Defying Gravity and Loving Your Enemies

Sunday’s Scriptures ~ II Chronicles 15:1-12 and Jonah 4:1-11.

This week Andrew and I will ‘swap pulpits’ for our 11 o’clock worship services. Andrew will preach at Tuskawilla UMC and I will preach at Azalea Park following TUMC’s 8:30am Morningsong Service.

It has always been important to Andrew and me for our congregations to know both of us. Our congregations do not see both of us together regularly and we want you to know that both of us care for you, pray for you, and are grateful that you smile at our shenanigans…

Well, that you smile at our shenanigans…most of the time…

This week I am in awe of watching God’s people at work. Both of our churches hosted Trunk or Treats last week. It is an incredible sight to watch the church rally together around an event to serve our community. Smiles donned faces. Laughter filled the air. New connections were made. A broad sense of welcome was shared. Thank you, Church, for all your incredible service and hospitality.

This past Wednesday a college student made his way to the church, seeking counsel and direction. I was engaged in Bible Study when he arrived – and you know what – all was well. Again, the church – the Body of Christ present – rallied around this young man. Prayers were offered. Hands were held. Contact information was exchanged. And I imagine a young man who walked in the Sanctuary with his face downcast left with his head a little higher, his back a little straighter. This folks! This is what it means to be the Body of Christ. This is what it means to take on the posture of the Good Samaritan – to stop and serve a neighbor in need along any and every road in life.

And! even more telling – I was not the one to initiate or facilitate either of these encounters – neither Trunk or Treat or holding the space of grace for this college student. The Body of Christ – you – the church – stepped up and stepped into these valuable leadership roles.

I am so so proud of you. I am so so grateful for you. Well done, good and faithful servants.

I look forward to worship on Sunday – to serve with the TUMC Family at Morningsong, to join the Azalea Park Family at 11am, and to hear about the fun you will have with Andrew at 11 o’clock at TUMC. Thank you for welcoming him in worship leadership on Sunday. See you soon, church family!

Prayer: “God forgave my sin in Jesus’ name. I’ve been born again in Jesus’ name. And in Jesus’ name I come to you to share his love as he told me to. He said, ‘Freely, freely, you have received. Freely, freely give. Go in my name and because you believe, others will know that I live.'”* Amen.

*”Freely, Freely,” The United Methodist Hymnal 389.

 

Advertisements

The True Scope of Forgiveness

Sunday’s Scriptures ~ Matthew 18:21-35 and Genesis 42:1-16.

This Sunday Andrew and I will pulpit swap for our 11 o’clock worship services. I will lead our Morningsong Service at 8:30am and offer a message entitled “The True Scope of Forgiveness”. I will then travel to Azalea Park UMC to preach their 11 o’clock service. Andrew will join the TUMC family for our 11 o’clock service and continue our Joseph Saga series with a message entitled “More Brothers, More Problems.” He is very much looking forward to worshiping with you.

(I will return to Tuskawilla by 12:30pm…my sources tell me there is some kind of celebration happening…*wink*)

During my senior year at Florida Southern College I registered for a cross-listed philosophy and political science course entitled “The Politics of Terrorism and Insurgency.” Impressive, right? On the first day of class our professor – who also had my mother as a student – clarified the focus for the course. He said, “This semester we will study proposed methods and applications of conflict resolution from philosophers and political scientists through the ages beginning with the Ancient Greeks and culminating in the present day. The course has the name it does because I was doubtful anyone would register for a class dully named “Methods and Applications of Conflict Resolution.”

He was probably right.

The first topic on the syllabus was a review of Hammurabi’s Code – the ruling religious, political, and philosophical thought in the Ancient World (and, in some contexts. still today). “An eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth.” Sound familiar?

Hammurabi’s Code focuses on fairness. Its use created a “tit for tat” society and normalized “tit for tat” behavior as part of the human condition. Jesus’ intent was to normalize radical role reversals and counter-cultural behaviors into the human condition. This was his method for fulfilling both the Law and the prophets.

The Torah contains impressions of Hammurabi’s Code and Jesus quotes a number of those passages in his Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you” (Mt 5:38-42).

Jesus does not promote retaliation in these verses – a significant counter-cultural and radical role reversal move! These words of Jesus become the foundation for our text for today.

While Hammurabi’s main focus was on fairness, Jesus’ main focus is on forgiveness.

The practice of forgiveness brings separated, estranged, and embattled community members back to one another – so that what once was broken may be fixed, may be healed. The act of repeated forgiveness – seventy-seven times – over and over – holds communities together.

Temptation can lead to sin. Sin leads to separation – from God and from one another. Like a shepherd that seeks out a sheep gone astray, so we are to seek out those we are separated from because of sin. Jesus affirms, “It is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost” (Mt 18:14). Through forgiveness we are found. Through forgiveness we make our way home.

When did you last experience forgiveness – either giving or receiving? How did you find that experience? Needful? Extraneous? Powerful? Casual? What lessons has forgiveness taught you? How has forgiveness changed you into more of  a Kingdom resident than a resident of the world?

Prayer: “Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart; naught be all else to me, save that thou art – thou my best thought, by day or by night; waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.”* Amen. 

*”Be Thou My Vision,” The United Methodist Hymnal 451.