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

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/

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.

Unconventional Redemption

Message Title: Unconventional Redemption
Theme: Redeemer of Stories
Season: ORDINARY
Main Text: Exodus 1:8-2:10;
Scripture Reading: Romans 12:1-8;
RCL Scripture: Exodus 1:8-2:10; Psalm 124; Isaiah 51:1-6; Psalm 138; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20
Focus: God uses women in Israel’s exodus & redemption story.
Function:  To find yourself and others in the Big Redemption story and see your little redemption coinciding with The Big Redemption.
Other Notes:

SCRIPTURE READING: Romans 12:1-8 So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service. Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature. Because of the grace that God gave me, I can say to each one of you: don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. Instead, be reasonable since God has measured out a portion of faith to each one of you. We have many parts in one body, but the parts don’t all have the same function. In the same way, though there are many of us, we are one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other. We have different gifts that are consistent with God’s grace that has been given to us. If your gift is prophecy, you should prophesy in proportion to your faith. If your gift is service, devote yourself to serving. If your gift is teaching, devote yourself to teaching.If your gift is encouragement, devote yourself to encouraging. The one giving should do it with no strings attached. The leader should lead with passion. The one showing mercy should be cheerful.

LORD’S PRAYER

BOOK INTRO: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

  1. We finally have a “combo-breaker” in our books in the Redeemer of Stories series. I read today’s book before I saw the movie! Aren’t you proud of me? Don’t be. I need to read more.
  2. Book details: In 1962, Madeleine L’Engle released the first book in a growing series titled A Wrinkle in Time. This book is a balance of the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres and debated to be part of Christian fiction.
  3. Synopsis: (Nice video summary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMacFsaOzuk)
    1. The book opens by introducing the reader to the Murry family; which includes a husband and wife scientist team, their daughter Margaret who is always called Meg, twin sons Sandy & Dennis, and youngest son Charles Wallace.
    2. Mr. Murray has gone missing and has been missing for a long time. Many in the community assume he left his family, but the Murry’s know better. Their father is mysteriously missing, but Sandy and Dennis do not seem to miss a beat. However, this tragedy significantly affects Meg and Charles Wallace. Meg struggles with her emotions and continues to have problems in school. Eventually, we meet a classmate of Meg’s, Calvin O’Keefe, who befriends Meg when she doesn’t even like herself. Charles Wallace, though a prodigy at home, struggles with casual interactions.
    3. Charles Wallace meets a group of mysterious old women with odd names: Mrs. Whatist, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. As we get to know these characters, they seem to be angels or aliens or some kind of celestial beings with capabilities unlike humans. These mysterious women, along with Calvin, help Meg and Charles Wallace on their journey to find their father.
  4. Morning Focus: Meg doesn’t like herself. Meg doubts her intellect and capabilities and is impatient. She gets angry and defensive easily and takes time to calm down. Through the journey to find Mr. Murray, both Meg and Charles Wallace, face challenges that highlight the hardships they’ve encountered in their father’s absence.

TRANSITION: Meg doesn’t feel qualified to help in the rescue mission of Mr. Murry, except as protection for Charles Wallace. She doubts her place in the story. In our text for today, we will hear the beginning of a very familiar story but with a new focus. My hope is you hear your place in this story as we consider new vantage points.

SCRIPTURE: Exodus 1:8-2:10

Summary: vs 8-14

  1. Joseph and his brothers have passed away
  2. The Pharaoh that is now in power, never knew Joseph and now fears the Hebrews/Israelites.
  3. Pharaoh enslaves the Hebrews.
  4. The Hebrews now make mortar, bricks, and work the field.
  5. But still their numbers grew and Pharaoh was scared of an uprising.

1:15-2:10 15 The king of Egypt spoke to two Hebrew midwives named Shiphrah and Puah:16 “When you are helping the Hebrew women give birth and you see the baby being born, if it’s a boy, kill him. But if it’s a girl, you can let her live.” 17 Now the two midwives respected God so they didn’t obey the Egyptian king’s order. Instead, they let the baby boys live. 18 So the king of Egypt called the two midwives and said to them, “Why are you doing this? Why are you letting the baby boys live?”19 The two midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because Hebrew women aren’t like Egyptian women. They’re much stronger and give birth before any midwives can get to them.” 20 So God treated the midwives well, and the people kept on multiplying and became very strong. 21 And because the midwives respected God, God gave them households of their own. 22 Then Pharaoh gave an order to all his people: “Throw every baby boy born to the Hebrews into the Nile River, but you can let all the girls live.” 2 Now a man from Levi’s household married a Levite woman. The woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She saw that the baby was healthy and beautiful, so she hid him for three months.When she couldn’t hide him any longer, she took a reed basket and sealed it up with black tar. She put the child in the basket and set the basket among the reeds at the riverbank. The baby’s older sister stood watch nearby to see what would happen to him. Pharaoh’s daughter came down to bathe in the river, while her women servants walked along beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds, and she sent one of her servants to bring it to her. When she opened it, she saw the child. The boy was crying, and she felt sorry for him. She said, “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children.” Then the baby’s sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Would you like me to go and find one of the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” Pharaoh’s daughter agreed, “Yes, do that.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I’ll pay you for your work.” So the woman took the child and nursed it. 10 After the child had grown up, she brought him back to Pharaoh’s daughter, who adopted him as her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I pulled him out[a] of the water.”

EXPLANATION & INTERPRETATION: God uses women in Israel’s exodus & redemption story.

  1. Yes, this is the story of the birth of Moses. And frequently, we skim past the opening chapter to focus on the baby in a basket. But there are some significant stories we miss when we jump into the river before considering how the baby got there.
  2. 5 Women in Moses’ story: In this passage we learn about five women paramount to Moses becoming the man who would lead the Hebrews out of Egypt. Moses would have never gotten into the basket in the river or raised in Pharaoh’s house if it wasn’t for these five women.
    1. SAY THEIR NAMES:
      1. Two Midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, who defied Pharaoh’s orders and allowed Hebrew baby boys to live.
      2. A Mother, Jochebed, who gave birth to a son and hid him from the officials and eventually placed him in a basket in the river for his safety.
      3. A Sister, Miriam, who protected her baby brother and encouraged Pharaoh’s daughter to adopt him. She was clever enough to get her own mother to raise Moses ‘for’ Pharaoh’s Daughter.
      4. Pharaoh’s Daughter– Though we never learn her name, this Unnamed Woman, adopts a baby, in defiance of her father’s decree. She raises a Hebrew in Pharaoh’s household but waits until he is weaned thus allowing his beginning years to be with his biological family.

APPLICATION: To find yourself and others in the Big Redemption story and see your redemption coinciding with The Big Redemption.

  1. These five women were part of God’s redemption story for Israel and tantamount to the Exodus story. Yet we don’t tell their stories in Sunday School. They don’t have their own VeggieTales episode. And churches build a theology that invalidates their role in the Redemption of Israel or the Church as a whole.
  2. Redemption in the book: In A Wrinkle in Time we see Meg underestimated herself because of her flaws and overestimate Charles Wallace because of his talents. Meg doesn’t even consider that her flaws could become talents with practice and determination.
    1. It isn’t until they send the kids into a task without Mrs Who, Which, and Whatsit that Meg’s thoughts are challenged. Mrs. Whatsit gives each kid a gift to help them in the task at hand. To Meg, she gives her faults. This forces Meg forced to consider how her faults could help her.
  3. Our Little Redemption: I have said this before but I believe that hurt people hurt people. I believe the world is full of hurt people that can perpetuate unhealthy practices and teachings because of pain. Specifically, I believe our own insecurities can frequently lead to discrediting others as we discredit ourselves. We make this weird competition game, and God’s gospel gets muddled with jealousy.
    1. Ubuntu: My dream is we take part in changing the competition. My dream would be adapting a philosophy of Ubuntu. There has been a few different versions floating around on Facebook, but the general concept is of unity.
      1. Ubuntu[1]: “I am what I am because of who we all are.” (From a definition offered by Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee.)
        1. “A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.” — Archbishop Desmond Tutu
        2. “A traveller through a country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food and attend him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu, but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not address themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?” Nelson Mandela
      2. This philosophy removes the concept of competing for value. We can care for each other because we recognize our connectedness. We can fill our role in this world because everyone is filling a custom-made role. No one is competing for space to exist.
    2. Each a role, unique from others
      1. Humans don’t have to compete for God’s favor or love.
      2. Humans don’t have to compete for redemption.
      3. Humans don’t have to compete for a role in God’s redemption story.  
  4. The Big Redemption:
    1. For centuries, the church has been perpetuating damaging teachings by underestimating and undervaluing the role of women in sharing & living out the Gospel message. It wasn’t until I was a seminarian, that I realized that not every Christian church teaches the same perspective on women.
    2. Ultimately, the teachings boil down to two perspectives:
      1. Complementarians: God views men and women as separate, distinct, with different roles, though equally valued and loved. Men lead, women serve.
      2. Egalitarians: God values all humans equally and equips individuals based on their talents and gifting, not based on their gender. Anyone can lead or serve.
    3. You can find both perspectives in scripture. BUT when you consider that both arguments are present, it rather disassembles the complementarian perspective.

CONCLUSION:

  1. God uses all of us. God uniquely equips all of us.
    1. It doesn’t have to be a competition. It could be a collaboration. We work together, in the spirit of Ubuntu, as part of God’s Big Redemption story.
    2. We all may be in the midst of our little redemption stories but are still able to participate in the bigger picture. You don’t have to have God all figured out to be loved by God or to be part of the Big Redemption story.
  2. Benediction:
    1. Validate our own redemption story
    2. Validate other’s redemption story
    3. Take part in God’s redemption story and recognize it isn’t a competition of favor, reward, or holiness.  

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubuntu_philosophy#:~:text=with%20%22unhu%22.-,South%20Africa,of%20who%20we%20all%20are.%22&text=Nelson%20Mandela%20explained%20Ubuntu%20as,him%20food%20and%20attend%20him.

Sugar Coated Plans (Family Dysfunction Redeemed Part 2)

Liberty Baptist on August 16th, 2020

Message Title: Sugar Coated Plans
Theme: Redeemer of Stories
Season: ORDINARY
Main Text: Genesis 45:1-15;
Scripture Reading: Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32;
RCL Scripture: Genesis 45:1-15; Psalm 133; Isaiah 56:1, 6-8; Psalm 67; Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32; Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28
Focus: God redeems the story of 12 brothers.
Function: To not blame or attribute God for our pains, to take ownership for our actions, and to make a change.
Other Notes:

SCRIPTURE READING: Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32; So I ask you, has God rejected his people? Absolutely not! I’m an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God hasn’t rejected his people, whom he knew in advance. Or don’t you know what the scripture says in the case of Elijah, when he pleads with God against Israel?…  29 God’s gifts and calling can’t be taken back. 30 Once you were disobedient to God, but now you have mercy because they were disobedient. 31 In the same way, they have also been disobedient because of the mercy that you received, so now they can receive mercy too. 32 God has locked up all people in disobedience, in order to have mercy on all of them.

LORD’S PRAYER

BOOK STORY: The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins

My first exposure to Suzanne Collins’ work was through children’s shows like Little Bear or adolescent shows like Clarissa Explains It All. In 2008, Suzanne Collins released the first book in a series different from the works I had been exposed to previously.

Premise: “The Hunger Games universe is a dystopia set in Panem, a North American country consisting of the wealthy Capitol and 13 districts in varying states of poverty. Every year, children from the first 12 districts are selected via lottery to participate in a compulsory televised battle royale death match called The Hunger Games.” (wiki)

  1. Post destruction of America, a new nation was established called Panem.
    1. 12 districts and one Capitol make up Panem. Each of the 12 districts contribute to the economy: power, coal, textiles, fishing, farming, etc. The Capitol is the law.
  2. A rebellion happened and the Capitol won. As punishment for the rebellion, the Capitol hosts a yearly pageant to the death called the Hunger Games where each district offers 2 kids to take part. The winning child gets bathed in riches.
  3. The Capitol claims this is a reminder of the pain that rebellion and war bring and keeps the country united.

TRANSITION: President Snow, like the presidents before him, sugar coated their violence. They used flowery rhetoric to ensure their agenda. In our text for today, we see Joseph trying to sniff out the motivation of his brothers.

BIBLE: Genesis 45:1-15

Joseph could no longer control himself in front of all his attendants, so he declared, “Everyone, leave now!” So no one stayed with him when he revealed his identity to his brothers. 2He wept so loudly that the Egyptians and Pharaoh’s household heard him. 3Joseph said to his brothers, “I’m Joseph! Is my father really still alive?” His brothers couldn’t respond because they were terrified before him. 4Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me,” and they moved closer. He said, “I’m your brother Joseph! The one you sold to Egypt. 5Now, don’t be upset and don’t be angry with yourselves that you sold me here. Actually, God sent me before you to save lives. 6We’ve already had two years of famine in the land, and there are five years left without planting or harvesting. 7God sent me before you to make sure you’d survive and to rescue your lives in this amazing way. 8You didn’t send me here; it was God who made me a father to Pharaoh, master of his entire household, and ruler of the whole land of Egypt. 9“Hurry! Go back to your father. Tell him this is what your son Joseph says: ‘God has made me master of all of Egypt. Come down to me. Don’t delay. 10You may live in the land of Goshen, so you will be near me, your children, your grandchildren, your flocks, your herds, and everyone with you. 11I will support you there, so you, your household, and everyone with you won’t starve, since the famine will still last five years.’ 12You and my brother Benjamin have seen with your own eyes that I’m speaking to you. 13Tell my father about my power in Egypt and about everything you’ve seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” 14He threw his arms around his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his shoulder.15He kissed all of his brothers and wept, embracing them. After that, his brothers were finally able to talk to him.

  1. I want to recap the story of Joseph and his brothers since we last saw them…
    1. Last week we learned that Israel’s 11 sons had major family dysfunction.
      1. Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery out of resentment and hatred.
    2. Joseph ends up a slave of Potiphar.
      1. He did well and rose in importance in the household.
      2. Joseph rejected advances made by Potiphar’s wife, so she accused him of sexual assault and we sent him to jail.
    3. In jail
      1. Joseph has dreams about the fate of fellow inmates. He shares the interpretation with the inmates and they are in awe of his wisdom.
      2. Joseph rose in importance in the jail
    4. Pharaoh has a dream and needs an interpretation
      1. Only Joseph can interpret the dream
        1. Famine is coming. Time to store up harvest in preparation.
      2. Pharaoh frees Joseph from jail and makes Joseph second in command to Pharaoh.
  2. More Family drama: Famine has hit all the surrounding countries and people are coming to Egypt for help.
    1. Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt for food.
    2. Joseph recognizes them and plays a weird mind game while hiding his identity.
      1. YOU ARE SPIES!!!!
        1. Put them in jail!
        2. Bring me your baby brother to prove your honesty!
        3. Brothers say (in Hebrew) that this is their punishment for what they did to Joseph.
          1. Secretly, Joseph gives them food & their money back.
          2. Simeon left behind in Egypt while the other brothers go get Benjamin.
          3. They find the silver and were afraid.
      2. They tell their father about the food & silver & accusations
        1. Begg their father for Benjamin.
        2. Jacob is hesitant to give Benjamin because of the loss of Joseph, and now Simeon is in prison.
      3. They return with Benjamin
        1. Joseph has a meal prepared
          1. The brothers fear their lives
        2. Joseph favored Benjamin
      4. Joseph tests his brothers
        1. Joseph sets Benjamin set up as a thief!
        2. The brother’s defend Benjamin
        3. Joseph is changed.
  3. Now: Joseph see’s it has transformed his brothers.
    1. He reveals himself to his brothers.
    2. What you meant for evil, God meant for good.
    3. …And they all lived happily ever after… or so we portray in church.

EXPLANATION & INTERPRETATION:

  1. I HAVE BEEF WITH THIS STORY.
    1. Joseph claims God sent him to Egypt.
      1. We interpret this to mean that everything that happens to us is God’s plan.
      2. We use the toxic phrase: Everything happens for a reason.
    2. I reject that notion. And you should too! Why? Because that’s a terrible God to follow.
    3. The God I follow is good and need not use evil to teach his children a lesson or develop their character.
    4. MY GOD DOESN’T USE EVIL.
      1. EVIL IS NOT A TOOL FOR GOOD.
      2. There is no “it’s for the greater good,” or “lesser of two evils.”
    5. A new perspective
      1. God is the Redeemer of Stories and the Redeemer of Choices we make.
        1. God didn’t make Joseph’s 10 brothers sell him into slavery.
        2. Joseph’s brothers sold him and God turned this terrible action into a redemption story.
  2. Return to the Book:  President Snow, and by default the Capitol citizens, packaged the Hunger Games as a benevolent symbol and a source of stability for the country. The Hunger Games was a lie. President Snow didn’t want to keep everyone safe. President Snow wanted control. He did not have the best interest of Panem in mind, rather the best interest of the elite.
  3. Our God is not President Snow. Our God doesn’t make us puppets, robots, or slaves to accomplish his bidding. Our God has a desire for God’s people, but won’t for them into it. 
    1. Consider Esther’s story. Her cousin Mordecai tells her that if she won’t stand up and do what is right, another person will rise.
    2. God will accomplish God’s Will. BUT our God need not use evil to accomplish the task. Our God is bigger than human restrictions or limitations.

APPLICATION: To not blame or attribute God for our pains, to take ownership for our actions, and to make a change.

  1. I entreat you: Stop saying “It’s God’s plan” or “God must have a plan for this,” when terrible things occur.
    1. God doesn’t make cancer, death, abuse, or miscarriages accomplish God’s will.
    2. It’s ok to acknowledge that something terrible has happened without making excuses or trying to make it better.
    3. Be present with someone in their grief. Don’t try to fix it, because words in that moment may only make it worse.
  2. Own your actions. We all experience the consequences of our actions. Sometimes our consequences passed on to another person.
    1. i.e. a drunk driver survives a car crash but kills another person.  God did not make that person die in a drunk driving accident to save the driver.
    2. Own your actions and the consequences of your actions.
  3. Know better, do better. Be part of your own redemption story.

CONCLUSION: It is easy in our grief to look for an answer or a reason to justify our pain. Unfortunately, for those looking for answers, God is not to blame. God wants what is best for us but God doesn’t make us into robots who always follow God’s desires.

Family Dysfunction Redeemed Part 1

Liberty Baptist on August 9th, 2020

Yes, the cinematics are terrible. My apologies.

Message Title: Family Dysfunction Redeemed Part 1
Theme: Redeemer of Stories
Season: ORDINARY
Main Text: Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28;
Scripture Reading: Romans 10:5-15;
RCL Scripture: Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28; Psalm 105: 1-6, 16-22, 45b; 1 Kings 19:9-18; Psalm 85:8-13; Romans 10:5-15; Matthew 14:22-33
Focus: Abraham’s family dysfunction is generational but not sanctioned by God.
Function: To fight our desire to use favoritism or power in the church and purse a healthier family dynamic.
Other Notes:

SCRIPTURE READING: Romans 10:5-15 Moses writes about the righteousness that comes from the Law: The person who does these things will live by them.[a] But the righteousness that comes from faith talks like this: Don’t say in your heart, “Who will go up into heaven?” (that is, to bring Christ down) or “Who will go down into the region below?” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart (that is, the message of faith that we preach). Because if you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and in your heart you have faith that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 Trusting with the heart leads to righteousness, and confessing with the mouth leads to salvation. 11 The scripture says, All who have faith in him won’t be put to shame.[e] 12 There is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord is Lord of all, who gives richly to all who call on him. 13 All who call on the Lord’s name will be saved. 14 So how can they call on someone they don’t have faith in? And how can they have faith in someone they haven’t heard of? And how can they hear without a preacher?15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the good news.

LORD’S PRAYER

Trigger disclaimer: Family dysfunction and abuse will be talked about today. Please feel the freedom to step back if this is a topic you can’t tackle at this moment.

BOOK INTRO: Matilda by Roald Dahl

  1. Details about Book:
    1. Author: Roald Dahl, British writer
    2. Date Published: 1988
    3. Setting: In a small British village lived a family of four: Mr & Mrs. Wormwood, Brother, and Matilda.
  2. Focus of today:
    1. Matilda was a unique little girl with a skilled mind. At 5 ½ she could read. She thought and spoke critically for someone so small. ButMatilda’s parents didn’t like her. Matilda’s principal didn’t like her.
      1. Narrator specifically talks about how there are 2 types of parents: the parents who see their kid as perfect and exceptional & the parent who despises their kid
      2. Matilda’s parents were both at the same time. They loved Matilda’s brother and hated Matilda. Matilda was smart for a young girl, smarter than her parents, and her parents only saw her as a puny, insignificant creature. They favored her brother because he behaved like them.
    2. Matilda has a teacher named Miss Honey. We learn that Miss Honey suffered abuse by her aunt & caregiver after her mother died and even more after her father died. Her aunt hated her, all children really, and made Miss Honey suffer.
  3. Though Matilda is a children’s book, there are some dark and heavy themes of family dysfunction and abuse present.

TRANSITIONS: In our text for today we will see some family hatred much like what Matilda and Miss Honey experienced.  My hope is we can engage in a conversation about a healthier family dynamic through this text.

SCRIPTURE: Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28; Join me in turning to Genesis 37 as we examine the dysfunctional family dynamics of Israel and his sons.

ENGAGE: Background/Family Tree

  1. Anyone know who the first son of Israel was?(Reuben)
  2. Anyone know who the last was? (Benjamin)
  3. How many sons did Leah give birth to? (Five)
  4. How many sons did Rachel give birth to? (2… though not yet)
  5. Wiki deets:
    1. The sons of Leah; Reuben (Jacob’s firstborn), Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun
    2. The sons of Rachel; Joseph, and Benjamin
    3. The sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s handmaid; Dan, and Naphtali
    4. The sons of Zilpah, Leah’s handmaid; Gad, and Asher

Vs 1-4 Jacob lived in the land of Canaan where his father was an immigrant. 2This is the account of Jacob’s descendants. Joseph was 17 years old and tended the flock with his brothers. While he was helping the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives, Joseph told their father unflattering things about them. 3Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons because he was born when Jacob was old. Jacob had made for him a long robe. 4When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of his brothers, they hated him and couldn’t even talk nicely to him. ….

  1. Jacob is now called Israel.
  2. Basically, Joseph tells his older brothers that their moms’ suck.
  3. Israel likes Joseph the best
    1. Israel has a favorite son, the only son from his favorite wife (however, she eventually has a second son before she dies).
  4. Joseph, the youngest, gets new clothes.
  5. The brothers hate Joseph. Perhaps it’s for good reason. Could Joseph be this clueless?

Vs 12- 28 12 Joseph’s brothers went to tend their father’s flocks near Shechem.13 Israel said to Joseph, “Aren’t your brothers tending the sheep near Shechem? Come, I’ll send you to them.” And he said, “I’m ready.” 14 Jacob said to him, “Go! Find out how your brothers are and how the flock is, and report back to me.” So Jacob sent him from the Hebron Valley. When he approached Shechem, 15 a man found him wandering in the field and asked him, “What are you looking for?” 16 Joseph said, “I’m looking for my brothers. Tell me, where are they tending the sheep?” 17 The man said, “They left here. I heard them saying, ‘Let’s go to Dothan.’” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them in Dothan. 18 They saw Joseph in the distance before he got close to them, and they plotted to kill him. 19The brothers said to each other, “Here comes the big dreamer. 20 Come on now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of the cisterns, and we’ll say a wild animal devoured him. Then we will see what becomes of his dreams!” 21 When Reuben heard what they said, he saved him from them, telling them, “Let’s not take his life.” 22 Reuben said to them, “Don’t spill his blood! Throw him into this desert cistern, but don’t lay a hand on him.” He intended to save Joseph from them and take him back to his father. 23 When Joseph reached his brothers, they stripped off Joseph’s long robe, 24 took him, and threw him into the cistern, an empty cistern with no water in it. 25 When they sat down to eat, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with camels carrying sweet resin, medicinal resin, and fragrant resin on their way down to Egypt. 26 Judah said to his brothers, “What do we gain if we kill our brother and hide his blood? 27 Come on, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites. Let’s not harm him because he’s our brother; he’s family.” His brothers agreed. 28 When some Midianite traders passed by, they pulled Joseph up out of the cistern. They sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver, and they brought Joseph to Egypt.

  1. The text drops to the reaction to the brothers post conversation about a dream Joseph has where his brothers will all bow to him. No wonder this section comes next.
  2. “Here comes this dreamer”—Resentment of the favorite one.
    1. Plot to kill him
    2. Reuben suggests they not kill him but put him in a cistern (great well)
    3. Judah suggests instead that they sell him in to slavery to the Ishmaelites instead of ‘harming’ him.
  3. Brothers sell Joseph into slavery to the Midianite traders/Ishmaelites. 
    1. Weird discrepancy in the text: was it Ishmaelites or Midianites?
    2. Midianites are not the same as Ishmaelites, though they are both from Abraham.
      1. Midianites are from Midian, Abraham’s son by Keturah
      2. Ishmaelites are from Ishmael, Abraham’s son by Hagar
    3. Indicator of an “other” though they’re technically related (PF)
      1. These “others” exist because of sibling rivalry and favoritism.
      2. “ignorance of the other”–easy to not engage in learning about our neighbor, ‘the other’
  4. Regardless of who purchased him, Joseph is sent to Egypt as a slave.
    1. Don’t worry! This isn’t the end of the story, there’s more coming next week!

INTERPRETATION:

  1. A frustration I have with this story involves a frequent view of Joseph as this spotless or perfect.
    1. SW: Joseph is favored and hated by the rest of his family. An image of what it is like to be ‘elect’ and hated by the rest of the world. (SW)
    2. Truth: This perspective is missing the point -the father fails in this situation by picking a favorite child. The father causes division in his family. But honestly, Joseph is not innocent in this story, he revels in his favored status. This whole family reeks of dysfunction.
  2. The Problem is Favoritism: This problem isn’t new.  We seethe sins of the father acting out favoritism, repeated throughout OT (PF)
    1. Jacob & Esau were estranged because of favoritism
    2. Joseph and his brothers estranged because of favoritism
    3. The system of inheritance to the oldest son was part of the problem.
    4.  But the system doesn’t mean God likes it or endorses it.
  3. Jacob/Israel’s favoritism does not represent God’s favoritism. God does not treat the 12 tribes according to Jacob’s preference in the Promise Land. (PF)
    1. If you look forward in the story for Israel (post exodus) we see that God did not give prominence to the 12 tribes based on who the original sons were in Genesis: (PF)
      1. David comes from the tribe of Benjamin, not Joseph
      2. Joseph’s tribe isn’t noted for doing amazing things
      3. (Jesus is called the Lion of the tribe of Judah)

APPLICATION: To fight our desire to use favoritism or power in the church and purse a healthier family dynamic.

  1. Family dysfunction: It’s natural to consider your own family dynamics as we investigate this story from scripture.  Therefore,I want to take a moment to state the obvious with you, which means we’re going to be heavy for a moment.
    1. God does not endorse abuse. God does not put people through abuse to teach lessons. Gods’ desires don’t always match what creation chooses to do.
    2. Remember, we’re in a series called Redeemer of Stories. This isn’t about making excuses for God, because God isn’t to blame for abuse, humans are.
      1. Humans are imperfect and do not represent God infallibly. Hurt people hurt people and we perpetuate a cycle of pain because we refuse to be the one that changes.
  2. Church dysfunction: In the same way, there is family dysfunction, there is church dysfunction. After all, we refer to the church as a family. We use money, popularity, and power to maintain our personal vision of church, Christianity, or religion. We allow our preferences and the misconception of favoritism to divide the family of God.
    1. Favoritism doesn’t bring the Gospel to those in need.
  3. What does a dysfunctional family redemption look like?–not going to lie, I don’t have this all figured out. I am a work in progress. But I know there are a few key things in healthy relationships:
    1. Communication: finding healthy ways to communicate about our thoughts and feelings.
    2. Humility: recognize when you’re right (and not being a jerk), admit when you’re wrong (and not being a jerk), or acknowledge when you don’t have enough information (and not being a jerk). 
    3. Adaptability & Teachability: a willingness to learn and shift when you know better.
    4. Team-minded: Thinking not only of the self but of the whole.
  4. Redeemed Stories:
    1. Matilda helped redeem Miss Honey’s story by helping Miss Honey get her home back.
    2. Matilda’s story gets redeemed when Matilda gets adopted by Miss Honey.

CONCLUSION

By Any Other Name

Message Title: By Any Other Name
Theme: Redeemer of Stories
Season: ORDINARY
Main Text: Genesis 32:22-31
Scripture Reading: Romans 9:1-5;
RCL Scripture: Genesis 32:22-31; Psalm 17:1-7, 15; Isaiah 55:1-5; Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:13-21
Focus: Jacob wrestles a mysterious person and receives a name change.
Function: To recognize the redemption arch in our own story and that God hasn’t finished our story.
Other Notes: COMMUNION

SCRIPTURE READING: Romans 9:1-5 I’m speaking the truth in Christ—I’m not lying, as my conscience assures me with the Holy Spirit: I have great sadness and constant pain in my heart. I wish I could be cursed, cut off from Christ if it helped my brothers and sisters, who are my flesh-and-blood relatives. They are Israelites. The adoption as God’s children, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the worship, and the promises belong to them. The Jewish ancestors are theirs, and the Christ descended from those ancestors. He is the one who rules over all things, who is God, and who is blessed forever. Amen.
LORD’S PRAYER

~~

SERMON SERIES INTRODUCTION: Redeemer of Stories
Today begins with a new month and a new series. In this series we will examine stories from the end of Genesis and beginning of Exodus. While we study God’s redemption at work through the stories of Jacob, Joseph, and Moses, we will also examine stories of redemption from authors like L M Montgomery, Madeleine L’Engle, and Suzanne Collins. May we discover our own redemption arcs through the study of other’s redemption.

BOOK INTRO: Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery

  1. Anne of Green Gables was one of my favorite stories as a young girl. I loved Anne’s personality and knack for messing things up. She helped me to feel more normal as a quirky kid. Now, I must admit to the avid readers in the room, I only knew Anne through the movies until I read the books in my 30s. The books have ignited a deep love for Anne that will be passed on to my children.
  2. Basics of Anne of Green Gables: If you haven’t heard of this book series before: Anne of Green Gables is a 1908 novel by Canadian author L.M. Montgomery.
    1. Set in the late 19th century, the novel recounts the adventures of Anne Shirley, an 11-year-old orphan girl, who is mistakenly sent to two middle-aged siblings, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, who had originally intended to adopt a boy to help them on their farm in the fictional town of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island, Canada. (Wiki)
    2. They have adapted this story into film multiple times through animated shows, miniseries, tv-movies, and movies. I’m biased towards the 1985 version with Megan Follows… even if it isn’t super accurate to the books after the first movie.
  3. Video clip: “Call me Cordelia,”
    1. This morning, we will be at the very beginning of Anne’s journey with the Cuthberts. Anne is not who Matthew and Marilla ordered from the orphanage. As this unfolds in the books, Anne realizes she is not wanted by the Cuthberts. She takes this moment to test out a new persona, since this home will only be temporary.
      1. I want to show you a clip of this scene from the 1985 rendition with Megan Follows.
      2. CLIP
  4. As an orphan, Anne used her imagination as a comfort in particularly grueling times. It felt very natural to her to try out an alternative name in a new location. Perhaps it would be easier to cope with rejection as Cordelia than Anne Shirley. Unfortunately for Anne, Marilla does not allow this coping mechanism. Marilla reminds Anne that her name and proper personhood is adequate.
  5. Little do Anne and Marilla know, but they will continue to shape each other as their stories weave together from this point forward.

TRANSITION: In our text for today. We will enter the story of Jacob as he receives a new name. Let’s discover what events lead to this name change and what this means for Jacob.

SCRIPTURE: We will be in Genesis 32:22-31.

  1. Ask the Audience: While you are turning there, I would love to know what you know about Jacob. (Besides his name change.)
  2. Background:
    1. Twin with Esau
      1. Jacob’s name means ‘deceiver’ (The Bible Project)
      2. Bought brother’s birthright for some food
      3. Tricked brother out of blessing
    2. Leaves the family and finds his uncle Laban & works for him to get Rachel.
      1. Uncle Laban humbles Jacob by tricking him into marrying Leah first.
      2. Repaid for the trick he played on his father? (WP)
    3. Jacob stays and works for Uncle Laban for 20 years. Through his wages, Jacob builds a household of prominence and his Uncle/father-in-law resents Jacob. So, Jacob plans to leave.
      1. Laban tries to accuse Jacob of stealing, but they form a treaty and part ways.
    4. Jacob prepares to return to “The Promise Land” of Abraham, where his brother lives and his anxiety is high. He hears his brother is coming to meet him with 400 men and he sends his brother gifts until they can meet.

vs 22-31 22Jacob got up during the night, took his two wives, his two women servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed the Jabbok River’s shallow water. 23He took them and everything that belonged to him, and he helped them cross the river. 24But Jacob stayed apart by himself, and a man wrestled with him until dawn broke. 25When the man saw that he couldn’t defeat Jacob, he grabbed Jacob’s thigh and tore a muscle in Jacob’s thigh as he wrestled with him. 26The man said, “Let me go because the dawn is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I won’t let you go until you bless me.” 27He said to Jacob, “What’s your name?” and he said, “Jacob.”28Then he said, “Your name won’t be Jacob any longer, but Israel, because you struggled with God and with men and won.” 29Jacob also asked and said, “Tell me your name.” But he said, “Why do you ask for my name?” and he blessed Jacob there. 30Jacob named the place Peniel, “because I’ve seen God face-to-face, and my life has been saved.31The sun rose as Jacob passed Penuel, limping because of his thigh.

EXPLANATION: Jacob wrestles with God and receives a blessing and name change.

  1. “Leaves in the night”—In the same way that Jacob left his family home, he’s leaving his uncle’s home.
    1. Originally, I thought: Is he sneaking? Is he being a deceiver? Why is he leaving?
      1. He can’t just up and leave, Jacob now has an entourage (4 women and 11 sons, and Idk how many daughters- no Benjamin yet)
    2. But he’s moving towards the potential fight, not away.
    3. Perhaps he couldn’t sleep? Perhaps he is anxious rather than sneaky?
  2. “Jabbok River”- Jacob moves towards the Jabbok river, a river that flows into the Jordan River. Jacob is about to enter the promise land again after 20 years.
    1. Fun play on words: Jabbok sounds like Jacob and wrestle in Hebrew.
  3. “A man wrestled with him,”– Jacob is accosted by a mysterious man.
  4. “man saw that he couldn’t defeat Jacob,” initially we don’t know who this man is but we know that Jacob defeats him and he would not have escaped if it weren’t for the damage done to Jacob’s thigh.
  5. “I won’t let you go until you bless me.” Jacob demands a blessing from the attacker.
    1. How could the attacker bless Jacob? What was so special about the man?
    2. The man blesses Jacob & Jacob receives a name change. This new name gives a huge hint:
      1. Israel, which means ‘to wrestle with God.’
      2. Jacob is no longer the “Deceiver.” He is now the one who “Wrestles with God.”
      3. WAIT WHAT? WRESTLES GOD? JACOB WRESTLED GOD AND WON?!?
  6. Jacob receives a blessing and names this place by the Jabbok River “because I’ve seen God face-to-face,”
    1. Jacob clarifies that though he won the wrestling match, it was God that saved him. “My life has been saved,”
      1. As Jacob looks back at the last 20 years, he gives credit to God. He does not give credit to himself.

INTERPRETATION: God redeems Jacob’s story with this event.

  1. Jacob, this once arrogant and conniving man, has been humbled by God over the last 20 years.
    1. Now, God redefines Jacob’s story. Others will no longer know Jacob as the deceiver. Jacob is now Israel, the one who wrestles with God. Jacob’s children and their children will now be defined by this name.
  2. My Thoughts on Jacob: If I’m honest with you, my natural inclination is to hate Jacob. I realize that Jacob is the father of the 12 tribes of Israel, but I don’t like his story. Jacob’s story seems super great if you’re Jacob, but not so great if you are a woman or one of his children. Even if you are his favorite child, Joseph, this isn’t a splendid story. Hint: we’ll learn about Joseph next week.
    1. Jacob represents a generational problem of dad’s picking a favored son and the dysfunctional family situation that unfolds from favoritism.
    2. Amid God redeeming Jacob’s story, I still see Jacob failing, and I judge him for it.

APPLICATION: STORIES REDEEMED To recognize the redemption arch in our own story and that God hasn’t finished our story.

  1. Then I remember my story… and want to cling to redemption again.
    1. I want God to not give up on me, even when I fail. Jacob’s story should be reassuring. Not because every decision he makes is good, but that God doesn’t give up on him even when Jacob makes terrible choices.
      1. God doesn’t bless Jacob’s terrible choices or claim them as his own design. God takes the choices that Jacob has made and redeems them.
    2. It’s difficult to be a work in progress. It is difficult to live with decisions you have made that you aren’t proud of anymore. Easier to change your name & identity than adapt or grow.
  2. Book Redemption: For Anne, it felt like if she left behind “Anne” maybe someone would want her. If she stopped being Anne, she could get adopted. Maybe change her name? Maybe change her hair? What would convince them to want her?
    1. The beautiful truth for Anne is that she didn’t have to be someone else for someone to want her. It doesn’t take long for Matthew & Marilla to decide that they will keep Anne Shirley; Chapter 6: Marilla makes up her mind.
    2. Photo: Something shifts at Green Gables because Matthew and Marilla keep Anne. Not only is Anne changed, but Marilla and Matthew are changed too.
  3. God Redeems Our Stories
    1. Jacob is not the most likeable person. He’s conniving. He’s tricksy. He’s manipulative.
    2. God doesn’t leave him in that place. God continues to give Jacob chances to grow and change.

CONCLUSION: We do not see Jacob reach perfection in scripture, he continues to be a story in the process of redemption, much like our own stories.

COMMUNION: As we prepare to gather for communion together today, we recognize that we are all a work in progress. If you are breathing, God is not done working on you. Your story is still being redeemed. This church is a collection of people being redeemed.

Our stories aren’t wasted or ended. God is not done with you yet.

Evil Plans Foiled

Message Title: Evil Plans Foiled
Theme: Stories of Transformation
Season: ORDINARY
Main Text: Romans 8: (12-25) 26-39; 
Scripture Reading:  Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
RCL Scripture: Genesis 29:15-28; Psalm 105:1-11, 45b or Psalm 128; 1 Kings 3:5-12; Psalm 119:129-136; Romans 8:26-39; Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
Focus: Paul says nothing can separate us from God’s love.
Function: To receive God’s unconditional love and to celebrate our adoption and how large the family of God is, so that we can spread the Good News.  (and remove conditions on other believers)
Other Notes: FREEDOM RIDERS

Scripture reading: Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 31 He told another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and planted in his field. 32 It’s the smallest of all seeds. But when it’s grown, it’s the largest of all vegetable plants. It becomes a tree so that the birds in the sky come and nest in its branches.” 33 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast, which a woman took and hid in a bushel of wheat flour until the yeast had worked its way through all the dough.”… 44 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure that somebody hid in a field, which someone else found and covered up. Full of joy, the finder sold everything and bought that field. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. 46 When he found one very precious pearl, he went and sold all that he owned and bought it. 47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that people threw into the lake and gathered all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, they pulled it to the shore, where they sat down and put the good fish together into containers. But the bad fish they threw away.49 That’s the way it will be at the end of the present age. The angels will go out and separate the evil people from the righteous people, 50 and will throw the evil ones into a burning furnace. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth. 51 “Have you understood all these things?”  Jesus asked. They said to him, “Yes.” 52 Then he said to them, “Therefore, every legal expert who has been trained as a disciple for the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings old and new things out of their treasure chest.”
Lord’s prayer

Movie transformation: ‘Freedom Riders’ was a documentary released in 2010 by PBS that focused on the Civil Rights group by the same name.  This group of students were both black and white Americans with the goal to push the lines on Jim Crowe laws & segregation by riding public transit through the deep south. Their plan was to stop at cafes and diners where segregation was enforced and civilly disobey no matter the consequences.

This documentary is not for the faint of heart. Though it is not graphic, like some Civil Rights movies or documentaries, it shows pictures and film clips from some gruesome moments in our country’s history. And it honestly made me think of the 2020s.

What I admired the most from this documentary was hearing how the Freedom Riders were determined to not let violence prevent them. They refused to let hate win. They refused to stoop down to the level of violence.

Transition: Violence and hatred would not win. In our text for today, we hear that God has the same thoughts: Hate will not win.

God: Romans 8:12-39 (BROAD STROKES!)

LAST WEEK’S TEXT: VS 12-25 Because of my vacation, I chopped our straight reading through Romans 8 up. So for the sake of continuity, I want to read the text from last week before we dive in this week.

12 So then, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation, but it isn’t an obligation to ourselves to live our lives on the basis of selfishness. 13 If you live on the basis of selfishness, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the actions of the body, you will live. 14 All who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons and daughters. 15 You didn’t receive a spirit of slavery to lead you back again into fear, but you received a Spirit that shows you are adopted as his children. With this Spirit, we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The same Spirit agrees with our spirit, that we are God’s children. 17 But if we are children, we are also heirs. We are God’s heirs and fellow heirs with Christ, if we really suffer with him so that we can also be glorified with him. 18 I believe that the present suffering is nothing compared to the coming glory that is going to be revealed to us. 19 The whole creation waits breathless with anticipation for the revelation of God’s sons and daughters. 20 Creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice—it was the choice of the one who subjected it—but in the hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from slavery to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of God’s children. 22 We know that the whole creation is groaning together and suffering labor pains up until now. 23 And it’s not only the creation. We ourselves who have the Spirit as the first crop of the harvest also groan inside as we wait to be adopted and for our bodies to be set free. 24 We were saved in hope. If we see what we hope for, that isn’t hope. Who hopes for what they already see? 25 But if we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience.

  1. Paul says we are all heirs with Christ. We are not slaves to the law! The law cannot condemn us or enslave us. No! In fact, we are heirs alongside Christ. No, though we are not biologically related to Jesus or Abraham, but God added to the family tree by adopting us into the family. God picked us.

THIS WEEKS TEXT: Vs 26-39: Paul will spend the rest of Romans 8 showing how our ‘chosen’ state transforms everything else.

Vs 26-30 26 In the same way, the Spirit comes to help our weakness. We don’t know what we should pray, but the Spirit himself pleads our case with unexpressed groans. 27 The one who searches hearts knows how the Spirit thinks, because he pleads for the saints, consistent with God’s will. 28 We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose.29 We know this because God knew them in advance, and he decided in advance that they would be conformed to the image of his Son. That way his Son would be the first of many brothers and sisters. 30 Those who God decided in advance would be conformed to his Son, he also called. Those whom he called, he also made righteous. Those whom he made righteous, he also glorified.

  1. As Heirs, we’re never alone: The Spirit of God is with us and prays for us.
    1. The Spirit of God helps us
      1. When we don’t know what to pray
    2. The Spirit of God knows our hearts
  2. God is redeeming our choices and story. Not that God makes us suffer to develop, but that God uses those things for good.
    1. “God works all things…”
  3. Yep, God chose us. God knew us in advance (some Christians believe that God preordained (or pre-picked) the chosen ones; others say God planned creation to eventually all come to God; still others believe this is about God desiring us and the fate of humans is up to their choices.)
    1. Regardless of the theology we place on this text:
      1. God decided in advance who would come to God
      2. God made those he knew righteous

Vs 31-29 31 So what are we going to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He didn’t spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. Won’t he also freely give us all things with him? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect people? It is God who acquits them.34 Who is going to convict them? It is Christ Jesus who died, even more, who was raised, and who also is at God’s right side. It is Christ Jesus who also pleads our case for us. 35 Who will separate us from Christ’s love? Will we be separated by trouble, or distress, or harassment, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, We are being put to death all day long for your sake. We are treated like sheep for slaughter. 37 But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us.38 I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers 39 or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.

  1. “So what are we going to say about these things”—Paul has spent this portion of his letter to the Romans building up an obvious point. This point comes to a head in the last verses with a series of questions that lead to an obvious answer.
    1. The Big questions:
      1. If God is for us, who is against us?
      2. 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect people?
      3. 35 Who will separate us from Christ’s love?
  2. Paul’s goal is to help the readers come to the same conclusion…. What is the big conclusion?
    1. The Big Answer
      1. Nothing can separate us from the love of God
        1. Hear it another way:
        2. I cannot separate others from the love of God
        3. My beliefs cannot separate others from the love of God.
          1. mention: growing up thinking that only certain denominations were “right” or would “get in to heaven”
          2. why are we trying to divide humans with our own laws or even theology??
      2. God’s character, God’s love, God’s goals are not defined by human ideas.
  3. Our goal isn’t to police each other or determine who. Our goal is to honor God with our lives by building community through connecting to our commission from the Garden of Eden: to Flourish and Nourish creation!
    1. We are to celebrate our adoption and how large the family of God is, so we can spread the Good News. 

Back to intro: The Freedom Riders were not willing to stop their project, regardless of what opposition they may experience.Nothing would stop them from speaking up and acting up for what was right.Their convictions helped them to remain strong, even when their own mortality was at risk.

Conclusion: We will not hold God back by our human ideas. If we look at the story of scripture, we see a repetition of God wanting to accomplish God’s original goal and giving humans another chance to take part.

I believe in a God who is all powerful, no human plans will hold God back. I believe in a God who is just, merciful, and compassionate. God wants to include us in the plans and gives us plenty of opportunities. 

Are we going to be held back by our own stubbornness? Are we going to miss the bus?

Evil’s plains will be foiled. God’s plans will succeed. We need to change our plans to fit with God’s program.

How can we celebrate and take part in the big family tree of God?

Justice, Symbols, and Statues

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I am a white, cisgender, female. Though I am a Baptist pastor, I have experienced minimal interruptions on my career path. I experience the benefits of white privilege daily. Do not misunderstand me, I have experienced true trauma in life, things that I turn to therapy and medication to handle, but my life is not harder because of the color of my skin.

Why would the Black Lives Matter movement impact my life? Why should I care?

No one is free until we are all free,”- Martin Luther King Jr.

The Black Lives Matter movement (BLM) is not only about Black lives; it is about humanity.

Equality, Equity, and Liberation: As some BLM protesting in smaller cities has subsided, it’s still very clear that we haven’t arrived at a place of equality, equity, or justice. Conversations are still being had about the value of the BLM movement and the requests protestors are making. This is not the end of our conversation about equality.

But what in the world is equality? Is equality what we want?

Though I consider myself to be a competent intellectual, I still struggle to convey the complex thoughts from my mind to another person. Because of this reality, I have a deep love of infographics. Below are three examples of artists using pictures to convey the complex concepts of equality, equity, and justice.

I love these different depictions of equality, equity, and justice, but the reality behind these words is a hard pill to swallow. With the conversation of equality, our world is not where it needs to be. It’s heavy to acknowledge the situation because that means change has to happen. Are we willing to change for the betterment of our world? Do we genuinely want to make the world a better place?

We have some heavy lifting to do to end racism, especially with each person expressing a distinct end goal from the next. Racism doesn’t end because I smile at every person at the grocery store. Nor does it end because I posted that Black Lives Matter on the internet.

The Inner Wrestling of Cathy Hay: True healing is messy work. We need to possess humility and teachability to experience change. That’s why I’m grateful for Cathy Hay’s reflection on the BLM movement. Her reflections are specific to her own work and story, which gives you a chance to consider how BLM will affect each person, even if they aren’t Black.

(It would be easy to get distracted at this moment because I’m mentioning a white British woman into the conversation about BLM, but hear me out. As a white woman navigating this topic, I needed to hear another white woman talk about her place in the conversation.)

Cathy Hay is the founder of Foundations Revealed and a YouTube personality. Her company helps inspire sewers to meet their wildest dreams & goals. She posts videos about mental health, perseverance, and doing your best. She loves history and regularly wears clothes from different centuries while living her everyday life (see pictures below). If you do any googling of Cathy Hay, you’ll learn quickly she has a project (her white whale), which she’s been dreaming of and working on recreating for a while, The Peacock Dress by The House of Worth.

Most recently, Cathy Hay released a video, linked below, about her journey with the Peacock Dress and she shares about her own wrestling with what BLM movement means in her small corner of the world as a historical dress recreator.

Peacock Dress 2: Unpacking a Dark History

I’m grateful for Cathy Hay’s video wrestling with what the BLM movement means for her specifically and concretely:

I’m grateful that she concluded, regardless of her practical steps for this project, the story of the Peacock Dress couldn’t be silenced. She had to share the grim history behind this beloved gown.

Should I stop this project that has been with me for forever? Or would that be erasing a significant perspective of history? Should I alter the project to make a statement about the problem with the history of this beautiful dress? Or is that only a token and not really solving anything? Should I have an Indian woman model the finished product in place of a British woman? Or is that once again just a token? — paraphrasing of the video

As we genuinely take time to reflect on how Black lives, and all people of color, matter, it’s important to not think about posting on social media or smiles at the grocery store. Change needs to happen deep down at the core. This leads to uncomfortable conversations about our interests, habits, history, and language.

Symbols & Racism: It is impossible to talk about systemic racism without acknowledging the repetitive conversation about the Confederate Battle flag.

Now I realize that the Confederate flag has a complex story and means different things to different people. Some will say that the flag is a reminder of people who stood up for States’ rights. Others will tell you it is a symbol of treason and racism. Still others will over simplify the flag and say it is a symbol of the Southern states.

Regardless of the interpretation, if I’m honest with you, I have to tell you it’s part of my heritage.

I have Cajun blood. My father’s name is Robert Lee. There is a Tigner Plantation in the south. My family history is a painful and complex one built off of favoritism and assumptions. I can know my history and love my family, but also recognize that I have racism and oppression in my family tree.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that there are Black Tigners in the south. This could be for multiple reasons: 1. some slaves chose to take on their master’s last name at liberation because they had no last name. 2. some masters raped their slaves to produce more slaves, and their children carried their last name while working in the fields.

These details are part of my heritage and some days I wish I could hide from it.

As my older brother and I talked about BLM, we both began to cry. He was born in the south and inherited a different association to the Confederate flag than I since I was born in the north.

For my brother, the flag symbolized our family’s history, and it was a reminder of our grandparents. Our grandmother gave him a battle flag because he asked for it. The flag reminded him he loved his family, the warm weather, and southern food. Though he loved his personal meaning of the flag, he decided that this symbol’s meaning had changed. In fact, my brother removed the flag and stickers of the flag from his stuff. He decided he loved the Black people he knew more than a symbol. His convictions moved me. I was so proud of my brother in that conversation and wanted to be strong like him.

It’s time to acknowledge the truth. The connotation behind the Battle Flag has changed. Those who cling to the flag because of southern pride are missing the point. They’re ignoring history and the broader interpretation of the symbol. The Battle Flag has been tainted, and it’s time to let it go.

But that doesn’t mean we forget our history.

Monuments & BLM: America’s history is tarnished. Fact.

We could leave our nation like silver in a drawer, continuing to tarnish over time, or we could take the time to examine it fully, polish and it to reveal the truth without hiding the dark details. There is no sense in denying our nation’s history, but there is a right way to acknowledge it.

We erected monuments, but they didn’t depict history correctly. These monuments glorified aspects of individuals but didn’t share the full story. Some monuments were event erected in honor of slaves but depicts them more like loyal dogs than human beings.

I appreciate the perspective of the historian, Cheyney McKnight, who uses YouTube and Instagram to share video & photo essays to talk about the problems of erasing the Black perspective in the history of America. I particularly like her post about monuments. We can share about history without glorifying the people of the past.

I am not opposed to monuments that tell our history or acknowledge significant ASPECTS of an individual, most times a simple sentence added to a monument would change the entire feeling.

I am opposed to monuments that lie about history, are incomplete in telling the story, or at the very least paint the picture with rose-colored glasses.

Below are a few infographics depicting stats about the erection of Confederate monuments. The graphics draw some conclusions of their own based on the data they displayed. It is clear they want you to conclude most of these monuments do not have pure intentions.

These graphics display a correlation between the erection of Civil War monuments and racial tensions happening at that moment in history. Things were changing, a way of life was shifting, and some (not all) American citizens wanted to preserve their own perspective of American history.

Much like Cathy Hay’s struggle with the history behind the historical dresses she loves so much, monuments have their own struggle. Statues, that glorify white land owners oppressing another group of people, should not be valued more than the actual history.

At the Foundation of the United States, Black Americans were not considered full humans (See info about the 3/5ths compromise). At our founding, Black Americans were property, not people. They didn’t even represent a whole person based on OUR CONSTITUTION!

Yes, our Founding Fathers broke us free from a tyrannical government…. but they established a new government based on the same cultural biases as the previous (the value of women and people of color being just two of those biases).

I can be grateful for the Declaration of Independence and recognize that we as a country need to continue growing from that initial document.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”― Maya Angelou

I would love to tell you I believe that America is past the “3/5ths compromise” mentality towards people of color, but I would be lying. I won’t get into the details of how the 3/5ths compromise is still a reality today, instead I will encourage you to watch the documentary 13th (https://www.netflix.com/title/80091741).

America knows better. It’s time we do better.

Sure, we can remember our history, key figures, and symbols like the Gettysburg Address, General Lee, or the Battle Flag of the Confederacy, but statues and flags are not worth more than a person’s dignity. It’s time we consider replacing the lies with honest portrayals of history.

As a pacifist, I do not condone the destruction of property. I also don’t condone the extrajudicial killing of humans (never mind the fact that I’m against capital punishment… but we’ll save that for another time). Monuments are not worth more than a human life.

When we care more about a statue or a symbol than a person in front of us, we’ve lost our humanity.

These Americans have been speaking out for centuries about justice. But are we listening to their cry? Their voices are getting louder. Are we listening? As you examine these photos, consider not just ‘the history’ being defaced, but also the emotion presented in defacing monuments. Can you read between the lines? What are the words between the actions here?

We are humans too. We are Americans too.

The Bill of Rights is for us too. The American Dream is for us too.

The Cry for Change: I don’t want to be a passive member of history. I want to be part of the team that pushes and pulls America to be better than we were. We cannot only remember the ‘glory days’ because the ‘glory days’ were not glorious for all Americans.

On average, a White American’s heritage is tied to the dark side of American history. White families are tied to settlers, slavers, or exploiters; that is unless their family immigrated to the US post Civil War. Native Americans lived here first. We lied to them. We stole their land and resources. We abused them. We killed them with the diseases we brought and brutality we served.

Black Americans, like Native Americans, have also had a story of struggle. Humans were stolen from their native lands, put on ships with little to no sanitation or nourishment, and sold like cattle at an auction to be treated like cattle.

By the way, ‘Black’ typically, though not always, means their family has been here many generations and can’t trace their line back to a specific country much like most white Americans can’t. They can’t trace back their family tree because we burned it down.

It’s time Black Americans’ voices are heard. It’s time America brings to light our dark history and acknowledges we need to change.

Cathy Hay, BLM & Me: I am one person and cannot solve all the nation’s problems on my own. This is where I turn to the wisdom of Cathy Hay. I may not solve the world’s problems, but I can make steps to change my little sphere of influence.

  • I can know my own history and learn to do better.
  • I can educate myself on the experiences of people of color.
  • I can amplify the voices of people of color.
  • I can stand up and speak up when I see racism in action.
  • I can speak to my local government about laws that covertly target people of color and expect a change.
  • I can raise expectations on the hiring, training, and discipline of law enforcement.
  • I can raise expectations on local government to not expect law enforcement to be mental health professionals.
  • I can raise expectations on education teaching the accurate history of America.
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