Devotional Thought of the Day:
51 He said, “God has made me forget all my sufferings and all my father’s family”; so he named his first son Manasseh. 52 He also said, “God has given me children in the land of my trouble”; so he named his second son Ephraim. Gen 41:51-52 TEV
I cannot count the times that I have heard, “I will forgive them, but I will never forget.” And I know the difficulty, as we deal with the pain of being betrayed, the pain of being the victim of sin.
But how do we turn our backs on the pain? How do we risk being so brutally betrayed again? And how can we stand with the victims, and yet be obedient to God’s call to work for the reconciliation of all to Jesus? How can we have hope as well, when we struggle to obey, “forgive us our sins, and we forgive the sins of others.”
I don’t know about you, but this isn’t just a matter of teaching others. It is a matter of my own ability to forgive. And I deal with the guilt of it, how can I encourage people to turn to God for forgiveness, when I can’t forgive them?
How I long for the blessed peace that Joseph must have felt as he encountered his brothers. The same brothers that so made his life miserable growing up, that eventually threatened to kill him, but instead simply sold him into slavery. The brothers he could exact revenge upon, without hesitation.
And he chose to love instead, able to because of God’s making Joseph forget because God giving him a new family in the place where the only a life of struggle had been known.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.
It is God’s work that heals us, that removes the burden of resentment, that restores us from the brokenness that shatters us beyond repair. It is the loving mercy of God (cHesed) that enabled this to happen in the life of Joseph.
This is what we need, what we need to hope for and expect from God. It is the miracle we need to depend upon Him for, as the Holy Spirit comforts us, not only in regards to our being betrayed but in the moments we realize we betrayed someone else.
This is what grace is…
Heavenly Father, bless us as you blessed Joseph, as you made him forget, and enabled him to love and provide for those who betrayed him, knowing it was all Your work and ability to make it so. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day
12 You are the people of God; he loved you and chose you for his own. So then, you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you. 14 And to all these qualities add love, which binds all things together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14 (TEV)
480 Do you see? That cable—strand upon strand, many of them woven tightly together—is strong enough to lift enormous weights. You and your brothers, with wills united to carry out God’s will, can overcome all obstacles.
13 Although we cannot and should not compel anyone to believe, we should nevertheless insist that the people learn to know how to distinguish between right and wrong according to the standards of those among whom they live and make their living
I am tired.
I am tired because of the fighting going around us. In this world as nation is against nation. As nations are divided into camps we call parties but are not exactly fun! And even inside those parties are divided, starving for attention and often, revenge.
The Church, the one, holy, catholic (as in united, universal church) is likewise fragmented, and denominations and congregations know bitter division, know its horrific pain and avoid the issues. Too often we determine reconciliation and renewal is not possible, or perhaps if possible, not desirable.
I see this all around me, and it makes me weary of life.
I want to compel people to have enough faith in God, to trust Him enough to let Him heal them, and surely He would. I want to force them into a maturity that cares more about being merciful than the pain that has been caused by others. That cares more for Christ being revealed than for hiding our own sins and pretending we are not shamed by them.
But I can’t compel people to trust in God more, it is not the way it works. No amount of threats can do it, no amount of pleading, all I can do is ask, and point to the scriptures.
It is a common dependence on God that turns the church into something more than a group of individuals separated by their own brokenness. That unity, that being woven tightly together, it can create a bond that can conquer anything. That unity is found in Christ’s love,
It is found in the love that is the source, of mercy that empowers us to of set our own discomfort and pain, even the agony aside. That enables us to forgive, for He has shown the way in forgiving us.
Only in Christ Jesus is this possible. In that love that weaves us together, binding the broken, splicing us together, making us stronger than anything else can.
Can we all get along? Only in Christ, who draws us all into Him. This is what is good and right… everything else is wrong.
Lord have mercy on us, mercy that is so overwhelming that our anger, our pain, our resentment and even shame our washed away, revealing that we dwell in You, and in You, we are already one. Amen!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1175-1177). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 339). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
Now please forgive us the wrong that we, the servants of your father’s God, have done.” Joseph cried when he received this message.
18 Then his brothers themselves came and bowed down before him. “Here we are before you as your slaves,” they said.
19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid; I can’t put myself in the place of God. 20You plotted evil against me, but God turned it into good, in order to preserve the lives of many people who are alive today because of what happened. 21You have nothing to fear. I will take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them with kind words that touched their hearts. Gen. 50:17-21
Consider, in particular, the sin of ingratitude towards God, which is a general sin, and extends itself over all the rest, making them infinitely more enormous. Consider, then, how many benefits God has bestowed on you, and how you have abused them, turning them against Him, to dishonour Him. And, in particular, how many inspirations you have made unprofitable. But above all, how many times you have received the sacraments, and where are the fruits of them? What is become of all those precious jewels, with which your dear Spouse adorned you? They have all been buried under your iniquities. With what preparation have you received them? Think on your ingratitude; that God having run so far after you, you have fled from Him to lose yourself.
Joseph forgiving his brothers is a great story of grace. It is also, for one such as I am, very convicting.
I have to admit that I am a hold a very advanced certification in resentment, and am accomplished at being merciless.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate grace, or struggle to depend on the grace of God that is demonstrated in my being counted righteous and forgiven. I depend on that daily, and it provides hope for this sinner that I am.
I find myself likewise confronted by the parable of the debtor is forgiven millions and has a very definite style of collecting the $150 bucks owed him the very same day.
Do we have to grow into people that imitate Joseph? Can’t we just count on God’s mercy, even for our mercilessness? Does it not extend out that far? Surely Jesus understands the pain of being betrayed, the agony of being hurt, the horrible hurt that comes as someone sinning against us.
After all, I am just a broken sinner, one He is healing gradually, how can I be expected to be the Messiah or one of the great faithful people in scripture? How would I find the strength, the inner power to desire to be, and to become that merciful?
I think St Francis de Sales comes up with a reasonable explanation for our inability. It is because we don’t take the time to consider God’s actions in our lives that deserve gratitude, from our Creation, Redemption and Sanctification to His daily present that waits for our prayers, to His revealing His presence through His word and sacraments and those we encounter, as we think somehow we are ministering to them. When in reality, we are simply exploring the incredible dimensions of His love.
As we begin to appreciate the amazing love of God who comes to us, who picks us up and begins to heal our brokenness, as He invites us to dine with Him, and are welcome into His peace, that is when our resentment breaks, when the tears flow, when we look to Him and ask if these relationships, as dry as dry bones can live.
It is only in understanding that He has brought us back to life, that He is healing us, that He is making us whole, that we find ourselves allowing the resentment to slip away, our grip on the anger and pain to painful to keep up. Looking to Jesus – seeing His love, how His plan has blessed you, even the sin committed against you, leads resentment a burden to cold, too hard to bear into the light of His glory.
Devotion to God who loves you more than you can imagine, or hanging on to the pain?
As we come to Advent, as we find the need we have fro Christ’s presence, as we begin to desire more and more the peace and love He he has to share with us, may we desire to set aside those things that would drags us down, and with joy, may we hold out our hands for those who once betrayed us, to join us in the journey.
Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.
For He Will: For He Has….
† Jesus! Son! Savior! †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ reveal to you the hope of Glory, His gift to you!
What does this Mean?
As people are driving by the church this evening, as they see the cars in the parking lo now, and later, and tomorrow morning, I prayer that they ask a simple question.
Why are these cars here??
I pray that they also seek out the answer. That they would realize the reason we are here is more than just tradition, It is more than the lights and music. It is worth delaying the gifts, and the family and friends that didn’t accept our invitations to join us.
It is here in this place, Christmas takes on a real meaning.
For this night, we celebrate the greatest blessing the world has ever known. The greatest blessing that we will ever have, and nothing else is close.
We will realize this through the eyes of Joseph this evening….as we see him twice, both times somewhat unable to put his thoughts into words. Both times unable to really understand what is going on…
The first we see of Joseph, he is struggling, confused, hurt, broken. Feeling betrayed and overwhelmed
His fiancé tells him she is pregnant, and he knows he isn’t the father. In fact, he hasn’t been alone with her, so how could…. what is a man to think? The story Joseph was told? How could she be so malicious, to think Joseph such a fool?
Our translation tonight used the phrase, “as he considered this,” yet the word picture behind the original is one who is breathing hard, who is out of control. Hurt and broken, feeling betrayed, shocked, he is beyond words. Speechless, he struggles through the night.
Some of us know this kind of anger, this kind of stress, we’ve felt that betrayal.
Most of us have experienced this kind of stress, this anger, hurt, betrayal, and pain. Maybe like Joseph, we cannot conceive of how someone else’s actions could be anything but evil. We can’t find a way to explain the situation in any positive way.
It hurts, we can’t figure a way to get out of the relationship with more pain, yet…can we even stand the pain any longer? He had every right to demand she pay for her unfaithfulness, but the pain was so deep, he knew that wouldn’t help.
Or maybe, it wasn’t someone else who betrayed us.
We are the one who betrayed us. I betrayed myself, you betrayed you. We fell into that one sin, we gave into temptation, we chose to do something we know we would risk becoming broken. We can’t believe we did it. We can’t sleep, we are so angry with ourselves, so full of guilt and shame…..
And in either case, we need an angel, a messenger from God to come, and make everything right again.
We end up beside ourselves, or we bury the guilt and shame, or the anger and resentment deep, where it causes so many other problems when we can’t bury any more
The Second Joseph
When the angel comes to Joseph, it changes everything.
He hears the news from an angel,
“Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21 (NLT)
He will save, this baby that is growing in Mary’s womb. He will save Joseph, and Mary, and his family. He will save his clan and nation and all people will have the opportunity to be saved from that life of brokenness.
This message brought the news that would repair his relationship with Mary. No longer would he think her guilty of being unfaithful. No longer would he deal with the brokenness inside him.
The message of who this baby would be changed all of that. That is what He will save means.
It gave him hope it restored what was broken.
If we are to explain why we are here, in this place, if we are to ask what this ceremony means, it is the same message. For Joseph the message was He will save His people, for us it is He has saved us from our sin.
For Christ is the greatest message from God, as God comes to us, to tell us He loves us, and because of that, we are saved by Him.
Saved from our sin, our guilt, and shame, and delivered into God’s presence, saved and healed in this life, saved to see relationships restored and healed. Including our most important relationship, our relationship with God.
God coming, and making everything right, everything righteous, as Jesus goes from a wooden manger to a wooden cross. A new life which would bring life for the rest of us.
This is why this ceremony, and the one at 1115, and the one tomorrow are worth being at, this is what these ceremonies mean….for the gift is beyond all comprehension. It is a gift of everlasting peace, and joy, and the glory of God. It is knowing where we belong, and who we are, and freedom from all that is not good and holy.
Let us worship and praise Him with angels and archangels, shepherds and even wise men. AMEN!
Prepare! Clear the Way for Jesus!
† IHS †
My friends, my desire for us for this Advent Season is this: that from us is cleared away everything that divides us from God. From knowing His Love, from adoring Him. That is what God’s grace and mercy does, leaving us in His peace.
Preparing for Christmas Shopping – Rent a pastor!
It’s time for a Pastor Parker Parable, Advent edition. As we prepare for the Christmas holidays, for the party’s, and as we buy gifts for people we love, I have an idea that might provide some insight into how the gospel works, using the idea of surviving the shopping, and the incredible crowds. Here it is:
For a small donation to the elder’s benevolence fund, I will go shopping with you.
Let me explain how this is of a benefit. I need four volunteers…. One lady and let’s say Dane and Bob and Chuck. Did I say volunteers? Well – you’re here, so you volunteered. You three stand here, and pretend you are talking about football, or guns or even politics, and completely oblivious to what’s going on around you… Oh you are in the middle of a busy store…say Sears or Walmart
Now, over here we have Debbie, tired and weary of trying to find Tom just the right present. She sees it over there, on the other side of the three guys talking, and there is no way to get through them. You are out of luck.
But with the Pastor Shopping Assistant, this is problem is no problem at all. There is an advantage to having a 6’2” pastor dressed in black with his collar. You point out where you want to go in the store and I walk there, with you following behind. I navigate through the three men, who aren’t sure they are moving because of the collar, because I am big, or because I look mean and ready to send them to hades, or to the woman’s lingerie section. But move they do…. And you get what you desired.
This is how a pastor can benefit you in your shopping, and the same benefit you get from time in God’s word, whether in a sermon, or Bible Study or personal time reading God’s word! It’s the same thing we see as John preaches to the people of God and baptizes them as a sign of their repentance.
So the parable is this; pastoral assistance prepares for the appearance of Jesus the Christ! The way is clear, there is a path to the goal
Getting through that which would separate you from Christ
In our lives, there is much to be cleared out, much that slows us down, junks that stops us from living life in the peace God has given us. It’s the stuff that in Peter’s reading will burn up in the end.
Very few of us are the John the Baptist types, who live off the most basic of things.
I mean, how many of us are willing to take cast-offs to wear, for that’s what he wore for clothes. Or to eat whatever we came across, as we lived out in the field? We probably can’t find that much raw honey, but there is a good source of protein out there! His life was pretty well prepared. The way for him has few obstacles…
John preached the message about clearing the crap that gets in the way of our relationship with God. About clearing the way, making ready the path. He’s not talking about re-tarring the driveway at church, but getting rid of things like bitterness, resentment, anxiety, fears, and sin. He talked getting rid of our idea that we are right, and God just doesn’t know what life today is like.
We do that, when we don’t repent of sin, or when we allow others to think their sin isn’t a major one. We do it when we make personal comfort our goal, rather than knowing we find our comfort in Christ. We do it when we criticize others and gossip about them, rather than pray for their soul. We do it, when we don’t help those in need, or when our help is more to soothe our consciousness, rather than actually help them. This is the sin and unrighteousness that we hang on to, we protect, and we are don’t want to give up. Though that makes very little sense.
All these things need to be cleared away. Anxiety, fear, sin takes a straight road and turns into the spiritual version of Malibu Canyon road or trying to get one of the Black Friday super-specials. On our own we stand a better chance of winning three consecutive state lotteries, than in being prepared for Jesus’ second coming.
We need to hear the word of God, we need to hear the John the Baptist, and be cleansed of our sins, of our idols, of the crap that blocks our way to Jesus. We need to see His promises, we need to have the comfort He has promised, we need to know we are loved.
But there is so much that blocks us from Jesus, so much sin, so much anxiety, just so much!
How will we get it done in time?
Or will we give up and cling to the very things that poison our lives? The things that stop us from being close to Jesus?
This is the stuff we need to get through, but it is so hard!
Is He there?
That’s where the word of God and the sacraments come into play. Where a sermon or Bible Study that we are part of reveals Christ’s presence. When we hear the gospel crushes that which stops us from our time with God. Where it clears away the things that would block our access to God. That’s how God’s word works, that is how the Holy Spirit uses it…to ready us for Jesus’s coming
Why else would people treasure it enough to wander out to the desert to hear him? Why would they listen, what moved their hearts so much they admitted their sin?, Why would they run into the water, demonstrating that the Holy Spirit was at work in their lives, bringing them to repentance?
They gave up the game of being self-righteous, about pointing out the sins of others. They acknowledged they needed God’s presence, and their lives were cluttered and blocked. The crud washed away as promised, for and the word of God broke through, much as the 6’2’ 315 pound pastor can break through a crowd in a mall at Christmastime.
I want you to think about the ways Christ’s birth is declared in scripture. A people living in utter darkness have seen a great life. A time of healing a time of death being shattered by life, A day of the greatest rejoicing.
If that was true at Christ’s first coming to us, how much more will it be when He returns?
Hear again how Peter said in ( 2 Peter 3:8-14)
We are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.
14 And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight.
It is the same concept, know that your life, your vitality is found in Jesus. That His word reveals all that you need to see that the way is prepared, it has been planned, and for us, the way made sure at the cross, when Jesus died. It is the blessing of having the gift of the Holy Spirit, given to us in our baptism. It is the blessing of having God’s word tell us of this, over and over again.
For the Spirit grants us repentance, and brings us comfort, and testifies to the promise of the death, burial, resurrection, ascension and return of Christ.
We need to know we have access to God the Father, that there is nothing that blocks us, no amount of crud, nor a temple curtain. We’ve been invited to His feast, and He’s made sure we can know we are welcome.
Knowing that, we can have the peaceful, pure and blameless lives Peter encourages us to live in, for we dwell in Christ, He has claimed us, and He will get us home.
Devotional THought of the Day:
Now while he was at table in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ 12 When he heard this he replied, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. 13 Go and learn the meaning of the words: Mercy is what pleases me, not sacrifice. And indeed I came to call not the upright, but sinners.’ Matthew 9:10-13 (NJB) 10
869 Those… who see adversaries where there are only brothers, deny with their works the Christianity they profess. (1)
I didn’t want to write this post, but as I see those who trust in Christ respond with what appears to be hatred and a desire for revenge, I can’t be quiet on this one. Not so close to Christmas, Not in view of how God treated those we would consider His enemies, His adversaries.
Don’t we realize that when we react to people, we either testify of God’s love for them, or we deny it? That when we wish evil, or retribution, or pain upon others, when we pray that their business goes down in flames, that they know misfortune, we aren’t loving them the way God loves them, the way He loves us? Don’t we realize the power and the need of the old Lutheran prayer, Lord, turn the hearts of our enemies and adversaries toward You? Don’t we realize the truth of St Josemaria’s comment – that we deny what we profess, when we see these people Christ died for as adversaries, as opposed to those who need to be freed, and for God’s glory to shatter their darkness?
What will it take for us to turn the other cheek, to react the way Stephen did, the way Jesus did? When will we desire that they come to the transformation that God desires for them, that they would realize He would cleanse them of their sin – just as we count on Him to do for us?
Yes, a neighbor wrote a letter to someone complaining about Santa Claus (secular Christmas) and a ton of lights. Yeah, a guy gut suspdended from making money on television, yeah, someone didn’t like how agressive we were quote the Bible, or some religious book. That is no reason to wish them evil, to curse them or raise crusades against them.
Instead, it’s a reason to love them, a reason to pray for them, a reason to be patient with them, and reach out to them. Knowing that God has done the same for us.
We can stop the mad reactions against us… simply by loving them with Christ’s love.
Lord have mercy, and help us to desire what you desires for these our “adversaries”
Whether it is our response ot
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3556-3558). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 Remind the people to respect the government and be law-abiding, always ready to lend a helping hand 2 No insults, no fights. God’s people should be bighearted and courteous. 3 It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back. 4 But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, 5 he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. 6 Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. 7 God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come—an eternity of life! 8 You can count on this. I want you to put your foot down. Take a firm stand on these matters so that those who have put their trust in God will concentrate on the essentials that are good for everyone. Titus 3:1-8 (MSG)
16 If a hostile witness stands to accuse someone of a wrong, 17 then both parties involved in the quarrel must stand in the Presence of GOD before the priests and judges who are in office at that time. Deuteronomy 19:16-17 (MSG)
758 You say that he is full of defects! Very well… but, apart from the fact that people who are perfect are found only in Heaven, you too have defects, yet others put up with you and, what is more, appreciate you. That is because they love you with the love Jesus Christ had for his own, and they had a fair number of shortcomings. Learn from this!
Yesterday my twitter and facebook accounts were flowing with criticism of three world leaders for taking a picture of themselves ( a “selfie”) at the celebration of Nelson Mandela’s life. They were smiling, but the atmosphere of the celebration was a joyous one. How “shameful!”, how “horrible”, “How disrespectful”. were the cries. To be honest, the two prime ministers, both of very reserved countries, were not criticised as much as President Obama was. I wonder, if he had said no, and insulted the Danish lady who asked, how the press and the cybersphere would have handled it?
I challenged a few of the more virulent attacks, wondering where their compassion and understanding went, when the rush to judgment occured. I asked a few questions,
1. When exactly in the celebration was the picture taken?
2. Who asked for the picture?
3. Did you know this wasn’t the funeral, but a public celebration and testimony of this remarkable man’s work?
I’ve learned to ask these questions, because of my own experience rushing to judgment, and falling on my face as I realized I didn’t know the entire story. I am not immune to such rushes to judgment, yet I can stop myself a little more often. Those I asked – came back defensively, as if there was no valid reason to question their public questioning and condemnation of this action. The irony is slightly amusing, but far more, it grieves me. Especially among those who know God, who understand His mercy, who know His commandments to love, to build up each other,these comments were made, and so I grieve.
I am afraid we’ve lost our way, that we’ve become so polarized in our comfort, that we don’t lift up leaders, that we don’t remember that they, like us, are human. We don’t take on the big issues, but we look for what we perceive to be charachter flaws, signs of betrayal, and we latch onto those things. What kind of example are we setting, what kind of love are we showing people that God has for them? If theyknow the scriptures, how could they see us as obedient to God, as treasuring the kind of life that He commissioned us to live?
If we claim to live in GOd’s presence, if we claim to know the Holy Spirit dwells in us, how can we continue to be so ready to believe and pass on every criticism about someone, whether we know the details or not. How will this behavior reflect on the God who appointed us as His ambassadors? Will this pattern of behavior, far more self centered than “selfies”, become part of our church relationships? Our family life?
At what point will we lay down our idolatry, our self appointed judgeships, and will we pray for our leaders? When will we look to encourage them and respect them rather than tear them down?
Will will confess these sins, and hear those incredible words – your sins are forgiven you – go and sin no more!
For God is faithful – and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3150-3154). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- A Real God Addressing Real Brokenness through and in us = Real Church (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Dealing with the Resentment That Hinders us…. A Lesson from Mandela (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Advent Devotion: Convenient, Comfortable Christianity? Hmmm… (justifiedandsinner.com)
Devotional Thought of the Day:
8 Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. 9 Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it. 10 For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. 11 Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. 12 The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.”1 Peter 3:8-12 (NLT)
738 Those who zealously keep a “list of grudges” show themselves to be very narrow-minded souls! Such poor wretches are impossible to live with. True charity neither keeps account of the necessary services it renders all the time, nor takes note of the effronteries it has to put up with. Omnia suffert—it endures all things.(1)
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” (2)
A few movies, the one that comes to mind first is Invictus, Morgan Freeman portraying Nelson Mandela using sports – something other than politics, to unite a people too long divided.
Assuming the movies and the books are correct, the most remarkable thing he did was not to survive nearly 3 decades brutally imprisoned, or becoming the first black president of South Africa. What is amazing to me is that he did it without (apparently) giving voice to the resentment that could have built up over those years. He didn’t take action and get revenge, something that he could have done, with the authority he wielded. What is amazing to me is that healing that happened to Mandela’s soul, healing that enabled him to lead in a way that din’t bring a pendulum swing to the nations politics, but rather seems to have ushered in a journey towards justice and making things right.
It would seem to me, that this freedom from the burden of resentment, of a thirst not for revenge but for justice, is what makes this man remarkable. It’s not something we do easily as humans, for our desire to hold onto our hurts and pain from being betrayed runs strong. Think of movies – how many conquer evil by force as opposed to by allowing themselves to be martyred? Think of the rush of… joy(?) we get when evil gets its due punishment, or our cries for justice for us, without thoguht of what it might cost others. Somehow, the power that Mandela received was not used for evil, for revenge and satisfying a demand for retrinution.
Personally, I think this is due to his faith, which seems to have grown during his imprisonment. The model of Christ who didn’t have to put up with the constant questioning of his work, the beatings, the crucifixion. The man who brutalized his followers would become a leader among those followers. His followers would face torture and death with the same kind of instinctive love, as they asked God not to hold sin against those who tormentented them.
This blog isn’t about praising those martyrs, or even Mandela.
It’s an invitation to know the freedom that they knew. To get rif of the resentment you’ve build up over the years, to rid yourself of the thirst for revenge. Realeased from that…evil, binding, crap, to find joy, to find joy even in serving those who previously treated us in an evil way. That is healing. That is what St. Josemaria, another man hated and treated evilly by both those who oppose Christ and those who claim to follow him, is talking.
I invite you to share in it… I invite you to an altar where it is made real. As Christ would feed you His Body and Blood, given as promised to you, in order to prove that sin, all sin, is forgiven.
SO drop it there… your sin, the sin committed against you… and rise to know a peace that goes beyond anything you could ever expect, that you could ever explain. Know Christ is with you, and all else… can be forgotten.
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3072-3076). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Nelson Mandela – quote taken from: http://pastors.com/20-quotes-from-nelson-mandela-a-leader-who-truly-changed-the-world/
- On Mandela : Invictus (purelybooks.blogspot.com)
- Resentments & Forgiveness (pattypooh67.wordpress.com)
- Can a Christian Leader let his people fail? He must! (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Will God hear even me today, in this mood I am in? (justifiedandsinner.com)
- The Purpose of Theology (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Is it insane to keep doing/teaching/preaching the same thing over and over, and expecting… (justifiedandsinner.com)
We all have them – the people that drive us bonkers, or cause anxiety in our lives, or simply rob us of Christ’s peace.
It may be the politician in the town who wants to restrict what you can do in your own backyard, or the policies of state and federal folk that endanger your livelihood, or even want to encourage immorality (as if it needed it)
Our enemies may be a neighbor or a relative, or one we counted as a friend. It might be even someone in your church body, or even closer, a member of your congregation. Someone who you aren’t sure whether it was intentional or not, but someone who betrayed you, or hurt you, the pain of which makes you want to cry out for revenge.
Been their done, that, bear the scars, or at least I think I do.
The writers of the scripture, especially David and the other psalmists knew pain well, they were threatened. They knew enemies and adversaries well – not just the kind we deal with in America today – but those who would kill the body as well as try to kill the soul. Their answer to such people was simple – turn them over to God – let Him deal out justice.
Such is Psalm 140, where the psalmist cries for the LORD (All capitals means it is His name – not His title) to rescue Him from them – to keep him from the hands of the wicked. He calls out for justice for those who are wicked – but if you look at it – that which is called out for is that they don’t succeed in their desires, that they plans are foiled, but for what purpose?
Consider Ezekiel’s take on the wicked (by definition – our enemies and adversaries are… aren’t they?)
3:18 If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. Ezekiel 3:18 (ESV)
23 Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? Ezekiel 18:22-23 (ESV)
If God puts blocks in the way of their schemes, their actions, if He, as promised saves us from the snares of the evil one ( and his minions) then isn’t it possible, even probable, knowing the heart of God, that in their frustration they might determine that they plans for evil, God will redeem and use for good? If they grasp that, then they too will be granted repentance, even as we were. They they will come ot know God’s peace?
In praying that God rescue us, could that rescue be accomplished by making these people His children? To trust in God for this – yeah – that’s a level of faith we need to cry out that in His mercy – we find ourselves able to trust in Him.
Lord, may we learn to pray, as our forefathers did, that You turn the hearts of our enemies and adversaries toward you…
And then may we, having seen your mercy.. your heart, your love.. rejoice.
“That friend of ours with no false humility used to say, ‘I haven’t need to learn how to forgive, because He taught me how to love.” (Escriva)
We know we need to forgive people- yet some people are so difficult to forgive….we struggle to find the inner strength to overlook our pain, to ignore that inner call to get revenge, or to overcome the fear that we will again find ourselves betrayed, broken and in pain…..
Let’s face it -we don’t have such strength – and while we can learn of the need to forgive – and the benefit to both the one forgiven, and the one who forgives, there are still those times… sigh…where we cannot.
It is then we look to Christ- and perhaps with some guilt and shame – hear His words, “forgive our sins, as we forgive those…” and we wonder if we will ever be saved.
The secret sn’t to find the fortitude – it’s to be taught to love. The love of Christ, looking down on us, saying “Father forgive them…” If you find you can love them – you will forgive them….you will look for ways to heal the broken relationship, to find a way to reconcile – you will be the one desiring to take the first step -whether you are the one needing to forgive, or be forgiven.
And how are we taught to love… by looking to, by adoring, by seeing Christ with you…..
So even as you have trusted in God to forgive you, let Him truly teach you that is it because of love…that He sent Jesus..
Go in His peace…to love..today.