I want to talk about forgiveness this morning focusing on Jesus last words on the cross, “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.” I am getting some of my inspiration today from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s book, Strength to Love. I will try and give credit when I am using his thoughts, but may forget at times. If you hear me using words like “nullification” and “interposition” you can be pretty certain the words did not come from me. I want to share with you an incredible story about a 24-year-old young man. It's a story of forgiveness, redemption and hope. It's a story that connects us with the essence of life. What this story reminded me of, is that though the life of this young man was marked by unspeakable violence and terrible loss, his life is also an inspiring story of hope, resilience, and strength.
To recap we are in a sermon series I started couple Sundays ago titled “Being Church” in which we are going to look at 5 metaphors describing church in the New Testament. We started with … and last Sunday we looked at … This Sunday we are looking at the church described in the book of Ephesians as the “household of God”. Eph 2:19 and 20 states, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together”. John 1:12-13 elaborates on this idea of household of God like this, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God”. In other words, just as you are physically born into the household of your earthly parents, you are born-again into God’s household.
Today, the metaphor we are going to meditate on is “the bride of Christ”. This is a metaphor that functions at the level of the universal church. The Bride of Christ is the whole church put together, not any one individual local church. Fair enough? Now we typically don’t spend much time thinking of this metaphor except when we are at weddings and the Ephesians 2:22 to 33 passage is chosen. Now this is a beautiful passage that talks about how the wives should honor their husbands and submit to them in everything. In the culture we live in, many men might take it as license to Lord it over their wives and many women might jump up in horror and get all defensive and say that they are equal to any man so why should they submit to any man. But this passage cannot be properly understood without its context and without the Holy Spirit’s help. So if you are listening to this and have difficulty with this passage please do two things. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you and secondly, let me finish laying out all the blocks so you can judge the finished product and not the construction site.
One of the things that is different about being in the outdoors is that it is a dynamic space right? Because the conditions are always changing. Set in just such a condition, an intriguing Bible passage in Luke 12:56 Jesus tells the pharisees that they know how to interpret the earth and the sky to forecast the weather but they fail to be interpreters of the time they are living in. As people of God, in other words we aught to know how to read the times we live in. Now we certainly live in strange times. We are in the midst of a global pandemic that is similar in scale to something that happened a hundred years ago. Then we have an economic situation that has not seen unemployment this high since the Great Depression. We have protests on the race issue like we have not seen since the time of Martin Luther King! With wave after wave of big things happening the question that many are wondering about is, “what does this moment mean for us as individuals and us as a church. To get clarity about what to do as a church, it would really help I believe to examine what it means to be church. That is what this sermon series that I am starting today will address. In the New Testament, you find 5 metaphors describing the church and each sermon in this series will look at one of these metaphors. Today, I am going to start with the New Testaments description of the church as the “Body of Christ”.
Today I want to talk about gently and humbly bringing our brother or sister back to the right path not being judgmental, but out of a caring attitude or “care-fronting”. I am not sure that this is a real word, but it is a word used by David Augsburger in his book Caring Enough to Confront. When I was in V.S. we were required to read this book, though at that time it’s title was, The Love Fight. At the yearly V.S. retreat, David Augsburger was the guest speaker. He endeavored to help us have more healthy V.S. units; by helping us get to the bottom of issues and work toward reconciliation, rather than fracturing over disagreements. Ignoring issues that came up as twenty year olds shared the same house, was not healthy in the long run, but neither was becoming judgmental. How do you work through differences or shortcomings in a healthy way. Paul in Galatians would say that we start by gently and humbly addressing our brother or sister’s falleness recognizing how easily it could be us in their shoes. The goal here is compassionately restoring our brother or sister, not judging them.
As we process what is going on in our nation today, I am going to start by telling you a little bit about the man whose death has shaken us all. Most people have seen at least a part of the cell phone video that captured the end of George Floyd’s life in Minneapolis, at the age of 46. Christianity Today, a magazine I respect a lot fills in some very interesting details of George’s life. But before he got to Minneapolis, George Floyd had really made an impact in a rough neighborhood in Houston known as the Third Ward. This is where he had lived most of his life. It was one of the roughest neighborhoods in the country. And in this environment George was a believer and a mentor to a generation of young men. He was known as a “person of peace” who enabled Christian ministries get a foothold they would never have. George Floyd was considered a community leader and elder statesmen by his ministry partners. His mission was to break the cycle of violence among young people and he used his influence to bring outside ministries to help his community in the historically black neighborhood. Access Password for Video: 6P?JpSB1
After three sermons focused on Job’s friends and looking at how people sometimes add to suffering by dealing in self-centered and insensitive ways with those who are suffering, we turned last week to how Job responded to his suffering. We looked at a model of grief pioneered by a famous psychologist called Elizabeth Kubler Ross. This model describes 5 stages of grief, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Each of these stages can be done well or badly. When I say well, I mean in a Biblical and Godly way. And when it is dealt with well it leads to healing and spiritual growth. On the other hand each stage can be dealt with in a worldly way that leads to bad outcomes. Now Job is commended by God both in the beginning of this ordeal, that means to start with, he was someone who lived a God-fearing life. And God vindicates him at the end of the book as well, that means he dealt with the challenges he was thrown within the book well. We know this because in the 10 speeches that Job has given you see each of the first 4 stages of grief circulating throughout these speeches. Thus looking at Job’s response is an opportunity for us to learn how to grieve well. And that means doing all the stages of grief well. Last week we looked at the first two stages of grief, denial and anger. This week we are going to look at the next three stages, bargaining, depression and acceptance. So let’s get started.
Today we are going to change gears and focus on the sufferer, Job. We are going to examine how he dealt with his pain. The end goal for us is to be able to learn to grieve well, so that we can be a witness to God even in our grief. Now if you read up on counseling you will find that people go through grief in 5 distinct phases. Now every individual and every grieving event has its own unique pattern but all go through some or all of these phases in their own way. These phases or stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Don’t worry you don’t have to remember all these just yet. It is going to take me at least two sermons to go through all the stages of grief. But at the end of it I am sure you will be able to remember it all Today, I will cover the first two stages, denial and anger.
Today we are going to examine the big elements of Elihu’s speech. When you look at the beginning of Elihu’s speech, it sounds the same as the rest of his friends. He even starts on a note of humility by saying that he is the youngest of them all and so he was waiting for those with the wisdom of age to speak before he did. So far so good. Elihu’s speech also has some amazing poetry on the majesty and lofty, way above our thinking ways of God.....
Three ways we can be real friends to the “Jobs” in our life. Make sure that we don’t make their pain worse by pining the blame carelessly, especially not on the mourner themselves. Secondly, make sure to weep with those who weep so that they know that you are with them in the time of their suffering. Finally take their “why” questions to God for them. God can handle all questions and God promises that those who mourn will be comforted. If we have experienced that comfort from leaving our questions and problems at the feet of Jesus, then we will be able to pass that comfort on to those whom we are trying to comfort.