Sept 7, 2008
Scripture: Matthew 18:15-20
Sermon Title: "2 or More"
Just recently I was having one of those days, or should a say one of those weeks.
You all know what I mean.
I was feeling alone, although I was surrounded by people. I was worried about finances although I have more money then I’ve ever had before. I was unsure about anything I was doing, although I have come further then I’ve ever been.
Missing friends, family; feeling as if the summer went by in a blur without a good tan, although I am darker then most people I know.
One of those days in which I felt I didn’t even matter. I was sad. Lonely. Lost.
Everyone feels this way from time to time, but I’m beginning to think that perhaps pastors feel it even more. After all, part of our make-up is to be sensitive and super-aware.
But its also part of our make-up to speak words of hope, to provide a spiritual foundation for others when the floods enter into their lives.
So, it can be confusing to have those moments, and those moments can come with feelings of guilt and shame because shouldn’t a pastor know what to do about such times in their lives?
When a pastor has one of those days, you think we would immediately turn to prayer, scripture, meditate, but that’s not how it’s always for me.
I may talk to God, I may glance over at my prayer books, I may think about picking up the Bible, but the truth is I am stubborn; so I often turn inside, lay on the couch and watch reruns.
I may text or e-mail a friend, allow negative thoughts to momentarily take hold and create a false reality that is far from what God wants for me.
Fortunately, after some time (be it a few hours or a few days), I am broken and humbled enough to do what I should have done from the very start: take it to God in the ways that are most healthy and healing for me: reading scripture, journaling and being still in God’s sight.
When I had that bad rash of days a few weeks ago, I felt the need to be bold. I ended my prayers by telling God to have someone I care about call me that day.
I finished my prayers and wondered who it would be. Who was God going to have call me to help heal my brokeness, to shed light on the dark parade that was marching on inside me?
Some time later, I was feeling a bit more relaxed. I sat outside, watched the sun set. The phone rang. I assumed it was a friend coming to save me. Instead it was a non-member of the church I had been providing spiritual care to.
This person was feeling upset and needed someone to talk to.
This person, feeling lonely, stated "I wish I had 2 or 3 people to hang out with so I know I’m not alone."
That took me a back. Here I was, feeling alone, wanting God to have someone call me, and here was someone calling me so they didn’t feel alone.
This person’s call was as if the Christ that dwelled within them was reaching out to me so the Christ that dwells within me could reach right back. And it reminded me of today’s scripture.
In today’s reading Jesus instructs his people that "Where 2 or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them."
This is a well known verse, often used when a small gathering of people are present. But it is not an entirely new notion. Jewish writings say that whenever 2 or more gather to study or discuss the Torah, the Shekinah, or Divine Presence of God is there.
Here, the notion is taken a step further by stating that whenever 2 or more people gather in Christ’s name, Christ is present. Not symbolically, or metaphorically, but actually present.
That’s how Matthew understood the nature of church: that it wasn’t just that we gathered to worship Christ, but when we gathered Jesus was actually in our midst.
Now, 2 people doesn’t seem like a lot does it? In fact, it sounds quite reasonable, and reassuring; and I have wondered why there is just the need for 2.
And my thoughts come to this: that we all have a Christ who dwells inside of us. Not like a ghost, or in possession of us; but as a reality of all that we experience.
And that Christ that dwells within us is made up of two parts.
Within all of us is the Christ who heals, and the Christ who is in need of healing. When we reach out to another either in assistance or in need of assistance, those two elements of Christ become one.
Allow me to explain.
Within us lives the Christ who is wounded. These are the aspects of our soul that experiences the same things Christ experienced.
Feelings of fear and worry about our future, as when Jesus heard that John was killed and he was next. Feelings of loneliness, as when Jesus went into the garden to pray and the disciples were unable to stay awake.
Feelings of betrayal from a loved one, as when Jesus was betrayed by Judas and denied by Peter. Feelings of humiliation, as when Jesus was spat upon and made to carry his cross.
Feelings of physical pain, hunger and thirst, as when Jesus was nailed upon the cross. Feelings of forsaken-ness, when almost all of the disciples left him there alone to die, when he wondered if even God himself had abandoned him.
I believe these are the aspects that makes up one part of the Christ that dwells within us; all those painful, dark human experiences we wish to not face or talk about; those feelings we try to ignore and replace with false smiles.
But that is just one element of Christ, one part of his story, for to focus only on Christ’s pain is to not focus on the real Christ at all.
There is also the other side of Christ, the side that embraces life, faces illness and challenges death. This is Christ, the healer, who with a word, a touch, and a look could make people feel better, whole and loved.
This is the Christ who met people at their loneliest moments and offered them a drink from the deep water, as he did with the Samaritan woman at the well.
The Christ who visits people at their moments of weakness-who comes to them when all they can do is lay down- and encourages them to get up, walk, become active once more, as he did with Peter’s mother-in-law and the General’s daughter.
This is the Christ who is moved with compassion, who looks upon all that is wrong, takes note of what it is we lack, and invites us to sit, talk, and enjoy a banquet of food and drink he has given us.
I believe that both of those elements of Christ live within each and every one of us. So when someone is in pain, when someone is in need, when someone hungers, it is not just them we are reaching out to, but it is the Christ that dwells within them that we are reaching out to.
And when we are the ones who are in pain, when we are the one who is in need, who hungers, it is the Christ in others who reaches out to us to heal, provide, and feed us.
It is the Christ in them reaching out to the Christ in us, and the Christ in us reaching right back to the Christ in them, and in the process, both are healed.
And between those two people Christ is present: the one who is reaching out and the one who is reaching back. The whole, complete, the hurt and the healing Christ becomes real.
And we rediscover that the loving presence of God is present and alive, and for that moment we have the ability, the strength, and the right to go on.
In conclusion, when that person contacted me a few days ago, I had asked God to have someone call me so I could feel better. And that’s just what God did, although not in a way I had ever imagined or planned.
But by having two lost and lonely souls connect in the name of Christ, Christ not only became present, but Christ became both the wounded and the healed, the broken and the whole. And his name became maginified and glorified once again.
It is a lesson I treasure and hope to remember.
All thanks and praise be to God who answers our prayers in ways we can not imagine, to the Spirit that moves us in right directions and to the Son who heals our woundedness for his names sake.