26 February 2023
Welcome to the season of Lent. As I mentioned last week this is a time of reflection and preparation for the coming of Easter. Lent is the 40 days – not counting Sundays – leading to Easter. It is a time that is often marked with fasting or giving up something. For us today that giving up could be coffee, chocolate, alcohol, for something we find easy to do without. This time of Lent reminds us of the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert just after his baptism. Our Lenten practice is to mean something, to be something that hurts a bit or puts us out of sorts, I don’t believe it should ever be as easy as giving up chocolate – and I do know that for some of us that is not easy!
As I’ve said many a time before, for me lent is a time to take on something. Usually, I take on some special quiet prayer or reflection time, over the last few years I’ve developed the practice of a daily devotion posted on Facebook that others can follow and be part of. Whatever your Lenten practice may it bring you sustenance and reflection. If you’ve never had a Lenten practice before why not make this Lent the time to start. If you need some ideas just ask.
We will continue to journey through Matthew in Lent and our reading this week is one we know well. Last year in July and August we spend some 6 weeks in this passage as we looked closely at our Covenant of Community and just what Jesus is telling us about community living in this chapter.
We’ve been hearing just what the Kingdom of Heaven is like and our reading today tells us a bit of what living in community is like. We don’t always get it right, we can (at times) be quite difficult to live with and our actions do not always serve us or the community well.
These verses of chapter 18 are immediately preceded by the parable of the Lost Sheep. Here Jesus tells us how important it is that not one of the children of God be lost, that much must be done to find those who have gone astray.
Then we head into our reading where Jesus instructs his disciples – and remember that is us too – about caring for the community, trying to care for those who might be damaging the community and all the times forgiveness is sought and offered.
I think one of the interesting comments from Jesus here is about the member who refuses to listen to those who believe they are harming the community or even refusing to listen to the whole community. Jesus said they are to be as a Gentile and a tax collector to the community. We tend to imagine that means they are to be removed or shunned from the community. But remember, Jesus opened his arms to the Gentiles and the tax collectors and went out of his way to ensure their inclusion in his ministry. So, what does that say to us? Mmmm worth some reflection before we gather together on Sunday to explore.