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Thursday, September 07, 2017

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My stomach gets knots while reading this text. I have received reproving communication from my church "family" members (verse 15 footnote). It was painful. However, it caused me to think. I know I also have communicated criticisms that hurt members. Frequently, we recall our pain, but are unaware of pain we cause.

Isolating this passage's painful reproving and excommunicating instructions from this chapter's wider context risks missing Jesus' overall loving message. In previous verses, Jesus says the "greatest" have child-like humility, warns against being stumbling blocks or sinning, and tells the Lost Sheep parable about God's unrelenting efforts to reunite each sheep with the flock. In the verses following today's reading, Jesus says to forgive limitlessly and he shares the Unforgiving Servant parable that teaches how God forgives us infinitely more than we forgive our neighbors. Today's reading instructs us to communicate our concerns--but for the purpose of loving reconciliation. If reconciliation fails, God keeps calling--just as Jesus lovingly remained in community with Gentiles and tax collectors.

Forgiving God, we praise and thank you for continuously calling us to return to you each time we stray. Please be merciful with us when we are too quick to reprove and too slow to forgive. Guide our communication so that we lovingly reconcile with our neighbors. Amen.

Mary Simonson Clark, '07
Adjunct and Field Instructor, Augsburg University/
Partner Engagement, Redeemer Lutheran Church and Center for Life
Minneapolis, Minn.

Matthew 18: 15-20 (NRSV)

15 "If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.
16 But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses.
17 If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
18 Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
19 Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.
20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them."

This God Pause daily devotion is brought to you by the alumni of Luther Seminary.