Tag Archives: forgiveness

The Nose Knows

IMG_1341for Sunday, September 14, 2014
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
14th Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 19
Year A
lectionary focus: Matthew 18:21-35

Welcome!

Some things in life are called Once in a Lifetime. They are so special we get to do them only one time: a school play, Prom, an amazing last second football win, a trip to Paris.

But have your ever noticed how chores are never done? We empty the dishwasher one day, and we have to empty it again the next. We make up our beds, then sleep in them and have to make them again. Every week we have to take out the trash. Every month we have to pay the bills. Chores are chores because we have to do them over and over and over again. When I was a kid, one of the most annoying things about chores was being “reminded” to do them. My mom would say, “Don’t forget to put your dirty clothes in the laundry.” And my sister would say, “It’s your turn to clear the table.” And in my family, we would respond to these “reminders” by placing our finger on our nose. Can you put your finger on your nose? Doing this (finger on the nose) was our silent way of saying “I know” because “know” like we know something (point to your brain) and “nose” like on our face (touch your nose) sound a lot alike. “Yeah, yeah, I nose that. You don’t need to remind me.”

Sometimes I feel like touching my nose when I read our Bible Stories. Yeah, yeah, I nose this story already. But we tell these stories over and over because they are special and important, too special and important to forget, too special and important to tell only one time.

And to add to our over and over of over and over, today’s Bible Story tells us that we must forgive over and over. We all nose we are to share and be nice and say sorry and it’s okay, but today the disciples ask Jesus just how many times do we have to forgive someone. They want to know if there is a limit. If we are ever done forgiving.

And Jesus says no.

Forgiving is something that we do over and over, but forgiveness is not a chore. We forgive again and again because each time it is an opportunity to experience something special. Forgiving others makes us feel better. Forgiving others brings us closer to each other. Forgiving others brings us closer to God. Forgiveness is such a big mystery that there is no limit. Forgiveness is an Over and Over Lifetime Event.

We certainly nose that God forgives each of us over and over, and today we are reminded again in a story we already nose to let others nose that we forgive them.

This time as we pray, when we say the word know, be sure to touch your own nose. Will you pray with me? (This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
We are thankful
that we nose
You love us.
We are thankful
that we nose
You forgive us.
Help us
to let others nose
that we love them
and that we forgive them.
Amen

We are not Christians alone.

The Love that Forgives…

waleswindow1for Sunday, September 15, 1963
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
16th Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 18
Year C
lectionary focus: Genesis 45:4-15
prop: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (1963)

NOTE:
For this Sunday, we break from the RCL to note the 50th Anniversary of the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. This African-American church was the host of many meetings and marches during theCivil Rights Movement. On Sunday, September 15, 1963, a bomb planted by white supremacists exploded, injuring many and killing 4 little girls: Addie Mae Collins (14 years old), Cynthia Wesley (14), Carole Robertson (14), and Denise McNair (11). Happening at 10:22 a.m., the explosion occurred just as Sunday School was finishing and people were moving toward the Youth Sunday Worship at 11:00. The Sunday School lesson for that day was: “The Love that Forgives,” based on Genesis 45:4-15. This year, September 15th is again on a Sunday. Churches throughout Birmingham are inviting congregations around the world to join us in sharing and reflecting on that prophetic lesson interrupted that horrific day. This PDF found here: Love that Forgives includes the original September 15, 1963, International Sunday School Lesson graciously allowed to be shared by Abingdon Press, and other resources and suggestions for texts, hymns, prayers, and litanies to use in crafting your own teaching and worship services. (Opening the PDF takes 2-3 minutes due to the large size of the Sunday School lesson.)

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “[T]he arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” How powerful for all of us to bend together on Sunday, September 15, 2013!

The Children’s Sermon for this service is a bit difficult. We don’t want to gloss over the evil of that day, but we believe that no direct description of the church bombing should be used for at least two reasons: 1) Church should be a safe haven with no threat of violence; and 2) Children’s sermons do not have enough time to move from the horror of that day to looking forward on this day. Here is my suggested script; feel free to use, change, adapt to fit the needs of the children in your congregation. If you use this sermon, you will need the book Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (1963) as a prop; turn the pages and show the pictures as you recap the story. After church, during the children’s Sunday School, you may want to expand upon Max’s lesson. In addition to the story of Max and Joseph being good parallels for the theme of forgiveness, these stories also open the topic of differences: Max and Joseph are each different from the groups they come to lead.

Many thanks,
Fran

maxGood Morning!

Today I want to talk to you about some wild things…specifically Where the Wild Things Are. For 50 years now, we have been reading this story of Max. One day, Max and his mom have a quarrel. His mother calls him, “Wild Thing!” And Max says, “I’ll eat you up!” So Max is sent to his room without any supper at all. From there, Max goes on a great journey to Where the Wild Things Are. The monsters are excited to have Max; they make him their king, celebrating with a wild rumpus…that’s a big, loud party! Max enjoys all of this, but he comes to miss being at home, comes to miss being loved by his family. So Max returns home. At first it seems that all is the same as when he left, but then Max sees his dinner is there waiting for him. Max’s mother has forgiven him. And by coming home and eating his dinner, Max, too, forgives his mother. See, forgiveness is not just about excusing each other and going our separate ways; forgiveness is about letting go of the hurt so that we can rebuild our relationships.

In our Bible story today, we hear the story of Joseph and his brothers…his 11 brothers. As a young man, Joseph knows he is well-liked, and his brothers are quite jealous of him. So one day, the brothers actually sell him away from the family to go and be a slave in another land. Then, many years later, the brothers are traveling in that land and meet Joseph. You would think that Joseph would still be angry at his brothers and that his brothers would now be angry at themselves for the mean thing they did. But Joseph has missed his family; he wants to be with them again…and so Joseph reaches out with forgiveness. And not just the “Hey-it’s-okay-what-you-did forgiveness,” Joseph forgives them and encourages them to forgive themselves so they can reunite and rebuild their family.

The story of Joseph and his brothers is not the only story of disagreement and meanness in the Bible. Throughout the Bible we find people disagreeing with each other and people disagreeing with God. But in these stories, the fighting is followed by forgiveness; and the forgiveness is followed by a return to friendship. These stories repeat over and over that God is calling us to build and rebuild our families. God is calling us to build and rebuild our friendships and our communities. And God is calling us to build and rebuild our relationship with Him. God shows us how to do all of this building by forgiving us. And we answer God’s call by accepting forgiveness and forgiving each other. We let go of the hurts in our quarrels so that we can connect and grow with each other.

Our Bible stories have been around for thousands of years. The story of Max has been around for 50 years. Through these stories, we see that forgiveness has always been a hard thing to do. And when a story is repeated over and over, we know, too, that it is important. God wants us to know that love and forgiveness are important. God wants us to know that He has such a love for us that He forgives us.

People are not perfect. Sometimes families disagree. Sometimes friends and neighbors disagree. During our church service today, we remember mean events and disagreements that have happened around the world; we remember people who have been hurt; and we remember that we are called to have the love that forgives…this is how we will continue to overcome meanness and disagreements in the world.

Will you pray with me? (This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
Thank You
that You love me.
Thank You
that You forgive me.
Help me
to build
and rebuild
my friendships
by forgiving others
and accepting forgiveness.
I am Your child.
We are all Your children.
Amen

We are not Christians alone.
My mission is to share, inspire, and encourage.

Five Giving

IMG_2776for Sunday, July 28, 2013
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
10th Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 12
Year C
lectionary focus: Luke 11:1-13

Good Morning!

I know at this point in the summer we should not mention the first day of school, but I have a story to tell you about my daughter’s first day of kindergarten shortly after we had moved to a small town up north. That morning we did the big hoopla: good breakfast, packed her backpack, a photograph in her first-day-of-school outfit, showed her where I would pick her up in carpool at the end of the day, and took her to her new kindergarten class. Big kisses and happy smiles. Then at two o’clock that afternoon I got a phone call from the school.

“Mrs. Woodruff, you need to come pick up your daughter.”
“What?” I said, “Did she get sick on the first day?”
“No, ma’am, school got out today at one o’clock.”
“What??? I thought school went until three o’clock?”
“Yes, ma’am, it usually does. But today the weather prediction was for the temperature to be over eighty-five degrees, and in that case, we always close school at one o’clock.”
(Yes, I know, weird isn’t it? We lived a good bit further north at that time and the school did not have air conditioning.)

So I drove safely but quickly, and arrived to find Cherry happily sitting in the school office, hanging out with Miss Julie the secretary. I rushed up to Cherry and said, “I am so sorry! I didn’t know! Can you forgive me for not being here on time?” 
Cherry looked at me and said, “It’s okay, Mom. I’ll even five-give you for this.”
Since she was learning her numbers, she thought five-give would be more than four-give.

In our Bible story today, the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray. Jesus teaches the Lord’s Prayer which includes a request for forgiveness. People use these words spoken by Jesus to pray quietly or aloud together in groups. Since the Bible was written thousands of years ago in the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic languages, we read and hear it today translated into English. And because it is hard to match words exactly from one language to another, you will hear the words of the Lord’s Prayer said slightly differently from church to church, especially the part where we ask for forgiveness.  (Make the order here fit your church’s format…) In our church, we say forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Some churches say forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And some churches say forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

A debt is the way of saying when something is owed…like I owed my daughter security for making her scared as she waited and waited and waited. A trespass is a way of saying when you interrupt something or barge in on someone…like I interrupted my daughter’s new routine by not being where I was supposed to be. And a sin…well, that covers debts and trespasses and everything that we do that hurts someone else. But do you notice that in the Lord’s Prayer, we ask for forgiveness as we forgive others? We can’t ask for all of our mistakes to be erased without being willing and able to erase the mistakes of others. No matter which words we use, we ask to receive forgiveness in the same way we give it.

I am sure that none of you will be left on the first day of school…I say this as I look at all of your parents so they will learn from my mistake…but throughout life, we each make many mistakes. And when we make mistakes against others, we need to ask for their forgiveness. And when others make mistakes against us, we need to offer them forgiveness. And whichever way we say it, whatever words we use, let us give and receive…forgiveness…five-giveness…seven-times-seventy-giveness.

Will you pray with me? (This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
I am sorry
for the mistakes I make.
Please forgive me
as I forgive others.
Thank You
for Your love.
Amen

We are not Christians alone.
My mission is to share, inspire, and encourage.

My Father’s Forgiveness

IMG_5572for Sunday, June 16, 2013
4th Sunday after Pentecost
11th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Proper 6
Father’s Day
Year C
lectionary focus: Galatians 2:15-21; Luke 7:36-8:3

Good Morning!

When I was your age, my dad got a new fancy fishing rod. He was real excited and promised to help me use it the first time he went out with it. Well…I was excited, too, and couldn’t wait, and I thought I could just give it a little try all by myself. I wonder if you can guess what happened? Yep, I broke it. I certainly did not mean to break it, but I did. And knowing that I should not have been messing with it, I put it back without telling my father what had happened. Of course, when he went to pack it for our trip, he discovered it was broken. He asked me if I knew anything about it, and I said…”No, sir.” Yep, on top of breaking it, I then told a lie. You can imagine that I did not enjoy that fishing trip! My lie lay heavy on my heart. After a day of moping in the boat, I burst into tears and confessed to my father that I had broken his new fishing rod and had then told him a lie. My father took me in his arms and told me that he thought I might have had something to do with it. I told him that I was very sorry for doing these wrongs. My father thanked me for apologizing and then he forgave me. Whew. But you know what’s the best part of this story? While that was a big, scary deal to me and I still remember how difficult it was…my father doesn’t remember it! When I asked him about it for this sermon, he laughed and said, “Really? Well, that sure is forgiving and forgetting!”

In our Bible story today, Jesus goes to a dinner party. There is a woman there who was not invited. This woman has come because she wants to apologize to Jesus. This woman is sorry because she has lied to God and has not loved God with all of her heart. Her sin has weighed heavy on her heart and she is crying to confess her mistakes. The other dinner guests don’t think much of this bad woman. But Jesus sees the love and good in her and forgives her. And not just forgives her, but forgets her wrongs and sends her out into the world in peace.

And so it is with us today. We all make mistakes. But when we own our mistakes, when we admit our mistakes, when we ask God (and others) for forgiveness–the Lord easily forgives and simply forgets.

It can be hard to admit that we have done wrong. But fathers are especially good at forgiving. Whether they are our father here on earth or our Father in heaven, Fathers love us and forgive us and join us in the world in peace.

And that’s a good message for Father’s Day.

Will you pray with me? (This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
I am sorry
for the wrong things
that I have done.
Thank You
for forgiving me.
Amen

We are not Christians alone.
My mission is to share, inspire, and encourage.

Lenten Series 2013 There’s a Prayer for That…Everything Has Become New!

for Sunday, March 10, 2013
4th Sunday in Lent
lectionary focus: 2 Corinthians 5:16-21
prop: dryer lint or lint-catcher from the dryer hidden in a bag

Good morning!

IMG_0512We are now in the Season of Lent, the time we prepare for the Joy and Mystery of Easter. The other day, I was talking to my seven-year-old friend Zachary and he said that Lent was kind of confusing because whenever we said the word Lent he thought of lint…that fuzzy stuff you find in the dryer. This stuff (show the lint). I explained that yes, these words sound alike but their meanings are different. And while their meanings are different, I can see a connection…because…life is messy.

No matter how hard we try, things get messed up. Every time we turn around, we have to make up our beds, wash our hands, put our clothes in the laundry, clear the dining table…the list goes on. And if we don’t clean up and straighten up, our world gets dirty and nasty. But it is not just the things around us that get messy, we, too, have to clean up the mistakes we make. We hurt someone’s feelings or we break something or we think mean thoughts. And if we don’t apologize for our mistakes, our world gets sad and yucky.

But the good news is: there is a prayer for this! Our Bible story today reminds us that when we pray and ask God to forgive us all of our mistakes…little mistakes and big mistakes…that we are forgiven, we are made new. We are washed clean on the inside. The heavy stone of doing wrong is rolled away. We are happy.

Life is messy. And if we pretend that life is not messy, that we do not make mistakes, then we are tricking ourselves and we are separating ourselves from God. It is a good idea to clean up every day…wash and clean and pick up the messes around us. It is a good idea to ask God to forgive us and make us clean on the inside every day. Then we are always new and ready to share God’s love.

Will you pray with me? (This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
Please forgive me
all of my mistakes.
Help me
to clean up my messes.
Thank You
for making me new
and helping me
share Your love.
Amen

We are not Christians alone.
My mission is to share, inspire, and encourage.

I Wonder Where You Are In This Story

13th Sunday after Pentecost
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Proper 19
for Sunday, September 11, 2011
lectionary focus: Romans 14:1-12; Matthew 18:21-35

Note: The Presbyterian Church USA offers an entire resource packet (linked here) to create a Service of Remembrance for the Tenth Anniversary of September 11. Their material includes a children’s sermon that I think is too frank. Here is mine. If you wish to avoid any reference to 9/11, you can omit paragraph 2 and the sermon still flows.

I love stories! I love to read myself into the world of Winnie-the-Pooh, or mysteries, or kings and queens, or the Bible. But not all stories are in books. Each of us has a story. When we tell about the things that we have experienced, we are telling the story of our life. And when groups of people come together, they have a story, too. You and the people here today are continuing the story of our church started by a group of people almost 100 years ago. And we and our neighbors around us are part of the story of our country started 236 years ago. Our lives are one story after another–some happy, some sad. When we tell of these events, others become part of our story with us. When we hear what happens to other people, we become part of their story with them.

Today is September 11, and in the story of our country, this is the day something sad happened and our country went to war. You might notice people remembering this day as they fly the American flag or they talk quietly, telling their memories of that day. It is hard, but good, to remember all the parts of our story.

We share Bible stories even though they happened a long time ago and none of us were there, so that those stories become part of our story now. In the book of Romans today, we are reminded that there are many different kinds of people in the world–it takes all kinds of characters to make stories–and each character is important. Some people bring happiness to our story; they are easy to like. But some people bring sadness. Jesus tells us that we must forgive them when they hurt us. We are not limited to forgiving them just once; Jesus says to forgive them again and again and again and again…just as many times as God forgives us for the mistakes we make. Forgiveness is how we move from a sad part of the story to next adventure in our lives.

I love stories. Mine and yours, the story of our church and of our country–by sharing all of these–the happy and the sad–and telling them again and again, we bring others into our story, and we join them in their story, and as a people, we weave them all together to be the one story of God’s beautiful world.

Will you pray with me? (This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,

Thank You for stories.

Help me to share my stories.

Help me to listen to other’s stories.

Help us all

share Your story

with the whole world.

Amen

We are not Christians alone. My mission is to share, inspire, and encourage.