Where Two Or Three Come Together…

“Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”[1]

  • How often over the centuries has this remarkable promise of Jesus encouraged the faithful of all generations and cultures?
  • How many times have seemingly very ordinary opportunities for fellowship been transformed by the thought that the Lord of the Church is present, here and now?
  • Is it not amazing that, when the people of God congregate for any purpose, our reasonable expectation is that He joins us? After all, He said he would and He keeps His word, doesn’t He?

When the friends of Jesus lay claim to this extraordinary promise of His presence, it is time to consider what we really are about as a Christian community. There is more than half a chance that we might be forgetting this reality a little too often. For it stands on offer to all who love Him and who meet as His friends. True, the meaning for the church is obvious even though our behaviour on occasions is unbecoming to say the least. When we gather as His people, He is there.

  • This is what makes us truly different.
  • It is not our buildings, or our programs, or our commitment to the wellbeing of others which finally identify us.
  • It is the claim that Jesus convenes us, that He turns up when we do, that the conversations of the dusty roads of ancient Galilee continue on in the same spirit and with the same energy now as they did then.
  • It implies that He loves to work the same wonders, bring the same comfort and meet the same needs as He once did in another place at another time.
  • His friends still stand in wonderment as He heals the broken hearted, brings hope to the desperate, consoles the grieving and sets at liberty those entrapped by past fears and failures.

If He is present:

But if this promise really does still hold, we need to ponder the ways in which we value each other, meet each day and respond to each new challenge. If He is truly present:

  • Why do we spend so much time worrying over what might happen next?
  • Why the lack of joy and anticipation which should really belong to each new day?
  • Why the endless carrying of burdens which He has offered to bear for us?
  • Why the stressed relationships which so often exist in congregations?
  • Why the tension and petty arguments which so effectively put everybody on guard?
  • Why the preoccupation with what is going on inside the church instead of attention being focussed on the needs outside it?
  • Why the concern over the details without an openness to the big picture?
  • Why the stunning lack of creativity and entrenched resistance to new ways of being His people­?
  • Why our sublime lack of daring, our penchant for playing it safe all the time?
  • Why our too easy non engagement with the injustices and pain which surround us but which we so often miss because we are untouched by them?
  • Why the abiding absence of passion for sharing the news of this ever-present Jesus?

The awful, emerging truth is that we may be ignoring the divine presence, turning our backs on grace, compassion, trust and understanding….

  • He is present but powerless, constricted and pained by our dreadful pettiness of spirit, our tendency to find fault, the abounding absence of generosity.
  • We are the spiritual descendants of the faithless of Nazareth who saw no miracles[2]
  • We stand with the Gadarenes crowd [3]and plead that He might not disturb us out of the known and understood ways of our own little worlds.
  • Is this not a grandiose trifling with the Lord of the Church? Are we no better than His early friends who thoughtlessly promoted their egos and pecking order while He was struggling with His impending demise?[4]
  • Alas, we are resident within a fallen humanity which, though being redeemed, still bears the burden of Adam.
  • We long for the ideal while our spiritual backache intensifies under the load of our limited dreams and flawed passions.

Why did He promise to be with us in the first place?

It is so easy to spiritualise all the possibilities. Why not settle for the obvious?

  • Perhaps He wants to be with us for the sheer joy of being with His brothers and sisters, of rubbing shoulders with His disciples of the 21st century
  • Of tuning into our hopes and fears
  • Of entering into our joys and delights
  • Of feeling with us the subtlety of temptation and the lure of the forbidden.

He has known it all. He has been on the front line of falling but did not give in. He understands our amazing capacity to reach for the heights of goodness and self-sacrifice only to succumb in the next breath to our own innate foolishness and stupidity. This is why He comes to us in our twos and threes: to renew, to restore, to reignite our brittle spirituality.

  • But if He makes His presence with us, does this not call us to be truly present with each other?
  • Do we not have the responsibility, indeed the privilege, of bearing His presence in our own mini cosmos?
  • It is not as straight forward as we might imagine. We are unable to impart His grace if we have not already received it.
  • We will battle to accept others if we are without some understanding and acceptance of ourselves.
  • We will be tripped up by the failures and fickleness of others if we have not grasped in some measure the immensity of our own momentous sinfulness and studied duplicity.
  • Let’s not forget that we have played our own strategic role in nailing Him to the cross. So we need to go easy on others. True, they may have a speck in their eye but we still possess the plank.[5]

Let’s accept His presence with joy and live accordingly!

Despite our human incapacity for so often comprehending the intangible, let’s agree that His

offered presence is simply to be received and acted upon….

  • From such a perspective there emerges a marvellous freedom to let the mysteries of life exist knowing that He will reveal His purposes to us when the time is right and if it suits His plans for His world. In other words, let us learn to trust Him joyfully without insisting that we know the plot from start to finish.
  • Let’s listen carefully to others for through them He so often chooses to encourage, inspire, teach and correct. Their word to us can so often be His but we miss it because we so willingly claim to know more or wander into unnecessary self-defence. His words are effectively wasted.
  • And when we speak to others, may we be mindful that we may have a word from the Lord for them. If He gathers with us in our fellowship, then we should reasonably expect that our conversation will frequently carry His imprimatur.
  • Since He loves to be with us, it is imperative that we approach our differences with courage, courtesy and caution. His calling to us is to function in an environment of love. This does not mean that we side step the hot potatoes but it does require us to approach our difficulties with respect, humility and compassion.
  • The white hot arguments which only serve to ignite anger and create division are a sure sign that we have just thrust Him out of range, that we have tossed Him out on the doorstep.
  • The consequences of such overwhelming arrogance are not pretty and only demean our collective service and witness. We are declaring for all to see that He is not with us at all. The church has just become like any other boxing ring.
  • And if He is really with us, we surely need to lift our gaze towards the far horizon. If any group of people are intended to be the big picture crowd, then surely the friends of Jesus should be the first to qualify.
  • Our stage is the world, our brief is global, our mission is worldwide, our heart is for everyone, everywhere no matter how daunting all this may seem.
  • Such an understanding should invigorate us afresh in our own little corner and generate an unbending commitment to deal creatively and boldly with any barriers which prevent us from being the Good News.

The tough assignment:

Perhaps the really tough assignment is to see the inherent call to establish fresh alliances and networks with all who love Jesus regardless of their label, heritage or background….

  • Standing away from those who express their faith differently smacks of the old, pointless discussion on the road about who should sit on the right hand of Jesus the King.[6]
  • We smirk at Mrs Zebedee’s outrageous request but in principle our offhandedness with believers of other traditions is not too much different.
  • If Jesus is present, He is present for all of us and not just for those who judge themselves to be travelling up in first class with the extra refreshments closer to the pilot.
  • Our people need help in appropriating for themselves the nearer proximity of this Jesus Who loves to hang around with His friends.
  • This loving presence calls for new ways of belonging to Him and embarking on His mission in His world with Him.

Our too often scruffy connections with our brothers and sisters of the faith is a blatant denial of Who He is and where He is. It calls for a lifting of our awareness….

  • Is there a potentially controversial church meeting about to be called? He will be there.
  • Are you wondering about the shape and direction of what your congregation should be about? Don’t panic. It is His church and He will make it known.
  • Is there personal anxiety about faith, the future, your family, may be even survival? All is well. He is here for you,
  • Do you feel that your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling? Keep praying for He is listening intently.
  • Does the world seem out of control, a too hard assignment filled with sadness, violence and perplexity? It is still His world and He has not left it.

“Where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them.” His words; He will stand by them. His promise; He will keep it. What more need be said?

Rev John Simpson


[1] Matthew 18:20

[2] Mark 6:1-6

[3] Matthew 8:28-34

[4] Luke 22:24

[5] Matthew 7:3

[6] Matthew 20:20-22