SATURDAY 5:00 PM AND SUNDAY AT 9:30AM
When I was a boy in grade school, my father played in a church basketball league with our church team. One Saturday afternoon we showed up to a church gym prior to his game, only to find a scene of chaos. Folding chairs were turned upside down in the middle of the basketball court. There were drops of blood in a couple of places. We asked what was going on. It turns out that the two teams who had been playing prior to our church’s game had gotten into a bad fight. A brawl in a church league!? I was amazed. It shook my world. I didn’t realize that church people could be so mean and violent toward each other.
Fortunately, I have not witnessed any church brawls like that personally. I have on rare occasions seen times when church people took to fighting, however. Maybe not blood on the floor or physical violence, but I was still shocked at how disrespectful disciples of Jesus Christ could be toward each other.
It is often very troubling that the kind of tension and conflict we experience at work and in other places in the world can also show up at church where we go to experience peace and love.
Church can sometimes let us down. If we are to be Ambassadors of Reconciliation for the world, we have to learn to be good at reconciliation with each other inside the Body of Christ. The problem is not that we have disagreements. That is part of being human. The problem is not that we hurt each other’s feelings. Even if we try to be sensitive, that will happen sometimes.
The problem is that we are not always good at dealing with each other in effective, productive and loving ways when these things happen. We compound the damage instead of working for healing.
In the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 18) we are given a structure to deal with church conflict. In Communion, we are given a way to reconcile and heal. In the life and teachings of Jesus, we are offered a better way. While not perfect, together we are building a better community.
I look forward to thinking with you about these things during worship this weekend.
This is the 3rd week of our sermon series on Reconciliation. Week 1 focused on reconciliation with ourselves. Week 2 focused on reconciliation in those close family and friend relationships.
This week, our focus is on reconciliation within the church. At every church I have served, there have been various degrees of conflict that the congregation had to work through. Of course, this is not unique to churches. Whenever there are 2 or more . . . there’s a possibility for conflict and the need for reconciliation. But what’s also at every church are the tools available to work through conflict – tools called forgiveness, grace, communication, support, and love.
In Matthew’s Gospel (18:15-17), we’re given instructions for dealing with conflicts. Paul indicates in many of his letters his concern for the churches that are going through conflict. At one point, Paul learns that the conflict was even spilling over into the celebration of Communion (1 Corinthians 11:17-22). But then we hear again the call of God to be ambassadors of Reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:16-20).
Looking forward to worshipping with you this weekend.