Tag Archives: sin

Forgiveness

redemption-is-reconnection-with-godEastertide
May 11, 2016

Scripture Reading: Psalm 104:24-35b

May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
   may the Lord rejoice in his works—
who looks on the earth and it trembles,
   who touches the mountains and they smoke.
I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
   I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
May my meditation be pleasing to him,
   for I rejoice in the Lord.
Let sinners be consumed from the earth,
   and let the wicked be no more.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Praise the Lord! –Psalm 104:24-35

It struck me as I read our scripture for today that if we apply Paul’s view of sin, this Psalm is praying for eradicating all peoples on the earth: since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; (Romans 3:23) where sin is defined as missing the mark or making a mistake perhaps impacting others. * The Hebrew word translated in this Psalm as sinner refers to one who offends. ** I assume that may mean primarily God, but it could imply that when we offend others we offend God also. I am probably out of my league here not being either a scholar in Hebrew or Greek.

In any case, this is not a prayer one should pray lightly. I must admit though that I do like the visceral nature of the prayers in the Psalms. They were written by real people who had real struggles in life with one another and with God. We must all deal with the outcomes of every one of our missing the mark, making a mistake.

The Hebrew people understood the need for forgiveness. They routinely presenting offerings to be sacrificed at the tabernacle in the wilderness and later at the temples. We who call ourselves Christian value highly the role of forgiveness in the life of Jesus and the subsequent journey he set forth for us. It is in fact because we all miss the mark and make mistakes that we are called to love one another and be redeemed together as we fulfill God’s call.

Prayer: Lord forgive us when we individually and collectively miss the mark and strengthen our ability to be your body in this world today through such redemptive love. Amen.

 

*Strong’s Concordance http://biblehub.com/greek/264.htm
**Strong’s Concordance http://biblehub.com/hebrew/2400.htm

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Enabled Love

Love is not proudEpiphany
January 28, 2016

Scripture Reading: I Corinthians 13:1-13

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things –I Corinthians 13:1-7

There have been a lot of noisy gongs sounding recently, and clanging cymbals, but I have not noted them being sounded in the name of love. When a people, called to love, places what they believe above their love for others, what they believe becomes idolatry. That is a hard concept for all of us.

I hear some say we should love the sinner but not the sin. An impossible task, I think. The old hymn states it well: God welcomes us just as we are. If there is any changes need, that is between the person and God. We cannot hate the sin in another, if we also practice Jesus’ instruction not to judge. We are called to love and, I think, God uses our love mixed with a whole lot more of God’s love to work through anything that might be separating me or others from God. We really are not even capable of seeing our own sins much less anyone else’s.

Thus God gives us the gifts of patience, kindness, humility, unselfishness, and peaceful countenance.

Prayer: Grant me the full measure of your love and let it pour forth through me to all I meet along the way. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Judgement and Forgiveness

taking-off-your-judges-robe1Epiphany
January 13, 2016

Scripture Reading: Psalm 36:5-10

Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
   your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
   your judgements are like the great deep;
   you save humans and animals alike, O Lord. –Psalm 36:5-6

Isn’t it interesting that the phrase from the scripture above: your judgements are like the great deep; is followed immediately by you save humans and animals alike, O Lord. This implies that the purpose of judgement is the opportunity to save. It seems to me we humans are more apt to apply judgement to condemn.

Many countries around the world work really hard at turning around those who have been convicted of crimes, reclaiming their worth for society at large. There goal is much more than the restorative justice for which many of us long in the USA.

I recently watched the news report of a man released from prison, who had been exonerated after serving 30 years on death row for a crime he did not comment. Middle-aged now, he learned about GPS devices in cars as he rode away from the prison when a woman’s voice came from the dashboard giving directions. I couldn’t help wondering why we would hold people in prison with no concept of what was going on about them in the world to which many of them should return someday.

In Matthew 25 Jesus is pretty clear that he will judge us by the good we do. He forgives us when we stray from our relationship with God and reclaims us for our worth to his Kingdom. He sets an example we all need to follow.

Prayer: God of Grace we thank you for your forgiveness and your guidance. Give us the courage to follow your example in our attempt to restore those who have committed crimes. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Nurturing Love

nurture-465x310Living in the Spirit
November 20, 2015

Scripture Reading: Revelation 1:4b-8

Look! He is coming with the clouds;
   every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him;
   and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.
So it is to be. Amen.  

‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. –Revelation 1:7-8

God is the god of all from the beginning of time, through now, and forevermore. God is the god of even those who pierced him. The Lord loved them too and in all honesty that includes you and me. While we did not stand at the foot of a cross and jab a spear into Jesus’ side, we pierce him every with small prickly jabs resulting from defining who we are to love by our perceptions of who they are and what they do.

If the definition of sin is being separated from God, then being present to God in all aspects of our lives must be our primary goal. When we are present and open to God’s compassion, we will begin to reflect it back onto everyone we encounter. No one said it was easy to let go of our prejudices. It is harder even still to let go of real hurt and real pain inflicted by others in our lives, but our salvation is in God and by God’s grace through Jesus Christ, we can release all that holds us back from fulfilling our mission as part of the Body of Christ on this earth at this time.

For his anger is but for a moment;
   his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night,
   but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:5)

Prayer: God of Grace, touch the hearts of all your people with your compassion so that we me be joined together as one in our love. Let your love stream down like rain on a parched desert filling the encrusted crevices of hate and destruction, anger and fear, recreating us into fertile soil nurturing your love to grow so strong that it crowds out the weeds of evil. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Restore my Soul

livinginlove2Living in the Spirit
October 23, 2015

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 7:23-28

Furthermore, the former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues for ever. Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. –Hebrews 7:23-25

Jesus Christ lives to make intercession for us is what the scripture above says, if we approach God through him. Here salvation appears to be a process of continuing relationship with God through Jesus Christ who is ready and willing to save us each time we get ourselves or find ourselves in situations from which we need salvation. Salvation in not just something we check off our bucket list.

I personally probably get into more trouble regarding living in synch with God when I try to ferret out exactly what God needs to do regarding my situation and hand Jesus my laundry list for the work needed like giving a handyman his assignments for the day. Rather presumptuous of me wouldn’t you say? Jesus is not a handyman sent to clean up after us. It seems to me in the life of Jesus Christ while here on earth, he was most often a teacher helping us learn from our experiences, enabling us to see alternatives to the actions that got us in a mess in the first place, and finally restoring our souls to wholeness so we can continue fruitfully in his service.

The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. (Psalm 145:8) There is nothing we can say or do that will come as a surprise to God. Being able to come to God through Jesus Christ and lay our deepest concerns before him will only result in his confident assurance that he is with us no matter what. We are the ones who at times choose to stray.

Prayer: God of Grace, forgive me when I turn away and seek solutions to life’s challenges without recognizing that you are beside me all the time. Tutor me, enable me, restore my soul so that I can serve you more nearly. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Using God’s Gifts

Abuse-of-PowerLiving in the Spirit
July 21, 2015

Scripture Reading: 2 Samuel 11:1-15

Then David said to Uriah, ‘Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.’ So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day. On the next day, David invited him to eat and drink in his presence and made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.

 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, ‘Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.’ –2 Samuel 11:12-15

David did everything he could to make Uriah think the child Bathsheba carried was Uriah’s. When none of that worked he arranged for Uriah to be killed in battle. It doesn’t get much more sordid than that. I have always thought it odd this story compared to the stories of David’s loyalty to Saul even in the height of war. Strange ethics, he would cause someone to be killed to avoid what: Being found out as an adulterer or saving Bathsheba from being treated as an adulterer even though he had had several wives himself and concubines. He went out of his way not to kill Saul but saw nothing wrong with having Uriah killed.

We have seen it happen many times when people who have proved to be good, even great, leaders suffered from, even damaged their leadership, by moral failures. How does that apply to our lives? My first thought is we should read the story of the woman caught in adultery where Jesus instructed anyone who was without sin to throw the first stone. We all have sinned. Spiritual development is a journey.

My second thought is when God gifts us with skills as he did David, we need to be diligent in using them for God’s purposes and not fall into the trap of seeking personal gain through their use.

Prayer: God who Gifts us with our very lives, guide us in all that we do so our work is devoted to the development of your Kingdom. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Righteous Anger

TestsEastertide
April 15, 2015

Scripture Reading: Psalm 4

When you are disturbed, do not sin;
   ponder it on your beds, and be silent.
          Selah
Offer right sacrifices,
   and put your trust in the Lord. –Psalm 4:4-5

Apparently the Bible translators differed in their understanding of the word that appears in this scripture as “disturbed” because they footnote it as “Or are angry.” I am glad they include that footnote, because each word carries a different connotation. There is a righteous anger that arises when dealing with issues of justice. When we are thusly angry, the steadying hand of God is required to guide our actions in appropriate directions. When we are disturbed, we tend to let the issue ferment and when we turn away from God at such times, our actions are often not appropriate. It is a paradox but it is true, we are most often more successful with overturning injustice when we are at perfect peace with our Lord, when we seek righteousness and not self-righteousness, and when we can commit to seek justice for ourselves without fear or stand without fear with those who are suffering injustice. When we sin in response to our quest for justice we, too, become oppressors.

I served as a monitor at a local grade school yesterday as they administered the mandatory testing to measure what the children had accomplished during the year. I do not know how I feel about these tests. I do know that they are more a measure of what we citizens, who are providing public education, have accomplished than about anything the children have done. I watched a sensitive, caring and obviously liked teacher administer the test. I watched a well-disciplined group of students take the test siting at a mishmash of desks of varying sizes and colors, beat up and scared by too many years of use. I watch a young girl squirm at her desks as she finished before everyone else not wanting to be the first to close her book. She did not close it until the boy setting in front of her confidently tucked his test in the book, closed it, and starting reading the book the students had brought to busy themselves until all their classmates had finished. The girl then did the same. Are we still sending messages to girls, I wondered, that they are not supposed to be as smart as boys? This school does not have a program for students that excel. I watched a boy yawn and stretch and nod off several times. I did not ever see him turn a page. He did pencil in a few of the dots on the answer sheet. He requires the special attention that one teacher without an assistant cannot provide in a classroom with 18 children. We citizens demand tests but do not invest in the resources needed that their results dictate. I hope I am angry enough to make a difference for these children. I pray that God will grant me the serenity to do the things I can.

Prayer:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.* Amen.

*Verse 1 of the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr. See at http://www.beliefnet.com/Prayers/Protestant/Addiction/Serenity-Prayer.aspx#
All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Forgive or Retain?

The MissionEastertide
April 11 2015

Scripture Reading: John 20:19-31

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’ –John 20:19-23

What does Jesus mean by retaining the sins of any? First, I think it is important that we recognize that in the book of John “sin” is a theological failing, not a moral or behavioral transgression.* More importantly we must look at our role model, Jesus Christ, and note that in his walk on earth, I do not recall, an instance when he did not forgive. He even implored God to forgive those responsible for his death on the cross.

What results from the retention of sin within a community? Most often I would say, the answer to that question is broken relationships, discord, dysfunction, and lack of progress toward the community’s purpose. Could Jesus have been giving his followers a warning? He had become very well acquainted with humans being human. He knew from experience that evil came raise its ugly head and totally disrupt positive forward movement by the smallest of slights or disagreements. Could he be saying: Let it go? Retaining anyone’s sins, including our own after being forgiven, has no redeeming value.

The Mission* is my favorite all time movie. It is the story of the church being established in South America at the same time natives were being captured and sold into slavery. One of the slave traders has an encounter with one of the missionary priests who grants the slave trader forgiveness for his horrendous sins and instructs him to climb a very steep mountain with all his armor tied in a bag on his back. The slave trader makes it to the top totally exhausted and totally defenseless. The first person he encounters is a native youth with an axe in his hand. There is a moment in the movie where the slave trader clearly understands his plight when the youth briskly swings the axe down and cuts the rope holding the bag, which falls down the mountainside metal clanging against metal. His sins had been forgiven and now he knew it, too.

There is always a period of time after a disconnection or “sin”, even when fault is clear, which by the way is rare for fault is almost always shared, that wounds need to heal on all sides, but healing is faster when we can let the situation go and in many instances we can only do that by asking God to abide with us in the healing process.

Prayer: Lord, give us the strength to let go of the retention of sin, heal all involved and abide with us as we heal. Amen.

*The New Interpreter’s Bible: A commentary in Twelve Volumes, Volume IX Luke and John, Abingdon Press 1995, page 847.
**For more information about The Mission see http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091530/
All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Course Corrections

Course Correction Eastertide
April 10, 2015

Scripture Reading: 1 John 1-2:2

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:2

Karl Menninger, M.D., founder of the prestigious Menninger Clinic (psychiatric) and the Menninger Foundation published his book Whatever Became of Sin? in the 1980’s but it still has relevance for us today. He suggests that unless we face our sins we will always be imprisoned by them. These are my words not his but that is the general idea. Sin is not about punishment; sin is about course correction. The power of forgiveness is infinite. Between and among people, between individuals and God, confession leads to forgiveness and forgiveness leads to wholeness.

Menninger also talks a lot about the things we carry forward from our childhoods and how they influence our adult lives. There have never been any perfect parents but even if there were, they cannot always shield their children from the impact of the world around them. I am described as a baby boomer with all its issues of kids born after the dropping of the first atomic bomb. Todays’ generation will forever be related back to the 9/11 bombing. Racism is taught more by attitudes and actions children have observed. Few parents set down and instruct children in bigotry. It is really, really hard to change from the way we have always done things. Turning away from some behaviors may feel deep inside like we are rejecting our parents or other role models of our childhood. We probably cannot pinpoint the moments in our lives when we took on the roles of men or women according to our society.

Society does change and what was once bad may become OK or even good and what was once considered OK no longer may be. God is our source of strength to change and to ride the tide of change, and grow in God’s understanding of ways to be and live. And when we have one of those Aha! moments that awaken us to something that seems engrained in our very being but is now just wrong, God is the source of our salvation and God will help us turn around and make the course correction we need to live an abundant life. Forgiveness begets freedom.

Prayer: Lord, help us to seek your guidance in all that we are and do and when you see a need for us to make a course correction help us to see it also. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Grace, Love, Compassion

Create in me a clean heartLent
March 18, 2015

Scripture Reading: Psalm 51:1-12

Have mercy on me, O God,
   according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
   blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
   and cleanse me from my sin. — Psalm 51:1-2

In many Bibles our scripture today is preceded by and introductory remark like this. To the Leader. A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.* This introduction has been there for a long time but scholars really do not know if it were with the original or not. It certainly adds to the flavor of the Psalm when it is considered in the light of the infamous story of David, King of Israel, taking the wife of one of his soldiers and then ordering the soldier to be placed clearly in harm’s way so that he would be killed. Of course David got caught. I wonder if he would have ever repented had his sins not been called out by Nathan. It is no wonder David felt dirty.

While based on David’s sin, the Psalm is really about the nature of God’s love. In these two verses, God is described as one with steadfast love, for which we might use the words unconditional love today, and abundant mercy, which we might call compassion. Later in the Psalm we read of God’s gracious love. But most importantly the Psalm talks about recovery, a return to wholeness from brokenness, we call that restorative justice.

I think I am sometimes a very strange person, but for some reason when I worked as a waitress in high school and college, one of the things I enjoyed most was clearing the table of all the dirty dishes and dropped crumbs and then resetting it with clean flatware and table linens, making it ready for the next customer. When we mess up in life, life still goes on. We must learn from our mistakes and continue the work God called us to do. We can only do that when we shed ourselves of the sin that corrodes our souls changing us and causing us to turn away from God.

Prayer: Lord, convict me of my sins of omission and commission and forgive me of them turning me around so that I might once more know your grace, your unconditional love, and your compassion. Amen.

The New Interpreter’s Bible: A commentary in Twelve Volumes, Volume IV Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1996, page 883
All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.