What did I do wrong? What should I have done differently? Sometimes these questions haunt us after the death of a loved one, or a traumatic event or illness. We can easily blame ourselves, feel shame, and guilt—feelings that are very real, but often based on an illusion of control we do not have.
I thought it was my fault when I was diagnosed with 2 kinds of breast cancer –these thoughts were not necessarily rational—maybe I didn’t eat well enough or I hung on to resentments, or I didn’t exercise enough—somehow I had done something wrong and this was my fault. And then when I got through treatment and went back to work, I had even worse survivor guilt. Other women did not make it—why did I? I started working myself to death—much more than I do now, if you can believe that! I was driven by the feeling that I had to do or be something pretty spectacular to be worthy of surviving, of being given a second chance. I felt I had to do something great for God or I would not be worthy of having survived.
Just as challenging as the physical healing, can be getting help with the blame-shame-guilt that accompanies a traumatic illnesses, or grief that we carry when someone we love does die. This is something which we may call to mind on All Saints day today. I imagine this mix of blame-shame-guilt-grief, is at least in part how the crowds felt as they gathered around and followed Jesus through Galilee. A few verses before the Beatitudes begin, we read this:
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.
The Beatitudes begin with When Jesus saw the crowds, …Then he began to speak, and taught them. These crowds were full of the sick and people with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics
Jesus and everyone in these crowds lived in such a strong culture of honor and shame. They did believe that illness was a direct result of sin and that they were being punished by God with epilepsy or demons or paralysis and other diseases because they or their parents sinned. Imagine the guilt that rendered not only individuals, but upon parents and grandparents for such debilitating life-long diseases for which there were no cures. Imagine the loneliness of widows or widowers, who not only grieved their loved ones, but who wondered why they had survived and their son or daughter, or their spouse had not?
It was not just a quiet struggle, but something society from the Roman oppressors, and their culture all agreed on, and around which they structured their communal participation. Those with illnesses sat outside the Temple gates, they kept their distance in the marketplace, they did not participate in social events. Crowds such as this one following Jesus—who were poor and outcast, who were grieving and ashamed, who were too meek to fight the system and who worked to make peace where they were—they were the bottom rung of social ladder and everyone knew it.
Whereas I had an internal struggle with self-blame and guilt and shame—they had this plus a culture that de-valued and ostracized them; they were surrounded by a society and an oppressor that would never respect or honor them. So when Jesus saw this crowd, this group of hungry, grieving, meek, disease-infected, shame-burdened, guilt-ridden, family-loving, but impoverished, salt-of-the-earth group of people at the margins, Jesus bestows on them a blessing from God that society will never give them, a status they can never earn, a respect they could never, ever imagine for themselves.
Jesus gives them God’s honor, bestowing on them, the envy of others, for they have a place in God’s realm, in God’s heart:
Blessed is not just favored, but honored
How honorable are you, who are poor in spirit, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.
How honorable are you who mourn, for you will be comforted.
How honorable are you meek, for you will inherit the earth.
‘How honorable are you who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for you will be filled.
‘How honorable are you merciful… you pure in heart…you peacemakers…you who are persecuted.
How honorable are you who blame yourselves and feel unworthy, how honorable are you who feel guilty and ashamed and always live on the bottom rung.
You are honored in God’s sight. You are enviable. You are chosen. You are loved. You are seen. You are held in the highest esteem by the God who made you.
Jesus values what society devalues. Jesus loves what we cannot love and refuse to see as worthy, even when it is we, ourselves. Jesus announces God’s honor as being true for them right now with him in the present, and also in a promised future that Jesus will fulfill for them. You are honored now and you will be comforted. You are honored now, and you will be filled.
Jesus is God’s beatitude, present with us now, and securing our promised future. Jesus is our blessing— he takes our trauma----whatever it is---with it’s blame and shame and guilt—and carries it to the cross, and he honors it there, and he says, “it is finished!”
So leave it here today-- in the candle, on the ribbon, in the prayers, at the cross. Because then Jesus always comes back with new life, and says Blessed are YOU.
How honorable are YOU. How worthy are YOU. You are free and made whole, filled with honor and respect, with mercy and love.
This is what Jesus has done for me. Dan has told probably 100 times it was not my fault I got cancer, and he would say it again today if I needed it, but I don’t anymore. God does not need you or me to be any more spectacular than the purpose for which God made us—because that is already pretty great! None of us needs to outdo God and God’s plan for our life.
So claim the beatitude of Jesus for you--for Jesus says, “I have chosen YOU to be the beatitude for the next person. To honor them when no one else has. To listen to them the way no one else has."
First John says it this way: See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.
To be a saint is to be a beatitude for others— especially those whom society devalues, and showing them God’s honor, helping to melt their guilt and their shame and their blame. How does God call you to be a beatitude to others? Some days it will be a spontaneous interaction with someone God puts in your path.
Sometimes it will be a conversation you share with someone in your circle of influence. Other times, it will be through your direct, intentional service.
Today is a day to discover opportunities for being a beatitude, a blessing, a way to give God’s honor to others in service at our Mission Fair. We not only have every Mission Team at St. Luke’s with a table in the Congregational Life Center, but we also have our community partners who rent space from us, so we can learn and build relationships! We have Time and Talent Sheets in your Stewardship packets and also extra copies in the gym with a booklet explaining the ministry of each team. You’ll get a sticker at each table you visit and Time and Talent sheets turned in with 10 stickers will to into a drawing for pizza gift cards! So, come and discover how God is calling you to serve in 2024.
For Jesus, our beatitude, honors you, child of God, freeing you into being a beatitude for others.
Message for Reformation Sunday on John 8:31-36 given on October 29, 2023 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Richardson, Texas
Many of you know that last spring my husband and I visited our daughter Leah in northern Spain, where she was teaching English on Fulbright grant. We posted beautiful pictures on Facebook. So here’s a story that never was and never will be posted on Facebook. It’s much more effective to embarrass myself in person!
Dan and I arrived safely in Madrid, and we had to make a connecting flight into Santiago de Compostela in Northwest Spain where Leah lived. We had extra suitcases so we could start bringing some of her winter clothes home. So even though we checked bags (and Iberia lost mine), we still each had a carry-on and a backpack.
I am always cold, so I was dressed in layers, and I put them all on, so I had less to carry. So in addition to my compression stockings, I had on my sweater, my rain jacket, my backpack—which was pretty heavy (lotions, potions, make-up, medicines, etc).
We get into the immigration line and it’s like everyone has taken up race-walking to get to their connecting flight or the arms of their loved one. We’re going as fast as we can through this line, but I am getting so hot with all these layers on, (I have created my own little climatron) and this heavy backpack, and I have got to get this jacket off. So, I am pushing my carry-on, holding onto my passport and immigration papers, and trying to take off my backpack, put it on my carry-on, all while hanging onto my passport, and race-walking through the immigration line. Somehow, I do manage to get my backpack off and put it on my carry-on and wrap the strap around it, and then I hear this big gasp all around me.
Which was all directed at me—because my backpack was actually heavier than my carry-on, so it didn’t roll when I put it on there, it just tipped over, but I was moving fast to keep up with the pace, so I fell over it, onto the floor. With everyone gasping and staring, Dan, who was ahead of me, turns around, to find his wife on the floor. He has this surprised, puzzled look on his face, like, “you knew how to walk when we got off the plane!”
And then he jumped into action and got me off the floor and I was really fine—just a bruised knee since I landed on the suitcase and backpack—It’s like a sports injury—rub some dirt on it and keep walking because you’re in the immigration line at the Madrid airport!
We start moving again and one of the female immigration officers monitoring the line looked at me, and I must have still looked a little rattled because she said, “tranquile, tranquile” ( be tranquil, be tranquil). Then she opened the rope and led Dan and I to the very short, special immigration line for---I don’t know who—people with tight connections and those who fall on their face. And we got through immigration with no line!
Then Dan texts Leah to let her know we got through immigration extra quick because I fell. And I said, “don’t tell her! I already have less stamina than both of you, now she’s going to think it’s going to be a bad trip because mom forgot how to walk. Besides, it’s my story to tell, and I don’t want to tell it. To anyone. Ever.”
But after we reassured her that I was fine, she said, “nice immigration hack, Mom.” Maybe she'll try it on her next trip!
So other than mortal embarrassment and a few laughs, why am I telling you this story? Because it is so hard to ask for help, even when the inevitable result is to fall flat on my face.
The truth is, I get tired of asking for help—I learned how to do it when I was sick with cancer, but I still do not like it. After so many surgeries, I can’t lift the carry-on luggage into the overhead bin, I am not supposed to lift heavy weights in order to build strength; I can’t open the pickle jar, I can’t get the Christmas decorations down from the top shelf—I pretend I can carry out the garbage ;). I need help with all of these mundane tasks and more. But I would not have fallen in that airport if I had just asked Dan to help me—which he is so willing always to do—and he would much rather do, than have me fall or be injured or harmed in any way.
I just had to ask him to hold my passport, hang on to my backpack, step aside from the line and pause a minute. We had plenty of time. But no, I had to try to do gymnastics with a backpack, a carry-on, a jacket and a passport with no upper body strength, while somebody who loves and adores me was right there, beside me.
This is how Jesus feels—we are there, race walking through life, doing every kind of contortion, carrying every burden, and juggling fifteen things, sweating and running, doing everything on our own—trying to be worthy, trying to work hard, trying to earn love or forgiveness or success, making sure we check the boxes, or we fix everybody else and their problems. And Jesus is right there next to us ready and willing to embrace us, and give us what we need, forgive us and make us whole, but we can’t be open to grace sometimes, we refuse help, we rebuff the people he has put in our lives, even the ones who love us or live with us or near us, and we insist on doing it all ourselves.
As if we put the earth on its axis and the stars in the sky.
Maybe it’s not until we are flat on our face that the truth becomes clear to us. Jesus says, “you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.”
Maybe there is no truer, freer place than flat on your face. Maybe there is no truer, freer story, than being spread eagle, like x-marks the spot, on the floor in the middle of immigration in the Madrid airport. Maybe it’s the only story to tell on Facebook.
The Franciscan Order understands “poverty” in a way that includes this face-down spiritual awareness. For them, poverty is more than a life of simplicity, restraint, and lack of material possessions. Fr. Richard Rohr says, “Poverty is when we recognize that myself—by itself—is largely powerless and ineffective.” Poverty is when I recognize that by myself, I am powerless and ineffective.
In this moment, we become open to our own Reformation—literally a re-formation—of being saved by grace—by God’s love, by Jesus’ forgiveness, by the Spirit’s presence and power—not by our doing. Then we become attached to Jesus like the branches to the vine.
This is the hallmark belief of the Reformation which we celebrate today—that God’s love and forgiveness come as a free gift of grace through faith and not by our own work and merit. Like Martin Luther himself, we too, need that moment when our striving fails us, and we experience the truth that by ourselves, without God, without grace, without help, and without other branches on the vine, we are powerless and ineffective.
We cannot make it alone—whatever “It” is for us. Whether it is to get through the day or managing our mental health, whether it is to stay clean from addiction, or to survive illness, whether it is to age well, or to be a parent in this post-Covid, still-anxious time for our kids.
But when we accept grace—that we are nothing on our own, and we are freed to ask for help—our life, our heart, our experience is transformed.
Today we celebrate that during the Red Letter Challenge so many people grew spiritually and their hearts were transformed. Some folks joined a Life Group which is concrete way to share our victories, and ask for prayer and help in our challenges. This was a great weekly spiritual practice for me after not asking for help in Madrid.
When we are embraced by grace, and surrounded with prayer and help, we go from face-down to face-up. We become powerful and effective as we encounter the hands and feet and face of Jesus in each other.
I am grateful to those who have the courage to share their Poster Board testimony today and I invite you to line up behind the baptismal font.—
As they come forward, I invite you this week to pay attention to one area of your life where you need Jesus’ love and grace. Then I invite you to identify an area where you need to ask someone or help—start asking, start practicing. To those sharing your Posterboard testimony, we do with ease and grace, with Jesus by our side—there’s no race walking and I offer you these wise words “tranquile, tranquile.”
Our theme continues to be Together in the Boat as we get ready to launch Life Groups in two weeks on Sept. 17. When Jesus and Peter briefly walked on water in the middle of big storm, the winds did not actually calm down until Jesus and Peter were back in the boat together with the other disciples. That’s how Jesus designed our life as people of faith—to do it together in the boat with him.
Today our life following Jesus gets more challenging as he starts talking with his disciples about his impending death. Peter—who just got gold stars for confessing Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, now gets called Satan for being totally wrong about what being the Messiah means. Peter was hoping for a Messiah set on overthrowing the oppression of Rome—he wanted Jesus to go for power instead compassion, authority instead of authenticity, a crown instead of the cross.
But political power and worldly authority are not Jesus’ way to usher in God’s kingdom. Maybe Peter hoped the ends would justify the means—if Jesus got the power, he could use it for good. But, for Jesus, the ends don’t justify the means—the kingdom is found in the means themselves— If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
Jesus is talking about a way of life to bring about the kingdom—not just how we order our individual lives, but how we live as his community of followers—the church! When Jesus answers Peter rebuke, he turns to face all the disciples and he is talking to them as a whole—he’s talking in the plural! The kingdom of God is both realized and lived out in relationship—that is, together in the boat with Jesus.
Too often we interpret this passage as though Jesus is just talking to us individually—but we cannot usher in the kingdom by acting alone. When we hear this passage directed at only individuals to take up their cross, it has incorrectly become a platform to justify victimization, abuse, and personal suffering as if these are someone’s “cross to bear.” This passage does not mean remaining in an abusive relationship or situation. It does not mean becoming a doormat, being a victim, lacking in self-care, or people-pleasing to your own detriment.
Nor does self-denial and cross-bearing mean refusing life’s joys and blessings. Suffering with illness or aging with grace and a positive attitude is very good, however this is also not your cross to bear.
So then, what way of life and what kind of kingdom is realized in the community of disciples by denying themselves and taking up their cross?
First let’s tackle Deny yourself—this means to “disown yourself” and remember that you belong to God. St. Luke’s and every person here and every person you meet is created in love and bought with a price—the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Because we belong to God, God’s interests, hopes, and dreams become our interests, hopes and dreams. God’s interests are above our interests.
Jesus continually spent time alone with God to put God’s interests above his own. This was how he resisted the temptations of the devil in the wilderness. He dis-owned himself—he remembered he belonged to God, and put God’s interests and plans above his own. This is why Jesus called Peter Satan—because he tempted Jesus put his own interests above God’s.
God’s interests and dreams for St. Luke’s and our life together are bigger and better and more important than me and you and our personal likes or dislikes.
Social media and a consumer culture has taught us bad spiritual habits- Like it, don’t like it, love it, don’t love it, as if our opinion is the be all and end all of life. Come to the church of Burger King where you can have it your way—but Jesus calls us to follow him to the cross and not the crown!
It’s hard to turn off these habits when we gather together—but Jesus wants us to build relationships with each other around what God’s interests and dreams are for this church and the world.
Jesus asks our priorities to go in this order when planning our mission: Is what we are doing good
• First, for the kingdom of God,
• Second for the mission of St. Luke’s as a whole – which is another way of saying does it reach beyond our doors to the community in mission?
• Then groups and individuals in the church
This is what it means for us to live out the Lord’s Prayer together—Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. But this is tough stuff—we cannot do this kind of hard spiritual work alone—which is why we are forming—you guessed it—Life Groups! So we can grow together in listening together for God’s interests and dreams. The kingdom of God is both realized and lived out in these relationships—that is, together in the boat with Jesus.
Take up your cross and follow me. Let’s talk a little bit more about what it means to take up your cross.
Again, we take a communal view because Jesus is talking to the disciples together. Taking up our cross—as the church—means identifying where we take a stand, where we are willing to suffer for the sake of those who are the least, or the lost or the last.
Taking up our cross is suffering we willingly choose for the sake of the kingdom, for the sake of someone who is in need, for the sake of sharing the Gospel. The question for St. Luke’s is, what are we willing to do as a congregation, to take a stand, who are willing to be in solidarity with, to love with compassion, and to serve who are in need that might cause us suffering?
We already have some answers. For example, we have willingly chosen to stand with, support and welcome people who are LGBTQIA. This is one ministry in Texas, where we are in the minority as a church, standing in solidarity with people who have been openly shunned and rejected.
The day after our first Pride Sunday in June, there was an anonymous letter and card addressed to me tapped to the side entrance of the church. Inside were pictures of Sodom and Gomorrah burning and information which I am sure you can imagine.
But given that LGBTQIA people live with this kind of fear and harassment in their daily life, work, school, and medical care, this is a crucial way for us as people of faith, together in the boat, to take up our cross and follow Jesus beside LGBTQIA people with love, compassion, support and solidarity.
We have an opportunity to do this again at the North Texas Pride event on September 30th—you can sign up in the Gathering Area or talk with Kristin Atchison. Remember that you do not have to understand everything to love and welcome everyone.
The same is true with hungry neighbors at our free breakfast. Two weeks ago, we had a woman who had been laid off from her job. She has six children, everyone was hungry and she wasn’t sure how she was going to feed them, when she saw our signs for a free breakfast. They came, and got their fill of burritos, snack bags for later, and a box of food to help get them through the week. They also got the ice cream from the Honda Helpers free ice cream truck! She came back yesterday to thank us for the help; she was working again and so grateful, so she made a donation! You never know who God is going to send when are taking up our cross together and giving our time and resources to be available with free hot food, conversation, and prayer. The kingdom of God is both realized and lived out in these relationships—together in the boat with Jesus.
What does it mean for you to participate in denying yourself, taking up your cross and following Jesus as part of this wonderful St. Luke’s community? Life Groups, which start in 2 weeks on Sept. 17 -- help us build this kind of kingdom community where hear God’s interests and dreams through each other, where we gain the courage to stand in solidarity with those who are marginalized and suffering, where we experience the kingdom of God in the relationships that we build, and where our own needs for prayer and companionship are met in addition to Sunday morning.
When I was a young child, I remember Saturday nights we would get ready for church the next day. We all had baths before dinner, dad would polish our shoes, we got to eat pancakes for supper and watch the Lawrence Welk Show—it was the only night we could watch TV during dinner. Then we went to bed early so we could be on time for Sunday School before church. This ritual taught me the importance of church, of prayer, of being part of that community.
My sister Pam and I always shared a bedroom, and during this early stage of life, we developed our own ritual to remind each other to say the Lord’s Prayer before we went to sleep. After we said our prayer, we would say, “beep, beep” to remind each to pray. Maybe we got that from the Road Runner cartoon.
I like to think of the Life Groups and our “beep beep” community—the one that’s there for you and reminds you what’s important, that you’re a person of prayer and connected to this larger community that’s following Jesus together.
So sign up for a Life Group that will start the week of Sept. 17th, as we seek God’s dreams for the kingdom, as we stand in solidarity with those in need, and our spirits come alive.
Today we celebrate being this community as share Communion together this morning at the railing. This Communion railing and many Lutheran chancel areas are shaped like a boat—wider in the middle and narrower at the ends. Come and be fed—where Jesus nourishes us for this life that we together—never alone, but always together in the boat with Jesus.
Message for Pentecost 13 on Matthew 16:13-20 and Acts 2:42-47 on August 27, 2023 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Richardson, Texas. Because we are launching Life Groups in the fall, I changed the New Testament Reading to Acts 2.
This week we are continuing our theme of “Together in the Boat” (which is funny because again, there are no boats in our readings today!). It refers to our Gospel two weeks ago when the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water in the midst of a storm. Peter walks on the water briefly before the wind scares him, but the storm only calms down when Jesus and Peter get back in the boat together with the rest of the disciples. Dealing with life’s storms and challenges is more successful when we are together in the boat with Jesus. One of life's challenges is asking for forgiveness and repairing relationships.
It’s no surprise that one of my sins is over-functioning and over-working—it’s a sin of pride—like everything is up to me. When I am organized, I work from a To-Do List, but when I am overwhelmed, I lose the list and then I try to hold it all in my head, which is what I have been trying to do the last week to 10 days. It’s been hard to take the time to sit and write a new list or keep track of the list I already made. When I hold things in my head, especially now—it worked pretty well 20 years ago—I forget things—especially all the little details.
This week I realized I had given Pr. Janet the wrong starting date for the Life Groups for the Red Letter Spiritual Growth Challenge. And I thought, “what a major screw up—this affects curriculum and all the Luke’s Learners teachers, and I have really messed this up.” So on Thursday, I asked her into my office and confessed that I had misspoke on the date and I was afraid I had therefore messed up her whole curriculum plan. I apologized and asked her to please forgive me, and how could I help make it right.
And in her especially loving way, Pr. Janet said, "you do not need forgiveness, you are already loved as you are, and it will all be ok." But of course, being me, I still felt bad anyway. Without even thinking I just blurted out, “but being forgiven by you helps me know that I am also forgiven by God.”
So being a wonderful friend and pastor, she said, “I forgive you.” And I felt so much better—forgiven and renewed—not just for giving the wrong date on the schedule, but for the whole thing—being my sinful self over and over again, no matter how much I try not to be.
Then the Holy Spirit gave me a nudge right then and said, “this is why we are launching Life Groups here—so everyone can have this kind of forgiveness moment. Everyone needs this moment when being forgiven personally by another Christian, helps you know and experience being forgiven by God—Intimately, completely—in friendship and in trust."
Such forgiveness a crucial part of being in the boat together with Jesus.
This is because forgiveness and grace are not something we can easily give ourselves. We need forgiveness announced, proclaimed, declared, told to us. It’s why it’s so often the opening ritual of our worship service—the point is not that we are so depraved, but that we cannot proclaim God’s audacious, radical, and overflowing free grace and forgiveness to ourselves.
Just like an announcement of true love, someone has to declare it to us, “God loves you! You are forgiven, you are set free, you are accepted, you are loved. We see you and know you as you are and we love you, and God does, too! That’s why he sent us Jesus!"
Experiencing this forgiveness in Life Groups where people have come to know us well over time, carries personal and spiritual power with intimacy and trust at a level we cannot create in corporate worship. They are both wonderful gifts and serve different purposes.
Offering and receiving forgiveness is called the “office of the keys” in our Gospel reading, and Jesus gives this gift to the church—the body of Christ, who like Peter, confesses that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. "Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
Life Groups take our spiritual life to the next level because they offer us a unique chance to loosen whatever binds us, limits us, holds us back and through community, to release those things to God. Being loosened with forgiveness in the safety of the boat with other believers on the journey, gives us greater freedom and love to serve as disciples in daily life because we are unbound from guilt or shame, loneliness or isolation.
This liberating faith is what happened to the early church as they gathered in small groups and house churches. Our Acts passage shows they were together in the boat of faith, sharing meals and possessions, they worshipped together, and celebrated the Lord’s supper, they declared the forgiveness of sins the name of Jesus, the Son of the Living God, and they were filled with glad and generous hearts. They felt the forgiveness and presence of the living God through the embodiment of each other and their good will, fellowship and joy became contagious! People witnessed their life and wanted it for themselves!
• People saw how much joy they had,
• people experienced how much goodwill and generosity they shared;
• people witnessed how much overflowing love they exhibited,
• people discovered how many burdens and bound up resentments and sins had been released and they all wanted what those early Christians had.
So day by day, the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
This is called building the church through attraction not aggression, through magnetism not manipulation, through authenticity, not argumentation.
I wonder if this is why Jesus tells them at the end of our Matthew reading not to tell anyone he was the Messiah—because he wanted their lives to speak louder, more truthfully, and more effectively than their words.
Yes, words of forgiveness need to be proclaimed; yes words that confess Jesus as Messiah and Son of God need to be spoken—but disciples then must live these words out in deeds and in action. For it is Matthew Gospel that tells us that it is not just earthly forgiveness—binding and loosing—that has heavenly consequences. It is Matthew’s Gospel who makes plan that our actions toward others also have a heavenly impact on the living Lord. In Matthew 25, Jesus says the righteous will ask the Son of Man in all his glory,
“Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
Life Groups are to help us, like the early church, practice the words and confessions of our faith—but they also enable us to engage in the behaviors and actions of our faith. Some of those actions will be in service to our neighbor like in Matthew 25, and some of those actions will be toward well-being for ourselves and our relationships. The action part of our faith matters, because forgiveness and repentance that shifts our life is best followed by a change in behavior. So, after the forgiveness I received this week, I actually took my full day off instead of working for half of it, which I was still tempted to do (sin is pernicious!). Dan and I went to lunch and then I took a nap. Yesterday, we ran a practice Life Group with 4 of the facilitators, and they laid hands on me and prayed for me to help me make different choices. And I found my list!
I tell you these things, so you know that I only invite you to do what I am willing to do, or already am doing myself. I am not in a different boat. None of the retired pastors in the congregation are in a different boat. I am in the same boat you are, so are they. We are all together in the boat with Jesus.
This week, if there is someone you need to ask for forgiveness, I invite you to have this conversation. If you’re not ready and need help first, then take that step this week and ask for help from a trusted Christian friend, a family member, or one of the retired pastors or me—you do not have to wait for Life Groups to start to be released!
Then I invite you to continue to pray about joining a Life Group. Facilitators are wearing one of these nifty arem bands if you want to talk with one of them. If you are interested in facilitating a group, you still can, so please talk with me!
The Red Letter Challenge Books are in the Gathering Area—some people love having a book, other people with work and family will not have time—that’s okay to do whatever fits into your life. The book is not needed for the Life Group—since there’s a video for that. The book is for your own devotional time. Lets grow together in forgiveness and grace and be that magnetic chuch where everyone wants the love and joy that we exhibit and attract!