Thursday, December 13, 2007


The past few days I've been pondering the power of forgiveness. The following thoughts are not meant to cover all situations, but seek to offer another way to deal with the hurts of life.

Within forgive, is the word give. When someone cuts in front of me, buries my car in snow to clear theirs, or the like, I can GIVE away my feelings of anger and shame. These powerful emotions would hold me captive otherwise, and my desire revenge would cause things to escalate to tragic levels. The movie Changing Lanes portrays this powerfully.

Forgiveness is giving away the hurt; it doesn't mean it did not happen. It is letting go, asking the other to "please don't continue this behavior" so the hurting stops. It is difficult to confront someone, and say "I'd prefer..." but that is the adult thing to do. Some days forgiveness is letting go and walking away to prevent repeated pain.

There are times where we need to forgive ourselves for making bad choices, sometimes we need to confess to someone "I'm sorry I hurt you". The power of forgiveness lies in giving away the negative and opening ourselves to the positive.

This Advent, as you ponder and prepare for Christ...feel the power of forGIVEness.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

John the Baptist and Repenting

John the Baptist, cousin of Jesus, is probably my favorite non-divine character in scripture. He's blunt, to the point, and knows his place in the world is to prepare the way for the Savior. In Matthew 3:1-12, he gets grumpy and calls the religious leaders snakes.

When the highly religious folks show up to see John baptize the masses the Pharisees and Sadducees come out and John is surprised to see them. "Who warned you about what’s coming? Are you here to participate…or just to watch from the sidelines?"

John calls them a pack of snakes, because they are so sure of their righteousness through their bloodlines and kinship laws that they do not take care of the widows and orphans.

John is furious at them. Although they are in a position to help others, they chose to strike like snakes and wound they very ones they should help

John paints a harsh picture of the judgment which awaits the people. The only way to avoid judgment is to REPENT! Turn around and head in a new direction.

So why repent? In his defense of the Augsburg Confession Philip Melanchthon, Luther’s 2nd in command, discusses repentance and what it means in the lives of believers. He calls it putting to death our sinful ways and bringing to life good fruits. (Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article IX)

When we feel terror because of our sins, we turn from them and change our ways. Our faith in God’s mercy consoles our terrified spirits and good works simply flow from us.

Think of a time, when you know you made a mistake. The fear of punishment paralyzed you, you couldn't work, eat, play. Now, imagine if instead of punishment, you were told: "Did you learn something? Are you sorry? Good, try not to do it again. Now turn around and get on with your life"

As believers, every day we are called to stop of our sinful ways and to seek comfort in our baptism and God’s mercy. Once forgiven, we stop dwelling on the past. Once forgiven, we stop worrying about future punishment and become a co-worker in the kingdom of God caring for those in need.

Because God forgives, we let go of our fears, and receive the gift of moving forward in Christ's light. As we move forward we bring the light to others.

This week, may you experience the joy of being set free by God's forgiveness.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Prayers After West Roads Mall Shooting

During my 3 1/2 years in Nebraska, I only went to the West Roads Mall a handful of times. It wasn't along any of my normal routes going to and from the various hospitals in Omaha, so I opted to go elsewhere most of the time.

Holy God, once again, gun shots scatter a crowd looking to purchase a gift to signify the love they have for another. I beg of you to bring peace to our world: give us eyes to see those who are hurting; give us ears to hear the cries for help; and your compassionate wisdom so that we might provide a word, a touch, a smile, that helps the downtrodden open up and use words to express their pain and frustration. Guide us to find ways to reach out, so that no one need travel the path that Robert Hawkins took again.

Comfort the victims and their families with your holy presence so that they feel Emmanuel, God with us, embracing them during these dark days. We await the glad sound that signifies our savior comes again. Amen

Monday, December 3, 2007

Advent: A Wake Up Call Romans 13:11-14

Is there anything harder to do in November and December than to wake up on dark, mornings and get ready for school, work or worship, convincing yourself that even though it is pitch-black outside, somehow it is actually "morning" and time to wake up to a new "day"? These are the days that I just want to roll over tug on the blankets, snuggle in and go back to sleep.

Scripture for the Advent Season invites us to become spiritually awake.
Awake in the knowledge of Christ and the way God desires us to live
  • Wake up and see that "salvation is nearer to us now ..." (v. 11);
  • Wake up and see that the "night is far gone, the day is near" (v. 12);
  • Wake up and "lay aside the works of darkness ..." (v. 12);
  • Wake up and "put on the armor of light" (v. 12);
  • Wake up and "live honorably" (v. 13);
In short we are told "Wake up and Get a Clue."

To help with the process, I turn to the words of Alfred Delp, a prisoner of the Nazis, to explain this concept. Although not as well-known as Lutheran Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Delp is just as spiritually deep.

Delp was a Jesuit priest charged with treason. The charge stemmed from some group discussions Father Delp had during the war, in which the participants imagined that Nazism collapsed, and they were creating a new social order from scratch. For his "defeatism," Father Delp was sentenced to imprisonment and death.

The only kindness shown to him was a jailer who left his shackles loose enough to slip one hand free so that he could write these words, with handcuffs dangling and clanging as he wrote:

"Advent is a time for rousing. Human beings are shaken to the very depths, so that they may wake up to the truth of themselves. The primary condition for a fruitful and rewarding Advent
is renunciation, surrender ... a shattering awakening; that is the necessary preliminary. Life begins only when the whole framework is shaken."

-As quoted by Bill Wylie Kellerman, Seasons of Faith and Conscience (New York: Orbis, 1991), 137-138.

Life begins when we are shaken to the core. What would shake you and rattle your life to the point that you’d admit you were powerless?

What would need to confront you so that you have a fruitful and rewarding Advent of renunciation and surrender and realize you had no option other than to fully rely on Christ?

Advent is a time of waking up and recognizing our true selves. It would be easier to just examine others, but the call is to get our individual lives in line with God’s will and purpose so we to are ready for Emmanuel, God with us.