Ask yourself …

… do you pray for that brother or sister
who’s in difficulty for confessing their faith?

That is the question Pope Francis asked of the crowd in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday, September 25, 2013.

Grieving after a suicide bomb attack in Peshawar, Pakistan

The Pope’s comments came in response to an attack on an Anglican Church in Peshawar, Pakistan that left 78 dead. Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, also spoke of the courage, the willingness to forgive, and the ‘cry for justice’ arising from the ashes of the destruction. Listen to his comments on Radio 4’s World at One.

Well, do you pray for brothers and sisters you may never meet, but who are family to you?

7/20/12—Maturing in wisdom and age

Jesus matured in wisdom and years, and in favor with God and with people. Luke 2:52 CEB

The wisdom of a Lutheran Pastor …

Note: The House for All Sinners and Saints is in Denver, CO.

As far as we know, all the House for all Sinners and Saints folks are safe, but many of us had friends and loved ones who were at that theater last night who are quite shaken. Kyrie. Let us pray for all those involved including the shooter. It’s one of the less pleasant elements of the Christian faith, but loving the enemy was not a suggestion.
–(The Rev.) Nadia Bolz-Weber (on Facebook)

After the killing in Aurora, CO our bishop wrote …

The horrific tragedy in Aurora, Colorado rightly brings us to our knees in prayer. Our emotions are myriad: shock, sorrow, anger, and disbelief. While we pray for those who have died, their families, and indeed the perpetrator and his family, we should pause to question the culture of violence that is pervasive in our country.

Guns, violent films and video games did not commit murder yesterday night; a very disturbed individual did. However, it is not a remarkable supposition to think that a contributing factor to this senseless massacre is the lethal combination of available guns and the relentless presentation of violent acts. The latter makes violence seem incidental and inconsequential.

As followers of the prince of peace, we must redouble our efforts to stop senseless violence before it happens. We can go a long way as a society by having sensible gun control and by saying no to entertainment through violence. This will not bring back the victims of this dark moment, but perhaps it will prevent others.
—The Rt. Rev. James R. Mathes Bishop

But, I’m not covetous…

The discussion in the Forum yesterday was quite lively. Understandings and opinions varied widely. Karl Jacobson, in his commentary on this parable for WorkingPreacher.org reminded us “A parable is essentially an elaborate allegory. We are invited to see ourselves in the story, and then apply it to ourselves.” I invite you to re-read the parable. Then I invite you to consider Jacobson’s commentary as you see yourself in the story and apply it to yourself.

We covet what God chooses to give to others. A parable is essentially an elaborate allegory. We are invited to see ourselves in the story, and then apply it to ourselves. The wages at stake (even at the moment of Jesus’ first telling of the parable) are not actual daily wages for vineyard-laborers, but forgiveness, life, and salvation for believers. We need not literally be laborers in a vineyard, as we are all of us co-workers in the kingdom (1 Corinthians 3:9).

And in relationship, one believer to another, covetousness is a problem. The point here isn’t necessarily that other folks receive blessings from God that we don’t — that they get more or better or lovelier gifts from God. The problem is that they get the same as us; and they don’t deserve it, do they? They are less worthy, or later arrivals, or just plain worse sinners. They don’t deserve the same as we get, do they? Not nothing maybe, but certainly not the same. The parable’s day laborers parallel perfectly with today’s forgiven-sinners in both our pews and pulpits.

We have a tendency, as the parable aptly illustrates, to covet and to be resentful of what others receive from God. The owner of the vineyard asks those who have worked longest and (presumably) hardest for him, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” The point is that God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness are God’s to give away as God sees fit.

Read the entire post at WorkingPreacher.org. “Gospel” for September 18, 2011

What do you hear in this parable? What do you feel as you listen to the story and apply it yourself and journey into the Kingdom of God where the first are last and the last are first? Leave a comment, continue the conversation.


Two Fathers and Forgiveness: If they can do it . . .

Here is another story from our own day about forgiveness of “biblical proportions.”

As I re-read this article (from my “clippings” file) I thought again about the small acts of forgiveness that I have been asked to make. I thought again of the little annoyances that have the potential of becoming destructive prisons if simple words of forgiveness are never spoken. I also thought about the stories shared with me over the years of “heroic acts” of forgiveness that proved liberating: forgiving betrayals in the marriage relationship, forgiving coworkers whose dishonesty cost a job, forgiving family members for lies and half-truths leading to estrangement, and more. In both the little and the big moments of forgiveness there is seldom forgetfulness—one remembers the hurt, the wrong—but there is always a sense of freedom from the pain when the words of forgiveness can be spoken.

Let the big stories, such as these, inspire the small stories of forgiveness in your life. Also, let the big stories, such as these, inspire the the heroic acts of forgiveness to which you may be called. ~dan

Before the men sat in the kitchen, a humble place for such an event, they had walked in the garden. Two fathers, both raised in Catholic schools, both divorced from their children’s mothers, both who helped raise a son and a daughter, talked for more than an hour.

That the meeting took place seems miraculous. One man owns a business and had traveled from middle America. The other, in whose house they met, works in a New York state factory. They want the same thing: to save the son of the New York man from execution.

The father from Oklahoma, Emmett E. “Bud” Welch, had buried his daughter, Julie-Marie, on a 1995 spring day.

New York state resident William McVeigh is the father of the man sentenced to die for killing Julie-Marie and 167 others on April 19, 1995, in the Oklahoma City bombing of the Murrah Federal Building.

via Oklahoma City Bombing: Two Fathers and Forgiveness – April 2000 Issue of St. Anthony Messenger Magazine Online.

Is it possible to forgive like this really? Today? Ever?

Ah, Joseph! His own brothers hated him, (Genesis 37:4), and kidnapped him, (Genesis 37:23). They had even planned to murder him, (Genesis 37: 18ff). They “settled” for selling him into slavery, (Genesis 37:28), a possible if not likely death sentence.  (1)

  • Instead of revenge, Joseph forgave and embraced his brothers. (Genesis 45:1-15)

As Sherry and I prepared for Sunday’s Forum (8/14) she asked a really good questions:

A spectacular example of forgiveness and generosity of spirit:  how can Joseph do that?  Is forgiveness on this scale unreasonable to expect of mere mortals?

The Forum took up the question. Some of our number felt that Joseph may have needed to ask forgiveness of his brothers, suggesting that he may have baited them into their treachery. The discussion was lively and not always what you would expect.

My answer to Sherry’s question about forgiveness: “Yes, mere mortals are capable of such forgiveness.” You and I are, with God’s grace, capable of both ordinary and extraordinary forgiveness. Some examples:

  • We’ll start out close to home: child-parent issues. Bryan McGuire offers what he learned about his dad when he himself became a father; Bryan learned and offered forgiveness: Forgiving my dad (an audio piece from This I Believe)
  • Another audio clip from This I Beiieve: The Long Road to Forgiveness by Kim Phuc who was badly burned by Napalm in 1972 in Viet Nam. She shares her story of being able to forgive. [Transcript of this piece with the photo of Kim Phuc in 1972 after her village was attacked]
  • From 9/11 – Two 9/11 mothers who found forgiveness and friendship – this video speaks to us of the forgiveness found by two women — whose family members were on opposites sides of the 9/11 tragedy — one of whose sons contributed to the death of the other’s son. Click on the image below to see this powerful video.
  • Beyond the 11th – a website detailing the effort of 2 American widows—both pregnant when their husbands were killed in the 9/11 attacks—to help widows in Afghanistan. A documentary, Beyond Belief, is available on Netflix.

The effort to forgive requires effort (and grace, I believe). We all have stories to tell. We can help each other by telling the stories. What stories inspire you? Leave a comment, start a conversation.

____________
(1) WorkingPreacher.org for August 14, 2011. Commentary on Genesis (Alt. 1st Reading) by Wil Gafney

Ever want to “smite” someone?

Joseph made himself known to his brothers…

Hated by siblings? Betrayed? Treated unfairly? Abandoned? Sold as a slave? Hurt? If you are Joseph this is part of your story as you encounter your brothers after their destructive actions (See Genesis 37 read in church on 8/7/11 and Genesis 45 read in church Sunday 8/14/11 ).

How great, if he was human at all (and I believe he was), must have been his desire to take revenge, to “smite” his brothers then and there, to wreak his own kind of destruction on them and their families? He had the power to satisfy that urge.

Instead of smiting (what we expected, if we were honest) we heard that Joseph revealed who he was (apparently he was unrecognizable at first), invited his brothers to draw closer to him, he forgave them their hatred and treachery, and he embraced each one and wept with them in the moment of forgiveness. Here is a story of forgiveness of “biblical proportions.” It leaves me with many questions.

Foremost question: Is this kind of forgiveness (of biblical proportion) possible today? My one word answer, “Yes.” Which then leads to a host of questions: How is this possible? Are there any contemporary (20th and 21st century) models of such forgiveness out there? Am I capable of such forgiveness? Are we capable of such forgiveness? What role do we play in such forgiveness? What is God’s role in such forgiveness? What is at stake? I’ll admit I have more questions than answers. How about you?

I’ll have more to say about this passage—it is rich with mystery—but for now, I offer this poem as a way into the mystery of forgiveness:

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is the windblown bud
which blooms in placid beauty at Verdun.

Forgiveness is the tiny slategray sparrow
which has built its nest of twigs and string among the shards of glass
upon the wall of shame.

Forgiveness is the child
who laughs in merry ecstasy beneath the toothed fence
that closes in Da Nang.

Forgiveness is the fragrance of the violet
which still clings fast to the heel that crushed it.

Forgiveness is the broken dream
which hides itself within the corner of the mind oft called forgetfulness
so that it will not bring pain to the dreamer.

Forgiveness is the reed
which stands up straight and green
when nature’s mighty rampage halts, full spent.

Forgiveness is a God who will not leave us after all we’ve done.

____________
A poem by George Roemisch and quoted by Dear Abby in her column Feb. 10, 1998.