know if you are interested in participating.
Flu and Pneumonia Vaccine: On Sunday, October 5th, Stephanie and the UCONN Pharmacy students will be running their annual Flu Shot clinic. Stephanie will also have the Pneumonia and Shingles shots available. To sign up please see Teresa.