Archive for category Forgiveness

Gen 2.18=25 “Marriage: Leaving Mama” JUMC 20140216

vintage wedding photo. just married couple

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” 19 So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.” 24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed. [NRSV]

Gen 2.24
Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become on flesh.

The covenant of marriage has its foundation in the actions of creation.

In the retelling of the creation story is the formation of the marriage relationship. As for context, it is important that we see that God is the author of marriage. At its formation it is instituted by God.

Marriage is about mutual helping. It is sharing our core, our bodies, and our lives as a covenant of relationship.

1. God is author of marriage, not you or me. Not government nor Brides by Lori.

Marriage is not natural. It is spiritual.

Some might misunderstand this statement and think it is a joke about fidelity or trivial jab at commitment. But if marriage were the product of nature then cows, bears and manatee would get married.

It is rare but there are indeed some pidgins that mate with one partner for life. But mating is not the only, and not even the first purpose of marriage

The covenant of marriage establishes a relationship of mutual help. This is the need that marriage fulfills. The relationship we honor today is built upon celebration the intent of helping one another.

Our take away is that God intended marriage to be a sign of God’s work. And a witness of encouragement and support.

Marriage is a creative process

God works, from the start, to provide a relationship of helping, support and companionship

The teaching about marriage relationship is in context of creation.. We need more than our self , we need some help..
Marriage is about leaving and joining, letting go and holding on.

And then we get to the good part. Leaving: The relationship of marriage is the creation of a new family and requires letting go and than grabbing hold of the new creation.

At a cellular level and at an atomic level, God’s creative order reflects letting go of atoms which react with other compounds to create something new that is totally different from the individual parts on their own.

As important as marriage is in creation, I invite you to spin ahead a few eons to Jesus. His parents, engaged but not married find themselves with child. A child who is the ultimate reflection of God’s love and help. A child who becomes an adult but never marries.

Marriage is not required, but if we enter into it, it is not a business contract, it is a covenant; it is a promise that God is present in holding together. God is there to help, heal, encourage, renew and bless.

We celebrate marriage today.

We honor and bless the covenant of marriage. Out of which come folks like us. We recognize that not every marriage is successful. Even with God’s presence and connection, we can break the bonds. God does not force love upon us. Grace always wins out.

As men and women, we are created for one another. We can find help, support, encouragement and love from our partner and spouse. Some time we find help we don’t want. That might be God speaking to us.

Some times we don’t find the support we hoped for. Some time marriage partners undermine the partnership and the relationship becomes divisive. God gives us room to mess up. That distance gives space for a relationship that is genuine and real and grace-filled, love.

We honor those who entered into convenient that resulted in us being here today!
We honor those who enter into marriage and are faithful
We acknowledge that some marriage relationship become so broken that grace is stretched beyond recognition. We give praise that even in brokenness God can restore us as individuals.
We honor that while marriage is a blessing it is not required to be a whole person as witnessed in Jesus.
We ask God’s bless on all who marry to make that union strong, fruitful and filled with God grace and love.

We offer a witness to one another and to our community through our radical hospitality, that Christain marriage is alive and well.

God’s is with us in this journey of life and marriage is power witness of God’s love, present to help us.

<Renewal of vows and acknowledgment of grief and brokenness>

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Psalms 23 “Why is it so Beloved?” JUMC 20120722

The Lord is my Shepherd

The Lord is my Shepherd, Taken Near Bethlehem, Field of the Shepherds

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; 3 he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long. [NRSV]

Just like you, in the church or not, most folks are familiar with some part of this Old Testament worship hymn. Books, movies, songs, hymns, greeting cards, and wall plaques have immortalitzed this song of praise ahead of others in the collection of 150 psalms.

There are some practical reasons why it is popular. It is positive. It is short. It is affirming, and paints couple of pictures-images that are comforting and protecting, if we can imaging being a sheep or at a party.

The are two scenes in this song. One verse is a lush green field beside a refreshing stream and the other is at a noise and busy dinner party. What do these two portents have in common and what makes them relevant for you and me?

Our culture is adopting the idea that “green” is good. This first part of the psalm is very green. Can you smell the fresh green grass. The sparkling clear water babbling by an ancient tree with broad branches and deep roots. There are other signs and smells that may be organic, but are not that green.  Sheep are not known for their pleasing aroma.  Every herd of animals leave a trail of processes green grass that the shepherd learns step around. But let’s not loose the romantic and clean image just yet.

The comforting message of the first scene is the restoring and renewing experience of God. God can be trusted like sheep trust the good shepherd to provide food and drink, rest and growth.  One message this psalm affirms is God’s continues to be trustworthy to provide for our growth, health and protection.

Life is not always in the green pastures. God provides even in the reality of life-threatening times. The Valley of the Shadow of Death.. might refer to an actual geographical bend in the road between Jericho and Jerusalem, and it might be metaphorical of life-and-death moments that come and go in our lives.

Where is God when danger, temptation and death surround us? We want to go back to the green pastures but sometimes that is not where we are. We are in trouble. God does not keep us out of the the shadowy valleys, instead God goes with us on the journey.

We thing God ought to hear our prayers and transport us out of tragedy or trouble, but that is not what happens 99.9999 percent of the time. The songs sings of the shepherd ‘rod and staff’. The staff is the long crook of nativity fame that is for rescuing wandering sheep. The rod is to beat off the enemies of the sheep, defending not chastising the sheep.

We are familiar with the proverb, “do not spare the rod” in child rearing. If we look at the function of the rod it is not to beat the sheep, it is to protect them. If we take that function of the ‘rod’ and read that as the proverb, our children need protecting from the evil in the world. As children of God, we need God protecting us, as much now, as ever.

Think of fishing with a baseball bat? You could tie a string to one end and dangle it over the water, but that is not it’s function. You could use a fishing pole to tan-someone-hide, but that is not it’s function. The rod protects the sheep. And in this evil generation, how we do need God’s protection.

Evil will tempt and surround us, God journeys through with us. Psalm 23..

The second verse, takes us to what is likely one of the cities of refuge in the Old Testament culture. The was a provision in the Hebrew tradition that if you harmed someone in one city there were two other cities that you could move to with immunity. The idea of sanctuary or witness-protect gave people the protection of being able to start over. It was an example and opportunity for grace.

In these cities, the injured parties might even gather for Passover or other festivals of worship and be seating at the common table together and yet be at the same worship of anointing and blessing.

What a great opportunity of grace is promised by God. Where can you gather with people that can check our sins at the door and still come together to sing, break bread, fellowship together… God’s house.

Q: Is that your experience in the church? As a pastor I hear more stories of those out side our churches saying they don’t trust us, calling church folks hypocritical and every worse.  The idea of living in the household of God our whole life sounds claustrophobic to most folks rather than comforting.

The assurance of the second verse reminds us that God has a plan for us, including for our failures. God work and deals in Grace. We don’t always treat each other with respect, love and kindness. But God finds a way to bring us all to the table.

My grandmother’s dinning room table was a large round wooden table. She taught me that she wanted everyone to have a place and where ever you came to the table you were sitting at the head of table. Because the table was round, ever seat was the prize place to be.

The image and practice of anointing has healing and blessing qualities in this hymn of praise. The abundance of the cup teaches that same message told later through the twelve baskets of abundance in feed the 5000 by Jesus and the disciples. They mess in both, is for that none would be lost. God has enough for us all.

With all the familiarity of the 23rd Psalm I invite you to know God’s protecting is not only in the easy of green pastures, it is in the threat of evil that God’s word is the rod that defends us still.

The abundance of grace in the face of evil that sits at the same table with us, is the place to deal with the our sins and differences. Come to the table and bring your worst, because God’s grace is ready for anything.

That is the power and witness of Psalms 23. Read it anew, live it by heart.

Join with me: Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; 3 he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long. [NRSV]

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Luke 15:22 A Robe, A Ring and Rockports JUMC 20120304.0900

1 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 So he told them this parable:…12 The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself withthe pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” ‘ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.  -NRSV

Whom to Welcome

  • Welcoming the grumblers
  • Welcoming the foolish
  • Welcoming the wasteful
  • Welcoming the broken
  • Welcoming those who are not themselves

How to welcome:

  • Prepared before they arrive
  • Greet with grace
  • Make ready to celebrate
  • When to welcome?

When you hear grumbling

  • When people mess up
  • When families are divided
  • now!

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“Forgiveness: The Math Problem” Matthew 18:21-35 JUMC 20110918.0900

21 Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church* sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ 22Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven* times. 23 ‘For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents* was brought to him; 25and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” 27And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow-slaves who owed him a hundred denarii;* and seizing him by the throat, he said, “Pay what you owe.” 29Then his fellow-slave fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” 30But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt. 31When his fellow-slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place.  ~NRSV

<00>Frances is learning about multiplication in her class. A couple of years ago it was unbelievable to her that she would understand her “times tables.” Algebra, Trigonometry, and Calculus await. <01>And so does our understanding and experience with Forgiveness await us.

Video Clip: Forgiveness: from The Family the Preys

We want to believe in Forgiveness, but we don’t know how. That is what Jesus parable is about.. It is an ANTITHESIS of forgiveness. (an example of how NOT to handle forgiving)

On my continuing education trip this week we visited the Carlos Museum on the Emory campus, on one of the several Egyptian sarcophaguses there was hieroglyph of Ma’at <03> the goddess of truth and the god Anubis, judging the deceased’s has being “light as a feather or heavier than a feather” <04>, ..Alluding to how God examined Pharoh’s heart by his own Egyptian standards and found his heart too hard and too heavy.

Jesus’ parable is of a hard and heavy hearted example. Forgiveness is God’s work in us, not our management. Let go,

To forgive is to forget. Learn but let go!

Grace does not keep count, 7x70m. Let go.

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