On Sunday September 10th our supernumerary minister Rev Trevor Dixon led worship at Wesley Chapel. He told us that the phrase, ‘Where 2 or 3 are gathered together in my name…..I am in the midst,’ had been taken out of context for years! If there were not 10 people in a synagogue they could not pray, so the above saying would have not been applicable in that situation. Apparently a traveller, who was an atheist, had to go to the synagogue to make up the numbers for prayer to take place. Jesus took the law and turned it on its head and said that only 2 or 3 needed for prayer and worship to take place. In one small chapel only 2 old ladies came to worship; only when one went into a home did the worship discontinue.
The original context was the final section on church discipline in the gospel. It is still flexible in churches in isolated units where congregations have personal agendas and individual units. Paul pleaded again and again for Christian love to be in context in Romans 13. In Matthew 18 a similar context Jesus said that to just love each other is to fulfil the law. The writer had seen the difficulties in a local congregation. The sayings of Jesus were gathered together to maintain order. Two or three witnesses were needed to present a dispute in Jewish Law. In Deuteronomy a single witness was not enough to bring a charge, so 2 or 3 witnesses were needed at Jesus’ trial. In Matthew’s church they had to choose trusted representatives to deal with disputes. If there was still a problem the dispute had to be taken to the whole congregation!
How would we feel? How would we judge? It is good to have opinions, but how do we deal with disputes? We cannot all be of the same mind but we can still love each other anywhere?! We do not fully respect the Spirit of Jesus when we disagree. What if the offender refuses to listen to even the whole of the church; we need to be gentle and unprejudiced towards people. Jesus in contrast in Luke is shown befriending the Gentiles and tax collectors and welcoming them all to church. Do we have the definitive mind of Jesus or are we prejudiced? We need as a church to be open in our judgements. How do we deal with those we do not find acceptable? Do we throw them out or accept them? Who is or might be acceptable? God is present in worship and not absent in a finance meeting, as God is present in the whole of life, even in discussions about sexuality, abuse or divorce. God is interested in all these things. God’s name is glorified in the way we deal with negative sides of fellowship and living.
Trevor said that when he was an industrial chaplain God was there in the work place. It was his task to help people find God in different situations; being a comfort to the oppressed, a companion to the friendless, and with those who fight prejudice and injustice. God is in all situations and sometimes works through people there. There are no ‘no go’ areas for God. If someone offends you, do you challenge them or discuss it through with them. How do we challenge them? We search for the truth in the situation. Jesus was a radical person, a disturber of the peace, not a comfortable word, but dark and dangerous. Those who proclaim the truth are prophetic voices, disturbers. Jesus is in the midst but challenging and we too need to challenge violence in the world and overcome evil with good.