Forgive and Forget

9/13/2020 at Homecoming Outdoor Worship

Post Script: this sermon was not an easy one to write. I really struggled with this passage because of my own story of forgiveness.

Message Title: Forgive & Forget
Theme: Life Lessons from the Playground
Season: ORDINARY
Main Text: Matthew 18:21-35
Scripture Reading: Exodus 14:19-31
RCL Scripture: Exodus 14:19-31; Psalm 114 or Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21; Genesis 50:15-21; Psalm 103:(1-7), 8-13; Romans 14:1-12; Matthew 18:21-35
Focus: Jesus uses a parable to talk about forgiveness.
Function:
To be guided by God’s wisdom through accountability, conflict, and resolutions.
Other Notes:
COMMUNION & HOMECOMIING

HOMECOMING FUN:

  1. Liberty History Quiz
    1. Liberty was organized as a church in what year? 1854
    2. What year was the log cabin church built? 1858
    3. What date did the church burn? March 1, 1994
    4. When did services start in the new(current) building? September 1995
    5. How many buildings has liberty had? (4)
      1. Met in houses
      2. Log cabin
      3. “Frame” church
      4. Brick building – the building that burned
      5. Current building
  2. GIVE AWAY for LIBERTY T-SHIRTS

SCRIPTURE READING: Exodus 14:19-31 19 God’s messenger, who had been in front of Israel’s camp, moved and went behind them. The column of cloud moved from the front and took its place behind them. 20 It stood between Egypt’s camp and Israel’s camp. The cloud remained there, and when darkness fell it lit up the night. They didn’t come near each other all night. 21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord pushed the sea back by a strong east wind all night, turning the sea into dry land. The waters were split into two. 22 The Israelites walked into the sea on dry ground. The waters formed a wall for them on their right hand and on their left. 23 The Egyptians chased them and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and cavalry. 24 As morning approached, the Lord looked down on the Egyptian camp from the column of lightning and cloud and threw the Egyptian camp into a panic. 25 The Lord jammed their chariot wheels so that they wouldn’t turn easily. The Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites, because the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt!” 26 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the water comes back and covers the Egyptians, their chariots, and their cavalry.” 27 So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. At daybreak, the sea returned to its normal depth. The Egyptians were driving toward it, and the Lord tossed the Egyptians into the sea.28 The waters returned and covered the chariots and the cavalry, Pharaoh’s entire army that had followed them into the sea. Not one of them remained. 29 The Israelites, however, walked on dry ground through the sea. The waters formed a wall for them on their right hand and on their left. 30 The Lord rescued Israel from the Egyptians that day. Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31 Israel saw the amazing power of the Lord against the Egyptians. The people were in awe of the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.

LORD’S PRAYER

PLAYGROUND LESSON: Not to throw a pity party for myself, but I was teased as a kid. Some of those memories still get to me when I look back. You would think a grown woman could move on. Especially because the nicknames kids used to tease each other can be weird. But the intention to hurt another would sting.

What frustrated me the most is when the teacher would make them say a disingenuous apology and I would HAVE to say ‘I forgive you.’ But I didn’t want to forgive them.

The teacher would then say, “Forgive and forget.” As if ‘sorry’ was all that was needed to repair the situation and move forward.

TRANSITION: Some offenses seem impossible to forget and equally hard to forgive whether it be playground bullies or tragic events like 9/11. Even 19 years later, we see the impact of 9/11 on our country. Admittedly, the concept of forgiveness is odd to focus on as we celebrated the anniversary of 9/11 Friday.

SCRIPTURE & EXPLAINATION: Matthew 18:21-35—Jesus uses a parable to talk about forgiveness – but will it make reconciliation easier?

Vs 21-22 21Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Should I forgive as many as seven times?” 22Jesus said, “Not just seven times, but rather as many as seventy-seven times.

  1. Recap from last week
    1. Conflict/Resolution–about restoring the community and listening for God’s guidance in moments of conflict. (2 people, 3-5 people, a church listening to God)
    2. Us vs. the problem, not Us vs. them.
  2. “how many times should I forgive”
    1. 70*7 = what you’re comfortable offering, you need to push even farther (PF)
    2. This isn’t a math problem but a statement of the grandness of chances to be offered

VS 23-35 23Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24When he began to settle accounts, they brought to him a servant who owed him ten thousand bags of gold. 25Because the servant didn’t have enough to pay it back, the master ordered that he should be sold, along with his wife and children and everything he had, and that the proceeds should be used as payment. 26But the servant fell down, kneeled before him, and said, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.’ 27The master had compassion on that servant, released him, and forgave the loan. 28“When that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him one hundred coins. He grabbed him around the throat and said, ‘Pay me back what you owe me.’ 29“Then his fellow servant fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.’ 30But he refused. Instead, he threw him into prison until he paid back his debt. 31“When his fellow servants saw what happened, they were deeply offended. They came and told their master all that happened. 32His master called the first servant and said, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you appealed to me. 33Shouldn’t you also have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34His master was furious and handed him over to the guard responsible for punishing prisoners, until he had paid the whole debt. 35“My heavenly Father will also do the same to you if you don’t forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

  1. Jesus shares a weird parable to highlight forgiveness
    1. Servant 1 owes the King more money than he could pay back in 165,000 years. (footnotes)
    2. Servant 2 owes Servant 1 about 2-5 years wages. (footnotes)
    3. The king forgives Servant 1’s unfathomable amount of debt
    4. Servant 1 refuses to forgive Servant 2’s debt (still a large debt but attainable to pay off)
  2. Jesus provides a weird warning about forgiving “from your heart”
    1. God wants to see transformed hearts

INTERPRETATION:

  1. The king’s mercy didn’t change the servant.
    1. Perhaps the first servant had not full processed the king’s mercy? Surely if he had, he wouldn’t act so harshly to his fellow servant. I mean, come on! The king forgave him a debt that would have taken him 165000 years to pay off. It was not possible to pay off that debt; that freedom should have liberated Servant 1 to liberate others. Right?
  2. Salvation is this way. Are we really children of God if the truth of Christ hasn’t transformed our words and our actions?
    1. I’ve always said, I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe there is a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward. How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate someone to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” – Penn Jillette
  3. STOP: God’s goals are bigger than giving people tickets to heaven! God’s goals are the end of evil & restoring creation to its fully divine goodness.
    1. We have a chance to spread hope instead of revenge!?!?
    2. Why are we stuck on the cycle of revenge?

APPLICATION: To be guided by God’s wisdom through accountability, conflict, and resolutions.

  1. BUT Meriah, what about rapists, murderers, Nazis, and the people behind 9/11? What about the ones who have wronged me or my family? Will I ever see justice?
    1. Jonah, is my patron saint, for this very reason: Jonah 4: 1-3 “But Jonah thought this was utterly wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Come on, Lord! Wasn’t this precisely my point when I was back in my own land? This is why I fled to Tarshish earlier! I know that you are a merciful and compassionate God, very patient, full of faithful love, and willing not to destroy. At this point, Lord, you may as well take my life from me, because it would be better for me to die than to live.””
      1. Jonah wanted vengeance. God wanted redemption.
      2. Jonah did not let his own heart be shaped by what God wanted. I have to accept that God’s got better plans… but that doesn’t mean we can’t expect accountability for behavior.
  2. Forgiveness & Accountability: I believe part of being changed by God is expecting or accepting the consequences of our wrong actions. As we are working towards living our lives transformed, we are bound to make the wrong choice, our job is to accept our consequences.
    1. Don’t assume you get off free in with the law simply because God loves you. This is as simple as actually following the speed limit and not trying to make excuses when you get pulled over.
      1. Instead of churches harboring abusers and saying God transformed them, allow them to show their transformation by owning up to their actions. This is rooted in a transformed life. God is not evil when we experience the consequences of our actions.
    2. BUT also, law could provide better rehabilitation services for the truly transformed convicts. Our actions do not define our intrinsic value as humans or how God feels about us.
      1. EXAMPLE: I worked in a daycare just before entering seminary. We had training regularly to be the best teachers possible. One session was on reframing our mind about discipline.
        1. Do we give a child the pathway to change their behavior if we call them bad?
        2. A child chooses to do something bad. A child is not intrinsically bad.
        3. A child can choose to do good.
    3. I HAVE to believe in my core that humans are intrinsically good. God made humanity and said it was very good. Humans are made in the image of God. We reflect God’s goodness. But we don’t always act that way. It’s time we embraced out inherit goodness. 

CONCLUSION

  1. Playground: Forgive and forget is a great concept but the phrase over simplifies the complexity of pain and the path towards healing and restoration.
    1. Bullies should have to own up for their actions. Not offer a blanket apology.
    2. Forgiveness means we let go of the vengeance, not the accountability.
    3. We also have the responsibility to provide space in society for our ‘bullies’ to be transformed.
  2. A Genuine apology: Rather than asking ‘bullies’ to provide blanket apologies, let’s help teach them why their actions were wrong. They can receive consequences but also give them a chance to learn and change.
    1. I’m sorry for…
    2. Next time I will…
    3. It’s wrong because…
    4. Is there anything I can do?

COMMUNION: As we enter into a time of communion, we recognize the differences in Christian practices around the Lord’s Supper. Confession is part of the holy meal in many traditions and I’d like us to practice it this morning.

This is a chance for us to consider our transforming lives and receive a fresh start.

Does everyone have their communion kit? Deacons can get you one.

**PAUSE**

Confessional: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Book_of_Common_Prayer_(ECUSA)/The_Holy_Eucharist/A_Penitential_Order:_Rite_Two=

Pastor: Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor.

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart;  we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

INSTRUCTIONS

BLESS THE ELEMENTS

Headboard day 2

We put another afternoon into our headboard. We’ve continued to adapt our plans as we’ve seen progress.

We adjusted some of the cuts as the tight fit moved things around a little.

We realized we needed some supplies so we made a quick trip to Lowe’s for some Boiled Linseed Oil, sponges, and french cleats. As of right now, we’re considering using the french cleats as our mount to the wall.

We will let this try and then possibly add some pyrography of stars and a moon to the sky. First I’m going to do some test designs on a piece of scrap wood.

When the oil dries completely, we plan to add stains to sky and peaks. Then when that dries we will add the finishes.

As we assembled this project we realized the amount of weight was going to be more than we anticipated. We plan to add a brace to the back and use french cleats for mounting as they distribute the weight of an object evenly across a wall.

I am really excited to see the finished product and get it on our wall. Our current headboard is not comfortable for sitting up, leaning, & reading in bed.

One step closer!

Be the Bigger Person

Post Script: This sermon unfolded differently than the manuscript I prepared. Check out this link to my YouTube channel if you would like to compare the two: Sermon on 9/6/2020

Message Title: Be the Bigger Person
Theme: Life Lessons from the Playground
Season: ORDINARY
Main Text: Matthew 18:15-20
Scripture Reading: Exodus 12:1-14
RCL Scripture: Exodus 12:1-14; Psalm 149; Ezekiel 33:7-11; Psalm 119:33-40; Romans 13:8-14; Matthew 18:15-20
Focus: Jesus speaks about conflict resolution.
Function: To acknowledge our desire for restitution or reparations and God’s calling for us to ‘be the bigger person’ as God is ‘the bigger person.’
Determine which fights are worth fighting and which fights require us to be ‘the bigger person.’
Other Notes: COMMUNION

SCRIPTURE READING: Exodus 12:1-14 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month will be the first month; it will be the first month of the year for you.[a] Tell the whole Israelite community: On the tenth day of this month they must take a lamb for each household, a lamb per house. If a household is too small for a lamb, it should share one with a neighbor nearby. You should divide the lamb in proportion to the number of people who will be eating it. Your lamb should be a flawless year-old male. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You should keep close watch over it until the fourteenth day of this month. At twilight on that day, the whole assembled Israelite community should slaughter their lambs. They should take some of the blood and smear it on the two doorposts and on the beam over the door of the houses in which they are eating. That same night they should eat the meat roasted over the fire. They should eat it along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Don’t eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over fire with its head, legs, and internal organs. 10 Don’t let any of it remain until morning, and burn any of it left over in the morning. 11 This is how you should eat it. You should be dressed, with your sandals on your feet and your walking stick in your hand. You should eat the meal in a hurry. It is the Passover of the Lord. 12 I’ll pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I’ll strike down every oldest child in the land of Egypt, both humans and animals. I’ll impose judgments on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. 13 The blood will be your sign on the houses where you live. Whenever I see the blood, I’ll pass over[b] you. No plague will destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. 14 “This day will be a day of remembering for you. You will observe it as a festival to the Lord. You will observe it in every generation as a regulation for all time.

LORD’S PRAYER

SERIES INTRO: Life Lessons from the Playground

During the month of September, we will channel our inner child to remember the lessons we learned from the playground. As we dive into Jesus’ teachings from Matthew, we will also see parallels to our lives from 0 to 90.

PLAYGROUND LESSON: “Be the Bigger Person,”

I am the middle child and only girl. My older brother, Josh, is 2 years older than me. My younger brother, Micah, is 4 years younger. I have to say; we were perfect children. (I can say that because my parents aren’t here to contradict me.) On the rare occasion we fought, it was natural for us to escalate the argument until we were hurt or crying.

PHOTO OF US ADORABLE KIDS W/ GRANDPARENTS: I know, it’s hard to imagine these cute kids acting up, right?

Consider your childhood. Do you remember the words of adults as they would break up a fight? Kids yelling ‘they started it!’

If they broke a fight up before bloodshed or tears, you could almost bet that an adult would tell you to “be the better person” or “take the high road” when you wanted to get even with the sibling who wronged you.

“Be the bigger person.” BLEGH! Who wants to do that? And what does it mean, anyway?!

“Be the bigger person” is an idiom I’ve heard adults tell kids when a conflict arises and retaliation is due. But what do we mean by this phrase? (AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION)

Urbandictionary.com defines “the bigger person,” this way: The person that does the right thing despite not being advantageous to oneself. It is a type of moral high ground.”. [1]

TRANSITION: We’re supposed to know better and rise above even in those difficult moments when our anger is boiling. In our Text for today, we see Jesus break down how to resolve conflict without punching your sibling until they cry. Is this a solution for every debate and conflict, or is this solution conditional?

SCRIPTURE & EXPLAINATION: Matthew 18: 15-20

VS 15-17 15 “If your brother or sister sins against you, go and correct them when you are alone together. If they listen to you, then you’ve won over your brother or sister. 16But if they won’t listen, take with you one or two others so that every word may be established by the mouth of two or three witnesses. 17But if they still won’t pay attention, report it to the church. If they won’t pay attention even to the church, treat them as you would a Gentile and tax collector.

  1. Disclaimer about abusers harbored by the church: Churches have taken this scripture and twisted it and used it to protect the wrong group of people. They’ve protected abusers and blamed the victims. But something deeper is going on here than a blanket solution for all conflict.
  2. Outline for conflict resolution:
    1. Correct them alone
    2. Bring 2-3 witnesses to speak truth
    3. Bring them before the church
    4. treat them as you would a Gentile and tax collector.”
  3. If you don’t listen to my perspective, then you must be an outsider… a HEATHEN! Obviously, you’re damned if you don’t see my perspective as the right perspective.
    1. A common interpretation of this passage includes the conclusion that if the wrong-doer still doesn’t change their ways, the offended should abandon the offender or cast them out or “treat them like a heathen” as some translations state. Consider those heathens hopeless, they’ll never change.
      1. But that perspective doesn’t fit the God who gave us Jesus. That interpretation doesn’t fit the God who patiently walked with the people of Israel through their stubbornness, unfaithfulness, and indecision.
    2. Alternate interpretation: “Treating them like a Gentile and a tax collector” should mean someone that doesn’t know any better. Treating them like a heathen, means they learned how to live differently in their childhood and you need to find common ground.
      1. I would push this even farther into this thought. We recognize that Christianity is a diverse group of people who interpret scripture in different ways. My dream is a day when we can recognize the fights worth fighting and to let go of preference differences.

VS 18-20 18I assure you that whatever you fasten on earth will be fastened in heaven. And whatever you loosen on earth will be loosened in heaven. 19Again I assure you that if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, then my Father who is in heaven will do it for you. 20For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them.”

  1. Community matters. As we gather in community and listen for God’s guidance, we move in the ways God directs.
  2. ‘In theory,’ if we are gathered in community, listening for God’s direction, and living it out, then our actions coincide with God’s will.
    1. Fasten & Loose- our ministry will be focused on what God calls us to.
    2. Agree & God will do it—our ministry will be equipped by God.
    3. Where two or three are gathered—We will be God’s representatives on this earth.

INTERPRETATION:

  1. Jesus is teaching us about maintaining relationships with those to whom we disagree.
    1. Frequently, Jesus takes the laws of Moses or the cultural norms of the day and elevates the expected behavior of God’s children.
      1. No longer is restitution enough, as the Jewish laws outline.
      2. We’re looking to repairing the relationship and community damage.
  2. This conflict resolution chart that Jesus introduces doesn’t match the systems Jews had in place.
    1. When you dive in to the laws in Exodus, Leviticus, or Deuteronomy (for some light reading) you will see a detailed list of what God requires providing restitutions for wrong doings. The Old Testament has an extensive list of scriptures about restitution.
      1. 2 types of restitution
        1. Making ourselves right with each other (Exodus 22)
        2. Making ourselves right with God
        3. Resource links[2] [3] [4]
      2.  “An eye for an eye” came from Leviticus with the concept of restoring the damage done. Pay back what you have wronged.
  3. There has been a culture of restitution and righting your wrong doings for centuries. Jesus seems to shift the conversation about conflict deeper than expecting only restitution but towards a deeper resolution.
    1. God’s people aren’t called to make things even.
    2. God’s people are to demonstrate the very grace that God gives on us to others; they are to surpass the expectations of culture and repair relationships.
  4. Back to Abuse: Unfortunately, Society knows churches can harbor abusers and sexual predators under the cover of Matthew 18. We’ve all heard those tragic stories in the news.
    1. Terrible Scenario: The abuser repented… they said sorry. They said they’ll stop. So, we can move on. It’s what Jesus would do….
      1. STOP! Jesus died on the cross. We do not have to hang victims on the same cross for the salvation of their abusers.
    2. You may develop questions about broadly applying this scripture:
      1. But how does Matthew 18 work in relation to abuse or sexual assault?
      2. What does Matthew 18 mean for the criminal justice system?
      3. What does Matthew 18 mean for capital punishment?
    3. I will not solve this riddle for you today. I have baggage attached to abuse and forgiveness. I encourage you to wrestle with this text and let God direct your heart.
      1. God will never use evil for good. No person is stuck in an abusive situation for God’s will.

APPLICATION: To acknowledge our desire for restitution or reparations and God’s calling for us to ‘be the bigger person’ as God is ‘the bigger person.’ To determine which fights are worth fighting and which fights require us to be ‘the bigger person.’

  1. Setting aside the questions about abuse for another time. I’m willing to get together throughout the week to chat about these questions.
  2. Jesus is changing the way arguments end. Jesus is raising the bar on expectations. No longer is it about being the bigger person and letting things go. It’s about rebuilding what we have torn down.
    1. Let’s consider if we are acting like God’s representatives. Are we exposing ourselves as God’s people with grace and mercy?
  3. Social Media has stunted our ability to navigate tough conversations. Social media *seems* to help us make social connections, but it has destroyed our ability to connect face to face.
    1. My social media problem: I’m part of the problem. I get riled up, like anyone else, when I scroll through Facebook and see: A misinterpretation of scripture; Putting words in God’s mouth; False information being spread that perpetuates distress; or Assumptions about my demographic/generation
      1. I catch myself wanting to pull out my keyboard and attack the offender with skillfully chosen words as my weapon. ‘I’ll show you.’ That isn’t healthy! That isn’t the way a follower of Christ should behave.
      2. Conclusion? I’m getting rid of my personal Facebook and will only maintain a professional profile for use for church.
  4. Learn to have conversations with someone you disagree with and don’t assume the worst.
    1. PHOTO OF US AS ADULTS: My brothers and I are all grown up. Aren’t we cute? We’ve learned how to navigate hard conversations or to recognize when something isn’t our business. I used to hate being the only girl and middle child. Now I love the family dynamics our birth order has brought out.
    2. How do you handle tough conversations within your family? What about friends?
    3. When was the last time you agreed to disagree with someone and walked away still friends?

CONCLUSION: I cannot guarantee that Liberty will ever be completely unified in politics, theology or favorite worship songs. I can guarantee that we are better together in our diversity of thought. We are closer to understanding God when we can bridge our mental divides.

If you have difficulty or disagreements with another person, remember the lessons of our childhood. Be the bigger person, don’t retaliate. Don’t escalate. Repair. Use wisdom to not enable habitual abuse.

COMMUNION: We take communion together today and remember our diverse minds.Communion is about our salvation in Christ and it is about the commitment we make to a group of people. We won’t give up growing together.


[1] https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=bigger%20person

[2] https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Restitution

[3] https://founders.org/2019/05/15/5-principles-of-biblical-restitution/

[4] https://ibw21.org/commentary/the-torah-case-for-reparations/

Starting a Mountain Headboard

On a whim during lunch Josh and I decided to make a headboard. I have hated our current headboard since day one. It’s metal bars are not great for a lazy afternoon read and my pillows frequently slip through the bars. Yes, I realize #firstworldproblems.

So as we sat at Olive Garden for some delicious carbs, we plotted out our dream headboard.

Conveniently enough, Lowe’s is right next to Olive Garden. We left the restaurant, bellies full, and went shopping for wood!

Here is an example of our inspiration.

The plans became real as we walked out of Lowe’s with a truck bed of wood.

Got wood from Lowe’s
Prepping border (in retrospect, I regret staining this now….we later sanded the whole project, including the border)

Whose Redemption Story Is this?

Outside Worship at Liberty Baptist Church in Tipton, IN on 8/30/2020

Message Title: Whose Redemption Story Is this?
Theme: Redeemer of Stories
Season: ORDINARY
Main Text: Exodus 3:1-15;
Scripture Reading: Romans 12:9-21
RCL Scripture: Exodus 3:1-15; Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45b; Jeremiah 15:15-21; Psalm 26:1-8; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28
Focus: God invites Moses to be part of the redemption of Israel.
Function: To accept the invitation of Redemption bringers, but let go of the desire to define the route.
Other Notes:

SCRIPTURE READING: Romans 12:9-21 Love should be shown without pretending. Hate evil, and hold on to what is good. 10 Love each other like the members of your family. Be the best at showing honor to each other. 11 Don’t hesitate to be enthusiastic—be on fire in the Spirit as you serve the Lord! 12 Be happy in your hope, stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of God’s people, and welcome strangers into your home. 14 Bless people who harass you—bless and don’t curse them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and cry with those who are crying. 16 Consider everyone as equal, and don’t think that you’re better than anyone else. Instead, associate with people who have no status. Don’t think that you’re so smart. 17 Don’t pay back anyone for their evil actions with evil actions, but show respect for what everyone else believes is good.18 If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people. 19 Don’t try to get revenge for yourselves, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath. It is written, Revenge belongs to me; I will pay it back, says the Lord.[a]20 Instead, If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. By doing this, you will pile burning coals of fire upon his head.[b] 21 Don’t be defeated by evil, but defeat evil with good.

LORD’S PRAYER

BOOK INTRO: Could I really do a book series without talking about Harry Potter? If you have lived under a rock for the last 20+ years, you may not have heard about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The world was first introduced to this world in 1997 with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

A young boy is orphaned at infancy and raised by his maternal aunt & uncle. When he turns 11, he learns that he is a wizard when he receives an acceptance letter to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. This revelation, in retrospect, explains some odd situations of his childhood. His aunt and uncle had kept this detail a secret as they vehemently opposed anything odd and especially hated magic.

A whole unknown world opens up to Harry as he learns about magic, how his parents really died, and the struggle of good and evil magical forces. One particular cultural lesson involved House Elves.

House-elves do not look like the elves of Lord of the Rings. They are small magical creatures typically found enslaved to wealthy magical families and frequently mistreated. Dobby was Harry’s first house-elf interaction. It wasn’t until later that Harry learned Dobby’s owners were the Malfoys, who abused him terribly. Harry helped to trick Lucious Malfoy into freeing Dobby.

Now Dobby was a unique elf; he had disobeyed orders and also enjoyed being set free. This was not the norm for house-elves; they were loyal, obedient, and lovers of hard work. If you haven’t read the books, you would never know the house-elf of Bartemous Crouch Sr, Winky.

Winky was loyal to the Crouchs and served them no matter the scary, dangerous, or even illegal task they demanded of her. Winky gets fired when she is caught at the scene of a crime (because of orders by her master) with a piece of evidence connected to the crime.

She goes into a drunken stupor, disappointed in herself and feeling as though she disgraced her house-elf family tree. Dobby helps Winky get a job at Hogwarts, where Hermione has taken up the unwanted task of demanding justice for the house-elves. She establishes a club called: Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare. House-Elves maintained Hogwarts behind the scenes. Hermione took up knitting to trick the elves into freedom. 

Ironically enough, most of the house-elves avoided Hermione and her work because they enjoyed their job at Hogwarts and saw Dobby as odd and the condition of Winky as tragic. They did not want freedom.

No matter what, Hermione did not want to listen to the words of House Elves or others connected to house elves. She demanded justice and justice would only be served her way. (Although, I regularly agreed with Hermione that the House-elves didn’t even know how much better wizards could treat them.)

TRANSITION: In our text for today we see Adult Moses, no longer a baby in a basket, in a conversation with God about justice for Israel. God wants to invite Moses to take part in providing justice for Israel. Let’s see how the conversation goes….

SCRIPTURE: Exodus 3:1-15

VS 1-4 Moses was taking care of the flock for his father-in-law Jethro,[a] Midian’s priest. He led his flock out to the edge of the desert, and he came to God’s mountain called Horeb. The Lord’s messenger appeared to him in a flame of fire in the middle of a bush. Moses saw that the bush was in flames, but it didn’t burn upThen Moses said to himself, Let me check out this amazing sight and find out why the bush isn’t burning up. When the Lord saw that he was coming to look, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” Moses said, “I’m here.”

  1. When we last saw Moses, he was weaned from his mother and placed in Pharaoh’s household. Much time has passed since Moses’ infancy.
    1. Pre-Script: Moses ran away from his problems in Egypt
      1. Killed an Egyptian guard in defense of a Hebrew
      1. Ran away to Midian for fear of consequences
      1. Got married to a Midian woman, Zipporah
      1. Tended his father-in-law’s flock
  2. Moses had not only run away from his consequences; he had run away from his people and his God. God was not on Moses’ radar. Nevertheless, God got Moses’ attention with a natural phenomenon.

VS 5-10 Then the Lord said, “Don’t come any closer! Take off your sandals, because you are standing on holy ground.” He continued, “I am the God of your father, Abraham’s God, Isaac’s God, and Jacob’s God.” Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God. Then the Lord said, “I’ve clearly seen my people oppressed in Egypt. I’ve heard their cry of injustice because of their slave masters. I know about their pain. I’ve come down to rescue them from the Egyptians in order to take them out of that land and bring them to a good and broad land, a land that’s full of milk and honey, a place where the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites all liveNow the Israelites’ cries of injustice have reached me. I’ve seen just how much the Egyptians have oppressed them. 10 So get going. I’m sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”

  1. God saw the pain of his people and wanted it stopped!
    1. My people have suffered, and it isn’t ok.
    1. Repeat: My people have suffered in Egypt. It’s time for a change.
    1. I’m sending you, Moses, get going!

What does Moses say back… to the burning bush?

VS 11-15 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I to go to Pharaoh and to bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 God said, “I’ll be with you. And this will show you that I’m the one who sent you. After you bring the people out of Egypt, you will come back here and worship God on this mountain.” 13 But Moses said to God, “If I now come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they are going to ask me, ‘What’s this God’s name?’ What am I supposed to say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I Am Who I Am.[b] So say to the Israelites, ‘I Am has sent me to you.’” 15 God continued, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, Abraham’s God, Isaac’s God, and Jacob’s God, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever; this is how all generations will remember me.

  1. That’s right, Moses talks back to the burning bush. Moses doesn’t respond to the suffering of his people or how he was spared and lived in Pharaoh’s house in safety. Moses only responds to the responsibility expected of him. God you want me to do what?! You want me to put myself at risk?
    1. God assures Moses that he’ll be with him.
  2. But once again Moses protests: Ummm… who are you?!?
    1. Moses to God: So, you say you’ll be with me… cool, cool but …umm… which God should I tell them is helping them out?
    1. God gives Moses his name: call me Yahweh (I Am Who I Am or I Am)
      1. God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
      1. Know my name!

EXPLANATION & INTERPRETATION:

  1. God reached out to Moses while Moses was tending the flock. God got Moses’ attention with the burning bush. Through this conversation God invites Moses to be part of the rescue, restoration, & redemption of Israel. God revealed God’s self to Moses. God even presented Moses with God’s name.
    1. AND STILL MOSES WAS HESITANT.
    1. Post-Script: Moses is hesitant for many reasons
      1. I don’t know who you are & Israel doesn’t know who you are
        1. My name is Yahweh
      1. Israel won’t listen to me & Pharaoh won’t listen to me.
        1. I’ll give you the words & powers to prove I’m with you.
      1. Also, I can’t speak well.
        1. Fine, take your brother.

APPLICATION: To accept the invitation of Redemption bringers, but let go of the desire to define the route.

  1. Book Redemption: We learn in the epilogue of the Harry Potter series that Hermione finishes her education and works for the Ministry of Magic. She was so upset by the welfare of House Elves that she pursued a career in the Ministry of Magic to change things working within the system.
    1. If you keep diving into the lore of Harry Potter, Hermione eventually becomes the Minister of Magic (equivalent to the American President or British Prime Minister)
    1. Hermione had to adjust her goals to bring about change.
  2. If I’m honest, I can get stuck somewhere between Moses & Hermione for justice. Either I am fearful for my safety or I can want to set the terms of redemption.
    1. God’s redemption comes on God’s timing and in God’s way. We don’t get to choose WHO gets redeemed; that is under God’s judgement.
      1. ME & BLM: I can feel that way about the Black Lives Matter movement. Yes, I recognize healing needs to happen. We cannot deny there is pain surrounding racism. But I catch myself asking: Can you do it my way? Can I define what is enough healing or reparation?
    1. God’s got the itinerary; We don’t get to choose HOW others gets redeemed; that is under God’s judgement. God may ask you to give something up that isn’t a problem for someone else. We can’t play the redemption comparison game. The outline of our little redemption stories will not be the same.
      1. We need to let go of defining the outline of everyone’s little redemption story. ‘But! But! He still cusses! She still drinks! I don’t approve of their sexual practices! They didn’t follow the police officer’s commands!’
        1. We are all a work in progress. It is not our job to compare our progress and determine a ‘winner.’
      1. Let’s take a non-religious example for a moment: Diabetics & Carbs. Yes, we’re all supposed to be reasonable with our carb intake, but diabetics must intentionally watch their carb consumption. 
    1. My job is to follow God faithfully, not define the route. My job is to adjust my own expectations and understanding through God’s guidance. My role is to tell each person God loves them no matter where they are in the redemption process.
      1. ME & BLM: I need to listen to the pains of the BLM movement without the need to define their route to healing or offer Band-Aids for the festering infection of racism. I need to continue to look for ways that I can do better when I know better.
        1. My role is to ask myself:
          1. Am I listening?
          1. Am I learning?
          1. What ways can I adjust?
      1. What ways is God asking you to listen, learn, and adjust?

CONCLUSION: God invited Moses to be part of the justice and redemption of Israel. Moses was hesitant. We, like Moses, have received an invitation. The invitation is there, but it’s God’s itinerary, not ours.

Writer’s block and Speaker’s remorse

Sometimes, I can be extremely naive to my own mistakes. I can be clueless to the ways I may offend individuals, living blissfully in my ignorance.

As I reflect on each sermon or professional conversation, I look back and see when I’ve made insensitive or inappropriate errors in communicating.

One particular blunder has continued to chew in mind.

One Sunday, in a sermon, I casually compared my dog’s anxiety to that of a veteran’s PTSD…. Saying something to the line of “Much like a ‘nam flashback.'” FROM THE PULPIT no less.

FACE TO PALM! 🤦🏼‍♀️🤦🏼‍♀️🤦🏼‍♀️🤦🏼‍♀️🤦🏼‍♀️

Looking back, I’m so embarrassed. I strive to always be someone who speaks intentionally and in consideration of other. My judgement lapsed in the midst of making light of my dog.

I have loved ones who have been changed by war. I myself struggle with PTSD, not related to military service. Why did I think that would be ok?

🤷🏼‍♀️🤷🏼‍♀️🤷🏼‍♀️🤷🏼‍♀️

It’s haunting the empty spaces in my mind. I lay in bed embarrassed. And I need to say I’m sorry.

I can’t move on to finish my sermon for tomorrow while this looms over my head.

I know better. I will do better.

Headboard remake

A friend (Abby Johnson) gave me a twin bed frame and headboard. I decided to breathe new life into it.

I sanded…. A lot…

Time to torch

Originally, we were going to add a stain on top of the burning. But we’re so happy with the burning that we decided to coat with acrylic and be done.

Finished product! Now to set up the frame and get a mattress & box spring.