“In you O Lord I take refuge; let me never be put to shame…. Be to me a rock of refuge… For you, O Lord, are my hope
Some of my favorite Scripture passages are in the Psalms. Psalm 23, 46, 71, 100, 121, are just some of my favorites. The Psalms are often described as the hymnal and prayer book of the people of God. I’ve also heard the Psalms described as containing all the emotions and responses that any person can have, including toward God. So we see in the Psalm words of repentance, faith, doubts, confusion, frustrations, anger, even unbelief.
But here’s the thing: if we bring all these thoughts and emotions to God, then we are bringing them to the right place. Because God is certainly big enough to hear all our problems and complaints, and yet still love and guide and bless us.
I like comparing our relationship to God to a young child and her/his parents. Just as a young child can cry and run away from a parent, so can we do the same with God. Just as a parent loves and will care for and protect and discipline their child, so does God with each and every one of us.
Sometimes I hear people complain about a passage of Scripture which includes anger, conflict, even violence between God and people. And certainly all of this is included in the Psalms.
But now compare this to a good relationship, such as between a loving and caring parent and their child.. There still will be times of anger and conflict. Yet always there is love and trust in one another. If a person disobeys good authority, discipline and direction will be given. If my child or grandchild runs toward a busy street, or reaches to touch a hot stove, I will yell and stop that child from hurting him/herself. Or if someone or something tries to harm my family, I will use whatever means necessary to protect them. Yet always I will try to do so with love and care for all people involved. How much more so is God toward all of His creation!
So as we read the Scriptures, including the Psalms, let us always remember the over-arching love and grace of God, as most evident in God’s Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. We may not understand every action of God, as described in Scripture. But then, a young child doesn’t understand every action of a parent. In the end, all we need to know is that God is almighty, and the God of love, who reaches out to each and every one of us with His grace and mercy.
In the Scripture readings for this upcoming Sunday, we read a portion of the story of Jonah, and a story that Jesus tells about God's Kingdom. And in so many of the Scriptures, we are reading the stories of God and His people.
One of the joys of being a pastor is to be able to sit down with people and hear their stories of faith, of life in a congregation, and the challenges and joys they experience as people of God.
I am trying to get around to all of you at Resurrection, to sit down with you and at least have a brief one on one conversation. I want to get to know you. I want to be a pastor to you. And one of the important things I want to hear is your story, the story of how God has been at work in you, the story of your faith and the ups and downs and struggles you have experienced. But also the joys and the ways that God has made Himself known to you. How He has blessed you with His love and grace and mercy.
And in your stories, I hear God at work! I am renewed in faith. I am encouraged and uplifted by being able to hear you share with me the good news of God! That is what the community of faith is all about: hearing from one another, loving one another, encouraging one another, and finding joy in our relationship as people whom God so dearly loves.
I so look forward to sitting down with each of you. Send me an email, text, or call me, and let's plan a time and place where we can share our stories of faith!
Peter asked this question of Jesus, and ofthen Petere offfered an answer that he thought would be generous. But Jesus goes way beyond what Peter, or most any of us, would imagine. In other words, God’s ideas of forgiveness matches His love and grace.
But now what about the really evil and wicked things that people have done to others? Does God want us to forgive them also?
Today our nation is remembering the horrific events of 9/11/01. Most of us remember where we were and what we were doing when we first heard about the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. And we heard about the number of people involved, and the destruction it caused.
Some time ago I read an article about Lutheran chaplains in Germany right after World War II, who met with and prayed with Nazi soldiers who had been involved in the murdering of Jewish people in the concentration camps.
And no doubt you can add to these examples of those who have committed heinous crimes that make us sick just thinking about them.
So what does God think of all this? And what does He want us to do about it?
First of all, God grieves with all who grieve. And He certainly wants us to prevent evil from happening. But when it does happen, God has the way to respond that brings healing and renewal. And it begins with forgiveness! Coming from the same forgiveness that God in Christ brought to all the world when He suffered, died and rose again and brought forgiveness of all sins, and gift of salvation to all the world.
I know: it is not easy to forgive. And I am sure I cannot imagine what some people have experienced when asked to forgive. So we need patience with one another. And prayer. And certainty that God grieves with us, and is patient with all of us. Most of all, know that God continues to be with us, and to work the strength and will to love and forgive, as He has for all the world!
Sin, conflict, arguments, fights, hurts, pain.
Do those words sound famiiliar? In your marriage...family...at work...in politics... and nation and world...at church?!
May I answer here for myself? Because I'll say "Yes" to all of them! For I certainly see all these problems, in every relationship that I have.
In this Sunday's Gospel reading, Jesus helps us deal with these conflicts. As Jesus begins in the reading, "If another member of the church sins against you..." (Matthew 18:15) So at least here in this account, Jesus is concerned with the relationship we have with others in the church.
No doubt we'd all be better off if we focused our attention on what's wrong IN the church, more than OUTSIDE the church. For we certainly have enough problems with sin among us.
And the answer the Lord gives to our conflicts inside the church (and really with every relationship) is in repentance and faith. For as we trust in our Savior, we discover the forgiveness of all sins, and the love and grace that God in Christ extends to ALL people. And we can share these blessings from God with all, even those who have hurt us, or whom we have hurt.
May you and I find the source of healing for every relationship in the God who loves and forgives each of us, and gives us the ability to forgive and love others.
Here the apostle Paul gives a powerful description of what Christian love looks like, including the words that follow, verses 9 – 21. And we could spend hours looking at each of these verses (maybe a good idea for a Bible study here at Resurrection?!)
And here’s another idea: how about if we try to live these words of Romans 12:9 – 21. Go ahead and read them a few times. And take note of the repeated use of the word “live”. So let us “live” these words….doing what is good, rejoicing, being patient, persevering in prayer, love one another…
In the short time I’ve been with you at Resurrection, I’ve seen how you are striving for this love.
Your Mission, Vision and Values, says it well:
Why do we exist? To celebrate God’s love, to grow our love for Jesus and share that love.
Becoming a community where God’s love and our lives connect.
Embrace each being as they are
Cultivate joyful culture
Give voice to the voiceless
Empower one another in our unique gifts
Nurture Earth and human family.
And I commend you for keeping this before you as a congregation. Of course, there is much more to do. That’s why we have a mission, vision and values, and goals and strategies. Because there is always areas for improvement.
I look forward to walking with you in the coming months, as we all seek to love God and one another. And here is the Good News for each and every one of us: We are NOT doing this to gain anything from God. Rather, we live a life of love, BECAUSE God has first loved us. Because we have all the grace and love of God in Jesus. And may we all be confident that God and His love will always be with us!
In Jesus’ name,
“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.” (1 John 3:1)
Dear fellow dearly loved Children of God!
Yes, I can describe all of you with that opening greeting, even before having met most of you.
Why? Because I know that ALL of you are dearly loved by God. And so now we can love one another. As we read in the next chapter of 1 John, “We love, because He first loved us.”
(1 John 4:19)
God indeed loves all of us! The evidence of God’s love is in the person and work of His Son, Jesus Christ. And this love brings us together here at Resurrection Lutheran Church. For we know the love of God that can now be shared with one another, with our neighbors and with all the world. And I have already heard and seen that love in your Council and those I have met so far.
I look forward to getting to know all of you, as we walk together through this time of change and transition. We all have a lot of questions, and unknowns. We will face them together. And God will be with us! And in all that is ahead of us, this we can know for sure: God loves us. And He gives us the grace and ability to love one another!
In the name of Jesus,