Friday, July 12, 2024

Have You Felt the Freedom of Forgiveness?


Last week, Rev. Beckingham helped us through the brokenness of conflict.  To clean up the mess, we often have to forgive someone…easier said than done.  How do we untangle the large knot standing in the way of that forgiveness?


This week, we welcome a new speaker to CVC:  Noah Collins, a 2024 M. Div Graduate from Regent College.  Noah is going to speak to us about 2 Corinthians 5:6-19, a passage that is all about New Beginnings!  You may recall that Paul wrote this letter to the church in Corinth during a time of conflict.


One of the wonderful things about our new beginning in Christ is forgiveness.  Here’s what our letter to the Corinthians says about this (and other things).


2 Corinthians 5:16-20 MSG

Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life emerges! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.


…the Messiah forgives…new life emerges…


All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other.


What did Jesus, the Messiah, say about forgiveness? 


He taught us to pray,  "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."


And in Matthew 18:


21 At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?”

22 Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.


Wow, that’s a lot of forgiveness.


Sometimes we forget that when we forgive someone, we are the ones who benefit more than the person we are forgiving.  To let go of the grudge that drags us down is such freedom!


I invite you to read all of 2 Corinthians 5 before Sunday to get more context and enjoy all that is said about new life.




Image:  maisie lo on Flickr


Friday, July 5, 2024

What Causes Quarrels and What Causes Fights Among You?

 

This is the question posed by James in his letter to Christian Jews outside of Israel, perhaps in Syria.  James is thought to be the brother of Jesus, and the letter was likely the first New Testament book written.

If so, this letter was written shortly after the resurrection of Jesus, by someone who knew Jesus well…it might be worth a read! 

He asks the question in James 4:1, and he goes on to warn about worldliness.  In this warning he talks about desire and prayer, about loyalty to God, and about grace and humility:

2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people![c] Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

But then, almost suddenly, he ends the warning with these verses:

11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.  The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

These verses remind me what Jesus says about judging your neighbor:


‭Matthew 7:1-5 ESV‬

[1]  “Judge not, that you be not judged. [2] For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. [3] Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? [4] Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? [5] You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

When I fight with someone, it is usually because I want my own way…my way is superior to their way…judgement.

Jesus tells me that there is a better way.  There are so many reasons and ways to fight, but only one right way to love your neighbour as yourself...the Jesus Way.

I’m looking forward to hearing what Rev. Paul Beckingham has to say about this passage on Sunday…James sure has a lot of different (and challenging) things to say about why we fight.  Paul will also gather us at the Lord’s Table.


Image:  Jevgēnijs Šlihto on Flickr.com


Friday, June 28, 2024

Are You Anxious About Anything?

 


If so, you are not alone.  Statistics show that anxiety was increasing even before the pandemic.  There is much to be anxious about in our broken world.


I often worry about things, like Martha in Luke 10:

38-40 As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. “Master, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand.”

41-42 The Master said, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.”

“Fussing”...yup, that’s me.  It makes me a good problem solver and project manager, my intuition alerting me that there’s some action needed.  But it can get away from me if I’m not careful.


It turns out the Bible has a fair bit to say on the subject of anxiety.  Psalms, Jesus, Paul, James, Peter, the Prophets, Proverbs, Deuteronomy.  I have lots to read.  And reading the Bible calms me - double win!


On Sunday we will read what St. Paul had to say about anxiety (and other things) in his letter to the church he founded in Philippi.  We will welcome Ashu Biswal, visiting us for the first time, to share his wisdom on the following passage:


‭Philippians 4:4-9 MSG‬

6-7 Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

8-9 Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

It’s worth repeating:


“Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”


There is also a whole lot of advice in this passage about where our attention should be focussed.  And focussing on these things rather than on our worries sounds like a good idea to me.  




Image by ASweeneyPhoto, https://www.flickr.com/photos/alexandra_sweeney_photography/


Friday, June 21, 2024

What Does it Mean to be Free?

 


What does it mean to be free?  Do summer holidays set you free?  Or is it something else?  What did Jesus say about freedom?


Two weeks ago, Flo Kim told us about the church in Corinth and Paul’s encouraging letter to them during a time of conflict.  Flo compared their new life in Jesus to a butterfly, emerging from its chrysalis.  


This week, we will continue reading the same letter.  2 Corinthians 6 opens like this:


6 1-2 Companions as we are in this work with you, we beg you, please don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us. God reminds us,

I heard your call in the nick of time;
The day you needed me, I was there to help.

Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped.


It sounds to me like Paul is speaking with some urgency - now is the right time.


He includes a quote from Isaiah 49:8, reminding the church, and us today, that God hears our call and helps us, in the nick of time.  Although Paul only included two lines in his letter, I found it helpful to read the Isaiah passage in full:

Isaiah 49:8-10

God also says:

“When the time’s ripe, I answer you.
    When victory’s due, I help you.
I form you and use you
    to reconnect the people with me,
To put the land in order,
    to resettle families on the ruined properties.
I tell prisoners, ‘Come on out. You’re free!’
    and those huddled in fear, ‘It’s all right. It’s safe now.’

What words jump out for you?


Later in Chapter 6, Paul pleads with his church:


 11-13 Dear, dear Corinthians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!


Openly and expansively - that sounds like freedom!  I wonder how we do this?  


I invite you to read John 8 on your own if you feel a yearning to hear (again?) what Jesus said about freedom.  


I'm looking forward to hearing Flo share more from 2 Corinthians. I hope you can join us on Sunday. 


I hope you'll stay for Circle Conversation this week.  Do you have a question you’d like us all to answer?  If so, please let me know by replying to this email or by messaging me on WhatsApp.



Photo by Fuu J on Unsplash



Saturday, June 8, 2024

Anxiety

Anxiety snuck in
Hidden in the third scoop of coffee,
To be with each new thing. 

Anxiety told me
Things needed to be done. 
Together we made a list. 

I can't do that, I'm not good enough 
Don't worry, I'll help you. 

I can't make it that far, I'm not strong enough
Don't worry, I'll carry you. 

I can't stand another day of it
Don't worry, I'll be right beside you. 

I can't
Don't worry

Thank you, Anxiety,
You can go now. 
You've done your job. 

Please shut the door on your way out, 
Lest Pride slip in behind you. 

Thank you, God. 
For the strength to do my part. 
Now help me to relinquish control to you and enjoy the ride. 

Protect me, Oh Lord, hide me
From Anxiety, for she lurks, 
And from Pride, who thinks that He 
Does the job better than You. 


Friday, June 7, 2024

Has God Ever Rescued You?

 


Has God ever rescued you from a terrible situation? A mental or physical illness?  From a hole so deep that you thought you'd never find your way out?  From a tangled mess?  Maybe friends or colleagues were maligning your good name?


I'm guessing that is where Paul of Tarsus found himself when he wrote his letter to the church in Corinth. The backstory of the church at Corinth is so tangled that I wouldn't know how to start explaining it, but suffice it to say there were fights and cancelled trips involved.  


Does Paul despair?  Nope.  He leans on the God who has rescued him before, his Lord and saviour, Jesus Christ. 


‭2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1 NRSV


13 But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—“I believed, and so I spoke”—we also believe, and therefore we also speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised Jesus will also raise us with Jesus and will present us with you in his presence. 15 Indeed, everything is for your sake, so that grace, when it has extended to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.


16 So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For our slight, momentary affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18 because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen, for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.


5 For we know that, if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.



What else do we know about Paul?  We know that he had a physical illness of some sort, that he referred to as “the thorn in the flesh.”  He asked God three times to remove it, but God said, "No". (But that's a story for another day!)


As I tried to decipher the passage for this Sunday,  I went looking for the scripture referred to in 4:13.  It is Psalm 116, which is a Psalm of thanksgiving for recovery from illness.  It says in verse 10:

I kept my faith, even when I said,
    “I am greatly afflicted”

It is from this backstory and frame of mind that Paul writes this letter.  We’ll investigate all of this on Sunday when Flo Kim returns to speak to us.  I’m looking forward to it - Paul’s letters to churches can be so relevant for the church today.  His advice can also apply to us more personally.



Photo by Pascal van de Vendel on Unsplash



Saturday, June 1, 2024

How does Jesus get our attention?

Last time Rev. Beckingham was with us, he said, "God will break you before He fills you."  Could that be one way?

Consider Saul, in Acts 9, going about his business of persecuting those who were following the Jesus Way:

3-4 He set off. When he got to the outskirts of Damascus, he was suddenly dazed by a blinding flash of light.  As he fell to the ground, he heard a voice: “Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?”

He was blinded and had to be led off by his companions.  That would get your attention, wouldn’t it?

And then what?  What does Jesus do after he has got our attention?

Let’s consider Saul’s experience again.

17-19 So Ananias went and found the house, placed his hands on blind Saul, and said, “Brother Saul, the Master sent me, the same Jesus you saw on your way here. He sent me so you could see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” No sooner were the words out of his mouth than something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes—he could see again! He got to his feet, was baptized, and sat down with them to a hearty meal.

This time, Jesus sends another person to participate in what he is doing.

Is this what a New Beginning might look like?

This Sunday, Rev. Beckingham is going to consider Saul’s experience and other opportunities for New Beginnings, and gather us at the Lord’s Table.

After Worship, I hope you’ll stay for Circle Conversation.  Last time Paul was with us he sparked another question in me…


Image:  Photo by Dyu - Ha on Unsplash