Sermon 10th September 2023

Readings; Matthew 18, 15-20

                   Romans  13, 8-14


Last week, I began my sermon with words of Jesus from Matthew; “You are a stumbling block to me, you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” and we looked at how the cross we bear for Christ should look beyond human concerns, that the cross we bear should be and show love.

This week, our passages move to more practical ways of being church, based on that overarching concept of reflecting the love of Christ, beginning in Romans with our opening words “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another”, strange words perhaps, but when we consider the overwhelming love of God shown on the cross, we will forever owe a debt of love.

And Christ asks us not just to show that debt to God, but to our neighbour.

And in doing so, fulfil the law, he tells his readers, the law of the Old Testament, the Torah, the decrees and statutes the psalmist spoke of in our psalm, because love is a fulfilment, is the basis on which all those laws are formed.

Love God and love your neighbour as yourself.

How many times does a preacher have to preach those words, or try to live them out and encourage others to live them out, before they finally sink in with their congregations, and ultimately , one would hope, with all people.

But, in our defence, we are human. Not divine, as I said last week, and none of us is perfect, none of us loves perfectly. But what Paul says, what Jesus says in our Matthew reading is that we can acknowledge that imperfection and yet still love.

The way we love will affect the way we live, and the first place that should be apparent is within the community of Christians.

As much as Jesus accused Peter of being a stumbling block, of thinking of human things, not of God’s concerns, so it seems that within our Christian communities we sometimes spend so much time being stumbling blocks to each other, through human concerns, that we lose sight of God’s concerns, God’s love.

And Jesus could see it with his disciples, he knew it would happen with the embryonic Christian community, so he provides practical advice for when it does.

Go and discuss the issue with the person you have a problem with first, he says, if unsuccessful, take a friend, if no luck, take it to the church.

One of the biggest failures and sources of conflict I have seen in 20 odd years of ministry, is when people fail to address the issue they have with another person to their face. Instead, they moan to someone else, or go behind their back or use that well-worn phrase “people are saying” when actually they mean, “I think that this or that”.

 I’ve seen it between individuals, between different groups in churches, between individuals and leaders, between leaders and indeed between churches. Not to mention those occasions when it happens to me too.

And often it leads to conflict or breakdown of relationships and it is because the person or group with the issue will not address that issue directly with the other, and will not do it in  a loving way.

So, the first and most loving, and most effective solution to conflict or disagreement never happens. And resentment breeds on such, and grudges and division, and love becomes an innocent bystander bleeding on the cross of disunity, instead of being the force that brings those people together.

When Jesus said to the crowd, “He who is without sin cast the first stone”, the crowd, ashamed, dissolved away. Somehow, as Christians we often seem to forget that challenge, forget the command to love and forgive and so we end up with communities, within the church and without, where the cross we appear to bear, as I said last week, seems to be one of pain or shame, or discord or suffering, the cross of human concerns, instead of being the cross of God’s concern, God’s concern of love which we see in Christ’ cross.

“Where two or three gather in my name”, Jesus said in our reading this morning, “where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”.

Not might be, not could turn up if you pray hard enough, not might hear you if your singing is fervent enough- no he said “I am with them”.

Saying to us as he did to his disciples, love God, and love others, saying whoever is without sin cast the first stone, saying speak to your friends if you disagree, saying live peaceably with each other, and saying too go out preach, baptise and teach everyone all I have taught you.


He is here. Right now. As we gather. As he is in every church, every room, every place where Christians come together.

Do we really realise the power, the  immensity the awesome incredulity of that. The son of God, creator of the universe, lover of the world, here with us. Right now.

And all he asks is that we love him, and love each other.

So easy, yet so, so hard.

And it’s hard because we so often try to go it alone, in our humanity in our selfish presumption that we know best, we are capable, we can do it.

Instead of relying on his strength and the power and guidance of his Holy Spirit.


When you get up in the morning, you clean your teeth, you shower, you come fresh to the new day. You clothe your nakedness, with what is appropriate for the day, work clothes, maybe a bit smarter to meet friends, perhaps dressy for a special occasion. You choose carefully.

What you wear speaks of who you are, what you want the world  to see, and perhaps to reflect a little of the person within, the image you’d like the world to see.

When you get up each day there’s another way of thinking of that morning routine. You have been washed clean by Christ, cleaner than you could ever manage with soap and water, and there is only one garment to wear.

As Paul said, clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ.

For if you are clothed in Christ, then that is what the world will see. And what the world saw in Christ was, compassion, grace, mercy, a passion for justice, healing and above all love.

So last week, I suggested you read that passage from Romans each morning about genuine love. And now I’ve added another thing to your morning routine.  Be washed clean and clothe yourself in Christ.

You’ll be surprised how it changes your day, and the day of those around you. Because you’ll be concerned with the things of God, not human concerns, and the concerns of God are simply love.