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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, April 3, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Matthew 18:15–20

“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. But 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. If 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. 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, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (NRSV)

Some biblical scholars have arranged the teachings of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel into five books, or discourses. Today’s scripture, the Fourth Discourse, is preceded by the editor’s description: “The discipline and fellowship of the church.” While the text outlines a procedure for bringing about good order and discipline within the church, to me the most meaningful message is delivered in verse twenty.

Baptism at Fourth Church is a joyous occasion: a new member is welcomed into Christ’s glorious kingdom. The baptism usually is concluded when the pastor carries a young child into the congregation: “Meet our newest member in the community of Christ.”

Wherever we go, Christ’s community awaits us, welcomes us, nurtures us, inspires us, and loves us. Even though that community may not always be a physical place, nevertheless, “where two or three have gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst.” The Kingdom goes wherever we go! 

Equally as inspiring and comforting for us are the concluding words of Matthew’s beautiful Gospel: “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

“The Lord is nigh unto all who call upon him, unto all who call upon him in truth.” Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for your eternal love and grace and presence. Lead us out into your world so that all people everywhere may know that they are welcome into your community, always. Amen.

Written by Barlow Nelson, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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