Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Forgive us ... As We Forgive...

I started on this same blog journey a couple days ago, but a detour en route left me with conclusions about pastor appreciation. So … let’s do this again and see if I can finish in the direction I first started.

On Sunday I experienced the “worship service” as a cacophony of clashing sounds that hijacked my nervous system and distracted me from the real reasons I went to church; such is the power of contemporary music. In all fairness to everybody and to Worship Pastor Jim Sirks, I have to admit that my hearing challenges are only magnified when I have to deal with artificially magnified sound (sound systems operated by non profession-als).

What I found challenging was the sermon--if you will, the power of the spoken word, well crafted and thought through, when ably delivered. Thank you, Jim Sparks, for helping me redeem my time, and for turning a disruption into a delight. There is an incomparable beauty when the human persona and the proclamation of truth unite into one integrated personality. Such is the power of the sermon, as James Earl Massey writes so ably in his numberless books on preaching.

Back to my theme. Jim has been leading our congregation through the Lord’s Prayer. Matthew 6:13 provided the day’s text: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thing is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory …” Titling his sermon “Armor”, he drew biblical commentary from Ephesians 6:10, which defines our Christian armor, and from I Peter 5 that describes Satan as a lion on a limited leash.

Four things he asked us to remember:

1. Remember the POWER OF THE ENEMY, so powerful, but powerless.

2. Remember the CUNNING OF THE ENEMY.

3. Remember that GOD IS SOVEREIGN (the enemy lion is on a leash).

4. Remember to KEEP LOOKING FORWARD (on the tiptoes of expectation (Revelation 21:22).

As a fitting conclusion to the Service, we again repeated the Lord’s Prayer in unison. When we came to that phrase “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive our trespassers” I thought of the recent conversations I had on Facebook with church friends regarding our conflict with Iran over nuclear power.

I’ve been advocating with those groups wanting to tone down the rhetoric, stop the war chant against Iran, reduce the strong patriotic rhetoric that demands a firm stand against Iran, eliminate the ratcheting up of pleas for stronger military defense, stop the demonizing President A… of Iran. I also remembered the friendly counsel of a pastor friend that insisted that we take a very firm political stand, and that we accept only an uncompromising firmness on the part of our President.

That allowed a whirlwind of thoughts to rush in: 911, the death of Chris Stephens, bombings in Beirut and elsewhere, Osama bin Ladin ... Forgive us … as we forgive those … I find it difficult to justify these actions, but I also find it tough to justify nuclear power to Israel and deny it to the Palestinians. It is so easy to justify our behavior as the right behavior and theirs as demonic!
However, I cannot justify our irrational defense of Israel’s myopic and self-serving behavior, anymore than I can justify bin Ladin’s radical hatred of the United States. I started to call his hatred irrational; it was radical but not irrational because it was rooted in the blind and unfair diplomacy of the West against the Muslim East, say what you will.

All of which brings up seemingly irreconcilable differences within our world community. As I stood in the congregation at North Avenue Sunday and we repeated those words, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” I felt the impact of this whole situation punching me full in the face - these people are not hearing these words, except in the narrow context of their own little lives as Christians in Battle Creek, MI.

The words of Jesus are meaningful when we apply them to each other, but they mean nothing when we want our political leaders to ratchet up the tough talk, demonize the other side, justify our behavior. It sounded like nice talk on Sunday morning, but by Monday morning it was back to business as usual … I wonder if we comprehend even a shallow understanding of The Lord’s words when He modeled a prayer the disciples could pray by … and live by …

Jesus seems to be a pretty good personal relations counselor but a totally lousy diplomat … From Warner’s World, I am walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com

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