#74: Jesus in the Midst

Matthew 18:20

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.

Jesus was clearly looking beyond the immediate moment of his teaching his disciples. He was looking beyond his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension to a time when he would have returned to Heaven and his followers would feel themselves without him. Today we are still in that ‘without him time’ and the promise is still with us that when we gather in his name he is in the middle of the circle. This simple gathering together we call church.

‘Jesus, Yes, the Church, No.’ so said the mighty, Mick Jagger. Well Mick, ‘Rock Star, Yes, Theologian, No.’ The church is not some great English institution like the House of Lords, public schools and county cricket. It is the most amazing, broken, world changing and yet messed up bunch of people the world has ever known. In its simplest sense the church is simply a few Jesus followers, the sort that he himself classified as brothers and sisters, getting together in his name.

Two or three thousand at a Christian festival, two or three hundred in a wonderful open act of worship or maybe just two or three having honest prayer and conversation. There he is in the midst of them.

This is why Jesus kept building his followers into communities. Peter, James and John, the ‘twelve’, the supporting women in Luke 8, his followers and his family mentioned together in Acts 1, the women at the cross. These are not, however, standing still and meeting every week for the ‘same old, same old’. They are movements. Moving forward, gathering in others, moving the world.

In my own experience, there are a handful of things that I do with other Christians that often turn into truly transcendent experiences of joy, wordless warmth and excitement. Sometimes it happens when we are singing a beautiful and uplifting song of worship; at other times it might happen as a few of us read the Bible together and suddenly there is a shared ‘dropping of the penny’. The moment sometimes comes when I join with a few brothers and sisters in an act of mission and evangelism or simply when I am down the pub and having a drink with a few Christian buddies.

During the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020 it seemed as if churches were going to have to close down and Christians would lose all sense of togetherness. Almost immediately, however, people started phoning each other up to check up on each other’s needs. Services went on-line. Daily prayers started attracting large numbers. Prayer and study groups began meeting on Zoom and there was a new discovery of Jesus being ‘in the midst of them’. If you are becoming a bit isolated as a follower or just not spending enough time with the right people then why don’t you get back to being a living and positive part of his family/church/movement. It is both a very warm human experience and a deeply spiritual one when we join in a two or three, a twenty or thirty or even a two hundred or three hundred and discover him in the midst. There is something very special in being part of a group. It is there in ‘The Hobbit’ with Bilbo and the dwarves travelling together, it is there in the Western Epic of ‘The Magnificent Seven’ and in the Second World War story, ‘The Band of Brothers’. It is even to be found in Enid Blyton with the ‘Famous Five’ and the ‘Secret Seven’.

This sort of belonging calls on others to be loyal to us and on us to be loyal to them.

The big question is ‘who are your two or three and how committed to them are you?

Lord Jesus,
If I am to truly follow you,
Then I need to follow you with some others.
I need them,
And they need me,
May we follow you together,
And may you be in our midst.