The Face of Forgiveness

Genesis 33:1-10

“…truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God…”  (Genesis 33:10)

These are the words of Jacob as he was reunited with his estranged brother Esau.  The backstory is that Jacob had backstabbed Esau, cheating him out of his birthright and his father’s blessing.  Esau, in a rage, had vowed to kill Jacob and so Jacob fled and stayed away for years.

During this time of separation Esau was able to come to a point of forgiveness in his heart.  The extent of his inner healing was on display when Jacob returned home after his self imposed exile. Esau ran to him, embraced him, kissed him and wept with him.  It was forgiveness at its finest.  Jacob’s response to all this was, “…truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God…”  That’s what forgiveness at its finest looks like – the face of God!

As we celebrate Holy week, we are embraced by forgiveness at its finest.  In the cross of Christ we see Jesus, as the Suffering Servant, pouring out the fullness of God’s forgiveness upon all.  When we, in faith, turn our eyes towards our Lord on the cross we join Jacob in saying “…truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God…”

May that awareness of God’s forgiveness in Christ bless you this Holy Week and always!  And as we worship this Good Friday may we have a fresh vision of the face of forgiveness in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for your ultimate and eternal forgiveness.  Thank you for the way you pour that blessing upon all, even though we do nothing to earn or deserve it.  Thank you for the way that your forgiveness opens a fresh and life giving relationship with you and all. In that Good Friday grace, we lift this prayer in the name of our Suffering Servant, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Have a great Holy Week.

Paul

 

 

The Story Continues…….

Acts 4:32-35

“With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.”  Acts 4:33

What is it that connects a group of people to each other?  Isn’t there usually a sense of shared goals, or experiences they have had together, or having similar interests?  The early church, privileged to hear words of testimony from the apostles with first-hand experience of Jesus and his resurrection, was united in grace.  Surely, the many stories they heard were so powerful that they were caught up together, and out of that grace-filled fellowship began to demonstrate love in powerful ways toward each other.

It seems so beautiful to think about church in this way, individuals brought together by the grace that comes from the stories of Jesus’ life, teachings, and resurrection.  What generous fruits of service came from that earliest church, and still come from the church of today, in 2019!

What unites us?  As we have experienced Lent this year, the prayer of St. Francis has been on our minds and hearts as we have thought about the many ways the ideas of service to others has been expressed.  The real reason for all of it is the same as it has been for centuries, we too are caught up in the story of Jesus, and like those first believers, we can be empowered by grace to continue living and sharing the Gospel around us.

I’m looking forward to Holy Week and Easter, I always do.  I’m ready to be renewed in my “being caught up” in the story; I look forward to the grace that unites us all, the church of Jesus Christ.

 

John

Filled with Compassion

Luke 15:11-24

Eager to experience all the pleasures he imagines are waiting for him, an impetuous young son collects his inheritance early and sets off on an adventure.  Before long, he’s run out of food and money, friends and hope. Despite feeling unworthy to be called his son, somehow he knows he can return to his father’s home.

“But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.”

Luke 15:20

And so I am reminded that when I come to myself after a period of wandering, when I turn back towards God, I will find him waiting and watching for me . . . ready to take me into his loving arms.

And celebrating my return, our compassionate Father will declare, “this child of mine was dead and is alive again, was lost and is found!” Luke 15:24

Blessings,

Suzan N. Meyer

Can I be Compassionate?

Psalm 145:8-21

“The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”

In a world that is so quick to react and condemn, so lacking in patience and kindness, so limited in forgiveness and mercy to hear that “the Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” is really Good News!

It is Good News because it’s not only “the world” who reacts, condemns, lacks patience and is limited in forgiveness – I do too.  To know that there is a continuous eternal counterbalance that would keep me connected to a Greater Compassion is Good News! To know that this Power is at work in my life gives me hope that I can become that kind of person in my living.

The Prayer of St. Francis this week invites us to “not so much” “seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love”. For me to live into the Prayer requires the power of the Holy Spirit which is “gracious and merciful”.

The Psalmist rejoices that we can praise God because God is “just in all ways, kind in all deeds, near to all who call”.  I invite you to lift up that Praise on Sunday and then to live out that Praise on Monday through Friday.  Let God’s grace and mercy create in us a spirit of grace and mercy.  Share that gift with all you meet this week!

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for who You are – “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love”.  Let me not only receive this blessing.  Let me share this gift of grace with others throughout this week, by the strength of your Holy Spirit and all to your glory! In Christ’s name I pray.  Amen.

Have a great week.

Paul

A Headline to Live By

Romans 8:31-39

“If God is for us, who can be against us?”  Romans 8:31

It’s a tough world, but hasn’t it always been?  There are so many headlines in bold font size screaming at us, demanding to be heard, “a natural disaster in such-and-such a place”, “gun violence strikes again”, “politicians and other well-known people misbehaving”, “people stressing over jobs and finances”.  The list could go on and on.  What if there was another headline each day that got top billing, something like “If God is for us, who is against us?”  How could that change our lives?

Paul, the author of Romans, says that until the day of final redemption, not only we, but everything about this life will be less than what God has in mind, there will be death, decay, struggle, disappointment.  But,  REMEMBER, God’s spirit, the spirit of Christ, has been given to us, to guide and direct us in the here and now, to help our deepest hearts to stay in touch with God, all the while looking forward to the day when all will be made whole and new.

I can only imagine what a newspaper might look like if this hopeful headline would receive top billing, instead of the latest disaster.  In huge letters, above everything else,

 

IF GOD IS FOR US, WHO IS AGAINST US?

 

Talk about a conversation starter!

In reality, that is the headline, and it can be in each of our lives each day, as we remember and live it.  Not unaware of what is happening around us, we can be free to inject hope into the world, to take actions that increase chances for good to sprout and grow.

What news are you going to remember, think about, make decisions based on?  I hope you will remember this Good News, so that all the rest of the news can be in much smaller print!

 

John

 

Rooted and Grounded in Love

Ephesians 3:14-21

“I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.” Ephesians 3: 16-17

Since my children were babies, I have prayed this prayer for them.  I can think of no better blessing to pray for their lives.  Often we are tempted to pray for comfort and health for people we love, never wanting to see them struggle or suffer. Yet, I have come to realize that during the inevitable difficulties and heartaches of life, I have experienced intense growth. Learning to depend on God’s grace, my faith is strengthened and I become more rooted and grounded in his love.

And so, from the “riches of his glory” we find that we begin to “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” as we are “filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3: 19

Blessings,

Suzan N. Meyer

Fear and Faith

Matthew 14:22-33

“But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened…”  (vs. 30)

“Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” (vs. 27)

This text highlights a truth of my life:  The strength of my faith is often dependent on the size of the wave.

In the storms of life I set my eye on the strength of the wind and size of the wave, the threatening possibilities and potentially damaging consequences.  With this focus my fears “kick in” and doubts “rise up”.

In this Scripture, Jesus speaks into the storm.  His words – “Take heart, it is I…”(27).  I listen and hear and am reminded I am not alone.

And not only am I not alone, I am with the One who commands me (as he commanded Peter) to “Come” – to come toward him.  When I maintain that focus of coming towards him rather than running from the wind and waves, I find that my faith finds a foundation and my fears loose their domination.

We all have doubts and fears.  And we all have faith.  Both are part of being human and being Christian.  And Jesus is Lord of both – Jesus is Lord of all. With that focus we can move forward through fear with faith as we follow the One who is our Peace and Strength in every storm.

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for being our Peace.  Thank you for calling to us and commanding us to come to you in the midst of the storms of life.  Thank you for quieting our fears and strengthening our faith by your Holy Spirit.  In your Holy name I pray.  Amen.

Have a great week!

Paul

Forgiveness

Mark 11:25

“Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11:25

Forgiveness…it’s a tough topic, to be sure.  We have all been wronged, and we have all wronged others.  Some slights or injuries seem almost inconsequential and are easily put aside, while others  cause deep and lasting wounds.

Forgiveness, a gift we give ourselves as much as it is a gift for others, allows us to begin healing.   Refusing to forgive – while clinging to pride, anger, or bitterness – allows past hurts to move into our present and our futures,  causing more pain.

And so, Jesus said forgive others so that you can learn to know and experience God’s forgiveness…for surely, the pride that prevents me from offering forgiveness will also prevent me from receiving forgiveness.

“For both parties, forgiveness means the freedom again to be at peace inside their own skins…” Frederick Buechner

Blessings,

Suzan N. Meyer

Forgiven?

Matthew 6:9-15

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

This Scripture pronounces the imperative of forgiveness in a most powerful and provocative way.  Simply put, God’s forgiveness of me/us rests on my/your/our forgiveness of others.  I am not forgiven unless and until I am forgiving.

For me this teaching on forgiveness is conditioned by another teaching by Jesus (a parable of Jesus) in Matthew 18:23-35.  In this story a slave was forgiven a huge debt by a king.  Then the slave went out, did not forgive, and demanded payment of a much smaller debt from a fellow slave.  When the king heard about this discrepancy in forgiveness his response was, “Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?” (Matthew 18:33)  It was because forgiveness was not “passed on” that the forgiven slave forfeited the forgiveness he had received.

I believe we all have received forgiveness in the Cross of Jesus Christ.  I believe that he died for the sins of the whole world. I also believe that we truly receive and appropriate that forgiveness as we pass it on to others.  To say “I am forgiven” and then not forgive is a paralyzing paradox.  We live in God’s great forgiveness as we give Christ’s forgiveness to others.  We truly show ourselves as a “forgiven people” when we live as forgiving people.

Prayer:  Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.  Where there is injury, let me sow pardon.  Let me always be aware of your great forgiveness of me, even as I respond to the “injuries” I may sustain from others.  Let me practice the power of your pardon that I may know the peace of your forgiveness today and always.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen

Have a great week!

Paul

 

Streams of Love

John 13:34-35

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  John 13:35

Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, he knew he wasn’t going to be with them  much longer.  After telling them about his impending betrayal, and Judas had gone, his most important words followed –  “Love one another as I have loved you, this is how people will know you are my disciples.”

We all still need to be reminded that in those rather few and uncomplicated words lie powerful forces waiting to be released, if only we can hear them, take them to heart and act upon them.  In every life, every relationship, every issue of life,  love can bring about restoration and healing.  I’m not saying that happens quickly or easily.  Think about how the Grand Canyon was formed by water erosion, that’s how profound, and beautiful, the effects of a stream of love can be!

Jesus loved first in this way, patiently carving the lives of his original twelve disciples so that a great movement, his church, would be born on this earth.  We’re all a part of that, we’re all tributaries in the river of Christ’s love.  May all who see our love come to know Christ, the headwater and source of true love and the church!