So Asher broke my phone. Like he dropped it / threw it and cracked the screen…with a case on. I’d have a picture to show you but again – Asher broke my phone.
Now if you’re house is anything like mine when these things happen it is never when you feel filled with patience, lots of time to deal with it, and in a good space. Instead, Eden was crying, and we were trying to get out the door to pick up Hudson from school, so he wouldn’t be wondering where we were. It was then that I asked Asher for the phone that he didn’t want to give me and the throw / drop happened.
I was very frustrated (meaning mad and angry) and I kinda huffed and said now you can’t use dad’s phone or any phone again. And he didn’t say anything but got into the stroller, and crawled into the bottom and fell asleep.
As I was pushing him and his sister towards school God hit me with a thought, “what matters more, a broken screen or a broken heart”. And this is why occasionally I don’t want to hear from God, because when God speaks he can be challenging and convicting. I knew in my heart I was angrier and upset with a broken phone, than making sure I didn’t harm or break Asher’s heart when discussing it with him. I know inwardly I wanted him to really feel how frustrating this was for me. But that’s the problem, I was thinking about me.
So we came back home and I woke him up and got the other kids snacks so we could talk. And as soon as he woke up he gave me a huge hug with little tears and said, “Daddy I so sorry about your phone”. So I hugged him back and said, “It’s okay, it was an accident” because he hadn’t meant to wreck the phone. I talked to him, hugged him, and made sure he felt okay.
And this response only happened because God reminded me that what matters more in life is not things, but people. But so often that gets reversed. So often that gets missed. And we can be so quick to lose perspective, especially with our kids.
Because perspective matters. My hope and prayer is that when Asher grows older he doesn’t remember how mad Dad got when I broke his phone; he’ll remember how well I dealt with it with patience, love, and understanding. Of course that didn’t happen in the moment, but that’s the beautiful thing about life. We get second chances, and can make it right.
So I write all of this to remind us all of one thing: don’t let the little things get in the way of the big things. And in the scheme of life, a phone is a little thing, a relationship is a big thing. So if in anyway you’ve maybe like me missed the point, focused on a thing rather than a person, or overreacted – why not make it right today. Call a friend, tell your spouse your sorry, give your kids a hug and say you love them. Because what I needed that day was a reminder from God, that broken hearts matter more than broken phones and things and maybe you might need the same reminder today.
On Sunday we had a great day. We were able to baptize some people, which is always amazing and I got to share on Metanoia. Metanoia is a word that is all about changing direction, and taking a new step. Which is exactly what we saw when people were baptized.
The trouble is that metanoia is translated as “repent”. This isn’t wrong it’s just that in our world today “repenting” is tied more to feeling emotionally bad about your sin, than changing direction.
So on Sunday I unpacked what metanoia really means. That it is about transformation, and not just feeling bad about sin but embracing the life that God has for you. Metanoia is all about making changes, embracing the path God has for you, and making some course corrections. It is not about feeling guilty and shame, it’s about embracing the Kingdom and life before you.
So when Jesus says in Mark 1:15, “”The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news.” What he wants isn’t for you to feel bad, but to live differently. The focus is on the change and transformation you can experience in your life because of Jesus and his kingdom.
And I shared all of this because I believe that in our church, we are built on Metanoia. We are built on seeing change, we are built on pursuing transformation. Part of our DNA is believing that Jesus can change your life, and you can partner with him in changing others. This is what Metanoia truly means, not feeling bad, but embracing the way of Jesus.
Rowan Williams puts it this way, “When the bible uses the word repentance, it does not just mean beating the breast, it means getting a new perspective”.
And that’s what matters to us here: gaining a new perspective on life because of Jesus Christ. So our main point was pretty simple: we care deeply about transformation here. And we must never let this go, because this is not only part of our DNA but God’s DNA. God cares about transformation, new direction, and new hope. And we get to be part of it.
So I closed with a simple challenge. If God is about transformation, what might he want to change in your life? What might you be called to leave behind, or to embrace? What changes is he looking to lead you into? What might courageously following him look like? What might be just one next step?
Because, metanoia is all about changing direction, and taking the next step. So what might that look like in your life?
Big Idea: We care deeply about transformation.
- If we don’t know who we are we can drift from whom God has made us.
- We are a grace-first church.
- Church isn’t someplace you go, it’s a people you belong to.
- Metanoia means a change of mind that results in a change of direction.
- One of our core values here is transformation.
- When the bible uses the word repentance, it does not just mean beating the breast, it means getting a new perspective. Rowan Williams
- We celebrate people making life change.
- We should practice some metanoia.
- Metanoia involves embracing what God has for you, the kingdom in front of you.
- Metanoia is more than feeling bad it’s about living differently.
Adult Discussion Questions:
What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? When have you ever been lost? When you think of “repent” what jumps to mind? How have you seen transformation valued here? What is God calling you to embrace or leave behind? What next step can you take? Who can help you?
Challenge for the Week: Take a next step towards Jesus’ path for you.
Today I want to take a look at the paradoxical nature of the cross. The cross is simultaneously judgment, and forgiveness all in one. And whether the cross is judgment or forgiveness is often the result of perspective.
Andrew Sung Park writes this,
“When the cross of Jesus is seen from the perspective of the oppressed, it signifies God’s suffering with them; seen from the perspective of oppressors, the cross means God’s suffering because of them”.
And this little difference – makes a huge difference.
The truth is that God suffering on the cross signifies God’s solidarity with all who have been abused, oppressed, or hurt through evil. God knows what it is to be killed by an empire about power, oppression, and might.
Yet the cross is also simultaneously reminding us that God’s death is because of oppressors. That the death of Jesus Christ is the result of oppressive systems, people, and regimes that use violence to make peace. The cross stands in judgment of those systems, and offers forgiveness to those who are oppressors.
The trouble with this, or the offensive part of this is that we like to most identify with the oppressed. We like to most identify with the God who suffers with us, not because of us.
But the truth is that I am not really all that oppressed (I’m white, western, male, and educated). And the reality is that most of us probably reading this are not the oppressed in many significant ways. Through simply being born in the West many of us have inherited much privilege that others do not have.
I bring this up because I know personally I would much rather look at the cross as a place of God’s solidarity with me, but I know if I’m going to be honest I also need to look at the cross as a place of God’s judgment with me. Of the ways in which I can and do participate in systems that hurt other people. The difficulty is that in today’s day and age we don’t often see the ways in which our actions contribute to hurt around the world. We don’t see how our privileges might be at someone else’s expense.
I say this all not to make anyone feel guilty – because I believe guilt is a terrible motivator. I say this all because what God has been speaking to me and reminding me of is that yes the cross is a giant reminder that I’m forgiven. But the cross is also a giant reminder that there is evil in the world, and it’s often in us.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn famously said,
If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
And I think the answer to Solzhenitsyn’s question is – Christians should be willing to destroy a piece of their own heart. Christians should be willing to do the hard work of examining our hearts and seeing how we might change. Christians should be the most motivated to change because when we look at the cross we know two things: 1) we are forgiven and included, so we should not be scared or fearful of doing a courageous moral inventory; 2) we all have sin and evil within us, so we should know we need to do a courageous moral inventory.
So I say this all to remind us of one simple thing: we should be so grateful for God’s forgiveness, so grateful that we do the hard work of examining why we need it. Because if you are anything like me there are actions I need to cut out, there are habits I need to be freed from, there are revelations from God’s Spirit as to the best path I need to hear. But it is easy to ignore doing the hard work of inwardly looking.
I just think that the cross invites us to do that hard work of inwardly reflecting on our lives. The cross says to us we are welcomed and included, but that there are parts of all of us that need to be changed. May we have the courage to really examine our lives, listen to the Spirit, and make changes so that we might not only accept the gift of grace from Jesus Christ – but live like him.
The other day I was feeling very overwhelmed, tired, and just didn’t have much to give. Unfortunately rather than owning that, when my kids – were well kids – and did something wrong I got really mad. Like no reason to be that mad. And I couldn’t shake it.
The truth was I was already mad before they did anything, their little lapses just gave me a reason to let it out. The sad part is that sometimes we don’t get angry with the people who cause us hurt, just the ones who are easier to take it out on (our kids, spouse, etc).
But my kids did something amazing, because I think they are occasionally better people than I am.
My guess was that they hadn’t seen me that mad probably much. Because Hudson gave me a hug, got changed, and went upstairs and went to bed on his own and just waited for me to turn off the lights. This has never ever happened before. Asher also went upstairs, brushed his teeth, and while I was putting Eden to bed came in and said this to me, “Dad this a happy house, you not be mad. You be happy, I happy too, we happy family.”
Sometimes with a simple little phrase you realize how much you blew it, and also how much you have to learn and grow.
But here is the beautiful part of parenting even when you blow it; you get to keep trying, learning, and growing. You get to take moments like that where you blew it and ask for forgiveness, and be thankful for your family. Because parenting is not a sprint, but a journey – and sometimes it’s your kids who actually point you in the right direction.
On Sunday we really waded deeply into this well known saying of Jesus. “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing”. Luke 23:43.
The first thing we noticed is how the “them” in this prayer is pretty vague. Jesus is surely referring to the guards killing him, the officials who sentenced him, and the religious leaders who arrested him. But I also think when Jesus says, “Forgive them” he also means “Forgive us”. I think the “them” includes us. And here is why:
Is it not also our sin, that causes Jesus to be killed? Is he not killed because we too are sinful, and complicit in a sinful and evil world?
I think that this “them” must include us, because we cannot so distance ourselves from this event to pretend that we are innocent of it. We cannot say, since we were not there we have no part in it – since we take part in the culture of sin everyday that nailed Jesus to the cross. We too are complicit and also then thankfully included in his forgiveness.
The second thing we noticed is that when Jesus said “forgive them, for they know not what they are doing”. That in one sense the guards, officials, and religious leaders knew exactly what they were doing. They were killing someone who might be innocent, for the claims of being the Son of God and upsetting the political power structures of the day. That’s why Jesus was killed. So what does he mean by that statement when he says? It’s not as if the people involved didn’t cognitively know they were killing someone. What I think they didn’t know, and didn’t see is how the kingdoms of this world are caught in systems of violence, power, evil, and sin. We get in Genesis a picture of the world being founded on sin and violence and it continues today. Power, violence, and empire all get wrapped up into one – so much so that we lose sight of what we are doing. The guard, officials, and religious leaders believe they are saving and keeping society going by killing Jesus. That’s what they don’t see, how complicit they are in a system of violence, evil, and sin – and so often neither do we.
We also noticed how odd Jesus’ prayer must have struck his hearers. What people would be expecting is vengeance, promises of retribution, and curses. That’s what was expected. Just look at the story of the Maccabees, or Samson, or even Elijah. People expected judgment and vengeance when a prophet or a revolutionary was killed, not forgiveness. But here Jesus forgives his oppressors, as they are killing him. This is so radical and so unexpected that it shocked some of the guards into believing Jesus was the Son of God. We’ve heard this verse so often that’s it’s lost its shock, but it should shock us. Because it is revealing to us the heart of God, and it is radically about forgiveness.
And that’s where we landed at the end. That this amazing prayer of Jesus, while it certainly involves us, is not about us. What this prayer is actually about is revealing the heart of God. Jesus prays to the Father, “Forgive them”. We are getting a glimpse of the inner heart of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and it is all centred on forgiveness. So while this prayer affects us and frees us, we cannot just narrow it to be about us. Because it is really about revealing God. And what it should evoke out of us, is a sense of reverent awe and thanks.
And that’s where we closed on Sunday. Challenging people to sit in reverent thanks of a God who died, to answer his own prayer of forgiveness. To sit in thanks of a God who would be killed for us, so we can be saved. To sit in worshipful awe of a God who would rather forgive than kill, and for that we should be thankful.
Big Idea: That God’s heart is forgiveness
- Challenge for Lent: 1) Pray Weekly Prayers of Repentance, 2) Pray Daily Corporate Prayers, 2 Chronicles 7:14, 3) Fast Something for Lent
- Who is the “them” Jesus is forgiving?
- We are all complicit in Jesus’ death.
- Society is built on murder and sin
- The kingdom of this world is built on rivalry, accusation, violence, and domination.
- Messiahs weren’t expected to forgive oppressors, but overthrow oppressors.
- The story of Luke has a trajectory of forgiveness first.
- That we are tempted to narrow this amazing last request to about us and being forgiven by God
- Jesus’ last prayer reveals the heart of God.
- God is still about forgiveness because God is always about forgiveness
Adult Discussion Questions:
What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? Have you practiced Lent before? What can you fast or give up this year? Had you thought about this verse deeply before? Do you think that the “them” does include you? How come? What else was new to you in this sermon? Can you imagine how unexpected these words of Jesus would be? How can we regain some of their initial shock and radicalness? How can you be thankful to God today for what he did for us?
Discussion Questions for Young Families
Today read the story and talk to your kids about Jesus words. Share with them how Jesus even when he is being hurt, forgives. That at his heart is forgiveness. Tell them today that if they need anything forgiven, Jesus is willing because he is always willing.
Challenge for the Week: Today spend time being grateful to God
On Sunday we are looking at one of the most well-known of all of Jesus’ sayings. And the saying we are looking at is this:
“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:43
And sometimes things that become well-known, also become shallowly known. Since we are familiar with a thought or a saying, we think we deeply understand a thought or a saying. Sometimes the biggest enemy of understanding, is familiarity.
So I want to make this saying a little less – familiar to you. To bring up some questions to intrigue you, and some dissonance to help us to dive deeper.
First question, “who is the “them” in this last request of Jesus? Who is the “them” that should be forgiven?” Because in the Scripture itself the “them” isn’t clear. Is it the Roman guards crucifying him? Is it the rulers and authorities? Or might it even be…us he is forgiving? I think it’s n important question to dive into
Second question, “what does “For they know not what they are doing” mean?” I mean honestly, the Romans knew they were killing someone. They knew they were killing someone probably innocent (look at the interaction with Pilate). It’s not like they didn’t know they were killing someone. They also knew they were killing an emissary of God, or someone who claimed to be the Son of God. That’s the whole reason he is being killed anyway. They knew of the miracles and all that Jesus is stirring up so they kill him. So what does “for they know not what they are doing” actually mean?
Third question, “who is the statement addressed to?” We like to think it’s about us, and how God will forgive us. But that’s just our self-centeredness talking because the prayer is not addressed to us at all. It’s addressed to the Father. So how does that change how we interpret this verse? Well I’ll give you a clue, if it’s not addressed to us, it can’t be primarily about us.
But those are just some of the initial questions I have with this verse I want to pursue on Sunday. Because as familiar as this verse is, I don’t actually think it’s that well understood, and it has a lot to teach us.
On Sunday we looked at the topic of forgiveness. Forgiveness. I think. is something we all like when it happens to us, but find it difficult to give. We find it easy to give when someone takes all the right steps to earn the forgiveness, but giving it freely is hard.
So the question we looked at was this: Is it possible to forgive someone in the worst of situations? Where they are unrepentant, don’t care, and sadistic? And to reflect on this, we talked about Louis Zamperini’s story written in the amazing book “Unbroken” (Spoiler Alert).
Zamperini was a runner, who was drafted into World War II. Through an amazing and remarkable survival story, he ends up captured by the Japanese and put in a POW camp. The story that follows cannot be told in a few paragraphs with justice, but the basics is this. He was beaten, tortured, and abused for years. It was a brutal time, specifically abused by one guard nickednamed the Bird.
The question is, in a situation like this, is forgiveness possible? Is it an option? Is it even right to do?
If you are a follower of Jesus, the answer is simple but hard. Forgiveness is not only an option, it is the only option. Jesus says this in the Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard that the law of Moses says, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you.” He continues a few chapters later saying, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins”.
For Jesus it seems like forgiveness is the only option. And this teaching of Jesus’ is hard, and one I want to skim over rather than practice. I don’t want to forgive my enemies, I want to see them brought to justice. I don’t want to forgive those who hurt me, I want to hurt them back.
But here Jesus’ teaching pushes past what we want and feel, to what is actually best for us. And when Jesus is calling for forgiveness he is not calling for us to forget or stay in abusive situations. That’s not what forgiveness is. What he is calling for is for us to let go, and to end the cycle of hurt and revenge.
Jesus knows that to hold onto bitterness, hurt, anger, and vengeance doesn’t do anything but poison our own soul. To live with unforgiveness is to live with ghosts, haunted and hurt by our own choosing.
So is it possible to forgive even in the most hellish circumstances? Well the example of Jesus shows that it is. Even as he is killed he says, “Father forgive them”. And it’s Jesus’ example that even allows Louis Zamperini at the end to forgive his abuser. He doesn’t pretend that the abuses weren’t real, horrible, and absolutely wrong. He states the hurt he felt, but then he states his forgiveness. He says, that Christ said, “Forgive your enemies and pray for them” and he did that. He goes on to say that, “Love has replaced the hate I had for you.”
So is it possible to forgive even in the most difficult situations? Yes, but of course it is hard.
But sometimes the hardest things are the best things to do. To choose to live with unforgiveness hurts you, and no one else. So we ended the sermon with challenging people to forgive those who hurt them, big or small. To no longer live with ghosts and unforgiveness, but to let forgiveness start a fresh start in them.
Brian Zahnd writes,
“Conventional forgiveness, easy forgiveness, reasonable forgiveness is what most rationally minded people are willing to engage in. Christ’s followers are called to radical forgiveness, unreasonable forgiveness, reckless forgiveness, endless forgiveness, seemingly impossible forgiveness.”
He’s right – that’s our calling. Now let’s live it out.
Big Idea: Forgive your enemies, and pray for them
- Band-Aids don’t fix bullet holes, you say sorry just for show, you live like that you live with ghosts – Taylor Swift
- How is forgiveness possible in a hellish circumstance?
- Enemies are by almost definition, people we don’t love
- Forgiveness is not a feeling. Forgiveness is a choice to end the cycle of revenge and leave justice in the hands of God. Brian Zahnd
- Jesus not only expects us to forgive. He commands us to forgive
- When we choose not to forgive, we cut ourselves off from the heart of God, because God, at his heart, is forgiveness.
- When we choose not to forgive, we don’t hurt the one who hurt us, we hurt ourselves.
- Forgiveness does not mean forgetting or staying in abusive situations or relationships.
- Conventional forgiveness, easy forgiveness, reasonable forgiveness is what most rationally minded people are willing to engage in. Christ’s followers are called to radical forgiveness, unreasonable forgiveness, reckless forgiveness, endless forgiveness, seemingly impossible forgiveness. Brian Zahnd
Adult Discussion Questions:
What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? What were your first impressions to the topic for today? What do you think of Louis Zamperini’s story? How do you think he was able to offer forgiveness? What happens when you choose not to forgive someone? How are bitterness and unforgiveness tied together? Who is it that you might need to forgive? Who can help you to continue to forgive them? What are the next steps with them? Do you need to just let them go, approach them, or maybe pray for them?
Discussion Questions for Young Families
Talk to your kids about how important it is to always forgive others. Ask them if there is anyone they need to forgive, and then spend time doing that. It’s also a great time to ask for their forgiveness, for the times you’ve been an imperfect parent or guardian. Why not practice with them what we hope to see?
Challenge for the Week: Forgive your enemies.
Come Sunday we are going to talk about one key area for everyone of us, whether you are a follower of Jesus or not, and it’s forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a practice that gives your life a fresh start. Forgiveness is a practice that creates a new future. Forgiveness is a practice that changes lives, but forgiveness is hard. Forgiveness is really hard.
It’s easy to forgive someone when the slight was small, they ask for forgiveness, and change their behavior. But what if the issue is big? What if they don’t ask for forgiveness? What if they keep intentionally hurting or abusing – is forgiveness possible in these circumstances?
Those are the questions I want to poke around in on Sunday. I want to acknowledge them, and try to answer them. And to do that we are going to be using a lot of the Sermon on the Mount, some of Louis Zamperini’s story “Unbroken” (so see the movie before Sunday if you don’t want to hear about it), and of course a little Taylor Swift.
The question I want to pursue is this: Is forgiveness in horrible situations possible? And if so, how can we find it?
So that’s where we are going, but before we get there why not spend some time thinking about those questions. Are there people in your life that you need to forgive? Do you think it’s possible? What would forgiveness even look like?
And then come Sunday we’ll explore this topic, and hopefully find a fresh start.