RCL Year A Proper 18 Alternate Readings
Ezekiel 33:7-11, Psalm 119:33-40, Romans 13:8-14, Saint Matthew 18:15-20

“The Ecclesiastical Gospel” often is a name applied to Saint Matthew for two reasons. In the “old” days, when the Church Year had but one list of Gospels for Sundays, Matthew was by far the predominant Gospel to appear in that Lectionary.

Secondly, “The Ecclesiastical Gospel” applies to Saint Matthew because of its passages having to do with church discipline. And one of those passages is the Gospel appointed for today.

“If another member of the church sins against you…” the Gospel begins. The discipline involved is the discipline of bringing to the offender confirmation of the sin. With three widening circles of church members the offender has the opportunity to listen to the offense. But, if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, “let such a one be to you as a Gentile or a tax collector,”[1] an outcast, in other words.

But the whole process, we know, corresponds to one in the Qumran community found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. But the key to it, and the key for us, is the presence of Christ in the process, and any other process, the church joins. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them,”[2] Jesus declares.

And so, we believe that, when we gather to pray, as we do at each Eucharist, Christ is here among us. I have based my life on this belief, and I am content to share that with you directly and as clearly as my ability permits. To gather together and to pray in Christ’s presence raises human ability, human agency, to its height. In other words, we are most human, we achieve our highest potential, when we join together in prayer. I wish to do it as often as is practical, for it is good to spend time with God. It is good for each of us to be present and to learn from God. I dare to say that nothing is finer. It is this belief that gave rise so long ago to the Psalmist who wrote: “For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room, * and to stand at the threshold of the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.”[3]

For, if in a flood we would take hold of anything that would keep us above the swell, how much more in a desperate, divided, and regressing world, would we cling to any means to abide with God?

[1] Saint Matthew 18:17.

[2] Saint Matthew 18:20.

[3] Psalm 84:9.