The Power of Forgiveness

“As high as heaven is over the earth,
    so strong is his love to those who fear him.
And as far as sunrise is from sunset,
   he has separated us from our sins. ” ~ Psalm 103

At the core of the Christian hope, there is the promise of forgiveness from God. Sometimes I wonder if we have become so acquainted with with that truth that it’s impact gets dulled. It can easily happen. That’s why I love revisiting the gospels, because the core truths that our faith is formed around are ready to be apprehended afresh with every reading.

This Sunday we’ll be reading Mark 2:1-12 which is the account of a paralyzed man being healed by Jesus, but is also a story that highlights the power of divine forgiveness.

The house is packed, not one more person can be squeezed in. Locals look up and down the street at the crowds who have descended on their tiny village to hear and see the young Rabbi.

Four men enter the fray, carrying a paralyzed man on a make-shift stretcher, asking people to make way to they can get through. A few people oblige, but the mass of humanity is too thick and progress comes to a complete stop. One of the four looks at the outside stairs of the house they are trying to enter.

  • What do are your thoughts about these four men? Why do you suppose they are so persistent? Where are they trying to take their friend?
  • If we imagine a symbolic meaning to their story, what lesson can we, the church, learn from these four men about our own priorities?
  • What can tearing up a roof in order to get someone close to Jesus teach us about our mission?

After they lower the man down to Jesus, the story takes a rather strange turn. Instead of immediately healing the man, Jesus by begins declaring his sins forgiven by God.

  • Why do you think Jesus declared forgiveness before healing the man?
  • What do you suppose get the religious leaders angry about this? What did they infer from this declaration?
  • The inward healing of forgiveness is something unseen and immeasurable – the outward healing of the man’s limbs was something everyone could observe. In what way does that help us to understand Jesus’ actions here?

I really love this story – Hope to see you Sunday!

The Single Sacrifice

There are some things I have to do every day, day in and day out. Brushing my teeth is an example. But there are many, many more things that I have to attend to or practice every day. All of us have those. I can’t brush my teeth once and assume that they are now clean and that work is done. I wouldn’t have teeth for very long if I thought that way.

But what if we had a problem with our car and we took it to a mechanic to have it fixed. Then the next day we had the same exact car trouble, and took it back to the mechanic again. On the following day, it is the same thing. Day after day we keep returning to the mechanic to attend the same problem. What conclusion would we draw about this situation?

In our text this Sunday we’ll be reading Hebrews 10:1-18. In this section the writer will draw some hard contrasts between the repetitive nature of the temple/sacrificial system of the Old Covenant and the once for all time sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf.

Why does the writer say that the old system was inadequate?  What remedy did God have in mind for these annual sacrifices? What did those repetitive sacrifices actually remind people about themselves?

The writer explains the effects of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf in v14. To be made whole (perfected) and set apart as belonging to God (sanctified) is a powerful result for us to consider. How does being defined as belonging to God change your way of understanding yourself? Do you see that as a good thing or a negative thing, and why?

When the writer wraps up his case in v15-18 he repeats his quote of Jeremiah 31 where God was forecasting the kind of relationship he had in mind between himself and humanity. V 17-18 are powerful statements. What does not remember about you? What is it that is missing from you so that sacrifices are no longer necessary to perform? How does that affect your understanding of yourself and others?

How can we begin to live in a way that reveals our state of being forgiven and redeemed forever?

This is going to be an intriguing study – hope to see you this Sunday!

Facing Our Betrayer

Have you ever been deeply let down by someone in your life?  Ever felt betrayed and experienced the pain of that?  It’s as near a physical pain as any I think we could endure.  There’s something to our connection with fellow human beings that sort of gives us a sense of completion…and when that gets severed, the fallout can sometimes be crippling.

Jesus was no stranger to betrayal.  Neither is God for that matter; one only has to think back to the Garden of Eden and a tree God’s precious image bearers were not to eat from.

We’re going to read Luke 22:47-53 this Sunday.

We know he anticipated it, but how do you think Jesus felt when he saw Judas’ face with all the people who had come to arrest him?  You can tell by their reaction how the disciples felt. Suddenly there is shouting and screaming and an ear spinning through the night air.

The disciples were ready for defense…but what was Jesus’ reaction to that?  How does that square with your normal reaction to being betrayed or mistreated?

In contrast to lashing out to do harm….what action did Jesus do, and to whom?  Do you think this becomes an example for us – why or why not?  How difficult is it for you to follow this lead?  Are there ways you’ve learned to be forgiving and do good to those who abuse you? If so, share them with us.

This should be a good topic to consider Sunday morning…and then discuss at a home group later on!

Home group leaders – here’s your guide for this week!  leaders guide 22-47-53

No Privatized Faith

Did you grow up in a family with siblings?  Did you ever disagree on anything with your brothers or sisters?  Ever get into an all-out brawl over anything?  If you were part of a family with siblings, and you answered no on any of the other questions, you are A) in total denial and unable to process reality correctly; or B) an alien for whom Scully and Mulder have been searching in vain for these two score years.

Point is…families fight. They just do.  The Christian church is oft described as the family of God…and we shouldn’t be surprised that as God’s family, we fight too!  Jesus is going to give us some instruction concerning this, in a series of sayings that require us to engage in some serious self-inspection.

We’ll be reading Luke 17:1-10 this Sunday (Father’s Day…happy happy! – then it’s off to the beach for Surf N Grill!!!!)

It’s my consideration that v1-2 are a transition, where Jesus is still talking about the bad behavior and attitudes of the Pharisees.  We aren’t told to judge them back…but that’s not to say that judgement is non-existent.  With eternity in view…what should we feel for those who try to put a stumbling block in our path of faith?

V3-4 change the focus to US.  How are WE supposed to deal with offenses within our community of faith?  Sluff things off, tell white lies that “nothing’s wrong”….or what does Jesus instruct?

If someone wrongs us, we’re commanded to forgive.  Not just once…but open-endedly.  How does that work for you?

By v5-10, the disciples are in a panic because this seems like impossible stuff to live out. They need more faith…they really want superpowers to accomplish this change in reaction.  But Jesus doesn’t seem to indicate that more faith is the answer.  What DOES Jesus indicate as the key to living out this forgiving love in real life?

Should be an interesting read this Sunday…hope to see you there!