As is true of most all congregations, the little church I serve really treasures the children we have in our church family. We are a small congregation and we love having our young families with their children in worship. It just makes things feel more alive and vital to see those young faces and to hear the voices of the children. Most of the children go to the nursery after at a certain time in the service, but some of them stay throughout the service. Either way is fine with us.
We are blessed, at this time, to have several two year olds among us. They are comfortable with one another because they have been coming to church regularly since they were babies. In fact, they were all born fairly close to the same time and it was a great joy to see rows of pews with moms or dads holding infants.
These children also know each other well because some are cousins and a couple are “play date buddies.”
Now these two year olds love to come and sit on the step “up front,” ready for their time with the pastor. (That doesn’t mean they sit still through the entire time with the children, but we don’t care!) One comes with his binky in his mouth. Another brings her blanket. I love that they are so comfortable in the church that they just come, bringing the important things with them!
One morning, a few Sunday’s ago, the congregation was in that time where we say a corporate prayer of confession of sin and then we take a moment for silent, personal reflection before hearing the assurance of forgiveness.
We had finished our unison prayer and were in that quiet time when one of the two year olds said loudly “Uh oh!”
In just a few seconds his friend across the isle echoed that “Uh oh!”
Then we heard it a couple more times through the congregation, finally along with a few stifled giggles.
What a great opportunity that was for me, as pastor, to tell the congregation that they are forgiven for all the “uh oh’s” of their lives!
But I keep reflecting on that joyful morning and wondering more about the “uh oh’s” in our lives. Of course, there are so many ways that we sin. To me, sin is best defined as turning away from God, trying to “do it myself” as if I were God. And that kind of self-centeredness leads to greed and pride and hatefulness, among other sin-sick diseases, and if not checked soon, those can lead to great catastrophes sometimes.
There are so many little “uh oh’s in our lives that can build up until they become great big “uh oh’s” that keep us awake at night. Things that were said without thinking about how it comes across to the other person; turning someone’s problem around and making it about you, instead of focusing on the person you care about; innocently (or maybe not so much) sharing a confidence that you were told; speaking in a condescending manner to someone you love. Things you can’t really take back.
We can say we’re sorry and ask for forgiveness, and we can receive the sweet blessing of grace when forgiveness is given. But the thing that was said has already done its damage. And we can only hope that in time the memory of it will be less because of trust and love that we have worked to build back.
These little “uh oh’s” in our lives can build up until they rob us of sleep. We toss and turn and lament – “Uh oh! If only I hadn’t said this; if I just would have done this instead!”
Maybe our prayer should be that an “uh oh” warning sign would pop up in our minds BEFORE anything comes out of our mouths. We should just hear a huge, loud, booming “UH OH!” bonging away in our heads that tell us to keep shut that hole in our face where the river of words come spilling out all over the victim in front of us.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need this prayer:
Lord, grant that when I hear an “uh oh” from you, it is not after I’ve said something I wish I could take back. Make the “uh oh’s” come through loud and clear as a warning that I should be still and tread very carefully so that I don’t make the blundering “uh oh” that is so close to my lips. Amen.
I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about how we interpret the Bible; how many of us look at the Scriptures through different lenses. There are many good Christians who read verses in the Bible and whatever they read they translate it as literal. If it is in the Bible then it is God’s Word. End of story. No debate.
And then, there are many other good Christians who read the Bible from a different perspective. They take into account the culture it was written in and the context surrounding that verse and what was happening. They still believe it is God’s Word. No doubt about it. But it is important to realize the when, why and where of those words written. They believe there is something to be learned and valued in every verse but that it is the over all message of the Bible that is the Divine Word of God.
But here is what saddens me … it is the closed minded stance of people (on both sides) that seems to be a problem. If a literalist posts scripture after scripture, verse after verse, on social media, it isn’t long before those who do not read the scriptures as being literal just quit reading those posts. They skim right past because they assume they already know it is more of the same – taking a verse and pounding it into people’s faces to try and make a point. And so often it feels judgmental, even if that wasn’t really the intention.
These people who skim past the literalists posts are people who look at other verses (rather than only the one that is supposed to make the point) and they wonder how it is that one verse is the absolute truth – yesterday, today and forevermore – and yet we overlook other verses that seem not be so important or true today: Like selling our daughters into slavery. The bible says that’s okay. Or forcing our daughters into marrying their rapist? That was expected! Or what about getting a divorce and marrying again? Jesus said that is adultery, yet it happens all the time today! What about women in the church? Paul said they should not speak. They certainly should not teach men. They should always wear a head covering and they are always to be submissive to their husbands, who are the head of the house. Yet, many churches ordain women as ministers today. And most people believe in equality in marriage.
How do you reconcile the things we do today, that the bible says is sin – yet we think is okay – but then quote a verse here and there, using that verse to proof that a certain thing is absolutely wrong?
It seems that some people, rather than having discussion, automatically decide that anyone who says anything different from them is not a real Christian; is a liberal, and should not be taken seriously, but perhaps should be avoided, lest that person fall into a trap.
So I ask … whatever happened to honest, loving discussion? Why can’t we express our concerns and our fears and our questions or our thoughts openly without judgment and condemnation? (This absolutely applies to political issues as well as religious issues.)
Why can’t we be open to hearing what the other side says and truly listen with open ears and hearts, and then ask the Holy Spirit to help us discern together what is the truth?
I am amazed at the hateful posts on social media that I see regularly. I hear things that just make me want to cry – things said by very good, thoughtful people – people from both sides of issues.
I want to be a disciple of Jesus. I want to follow in his footsteps, to love as he loved and teach as he taught. I want to sit with sinners and I want to be one of those sinners who experiences the forgiveness and mercy of Christ. Jesus is the focus of how I want to model my own life. He went against the grain and rules in so many ways. He healed and taught on the Sabbath – a sin that caused them to want to stone him. He raised the dead and they wanted to kill him. He went to hated tax-collectors homes and sat at their table and ate with them. He went to the cross willing to die for anyone because of love. And he said that the most important commandments are two things – to love God with all your heart, and to love others as you love yourself.
I pray every day that I will not lead one person astray; that I will preach the truth; that I will not assume that I know everything; that I will continue to learn and be open and sensitive to all God’s people, and most of all, that I will love others and help the Body of Christ come together in unity with the same mind as Christ Jesus.
How can we ever come together in unity if we won’t even take the time to openly and lovingly listen to one another? Most of us who debate these things call ourselves Christians – Christ followers.
And those who don’t – perhaps don’t because of how they see us act toward one another.
I am a woman with many interests, yet most of them flow into what is my source of life, my very breath, the reason I do what I do. I am Called. That means, for me, I have experienced a call on my life to serve as a pastor to God’s people. In that calling I love to write, to speak, to lead, and to teach. My deepest desire is to pass on to others what I have experienced in my own journey of grace. I am human, and in that humanity I have known passion and joy, sin and disgrace. Yet, in God’s love I have known nothing but love and redirection and total grace.