Today's service had a number of special features that made it somewhat unique. First off, we had two worship teams arrive, each unaware of the other. Perhaps one of the nice features of a small church is the opportunity to demonstrate its flexibility. In addition to the quarter+1 we also had De Elliot Bros. jugband to share some gospel tunes with us.
Pastor Brad Shannon welcomed us with a warm "Good morning" on a chilly mid-summer day. He thanked us for the special 40th birthday surprises and picnic we gave him last week. He then said he would be talking again about taking risks, and in particular, as it applied to forgiveness.
Announcements included the Tuesday evening board meeting here at seven p.m. Also, Mae urged us to make sure we verified our personal information for the church directory. And if you have not had your picture taken, they will use the photo from the last directory. Pam then stood and said that for the next three weeks we will be collecting school supplies to donate to local schools for needy kids.
At this, the two worship teams combined for an introductory number that got us in the mood for the service. The music was special for the musicians as well as the congregation.
Brad read two passages from Scripture before the prayer time. The OT reading was from Psalm 51:1-12. The NT came out of Ephesians chapter 4, verses 1-16.
During the prayer time Rebecca Bruley shared a deeply personal and moving account involving a powerful healing of more than 100 nodules on her lungs. The story gave evidence once more that we have a living God who cares about us intimately.
De Elliot Brothers performed one more song and then Pastor Brad spoke to us from in front of the communion table.
Brad began the message by putting on a backpack and asking if anyone here had carried something heavy for a long time. Nearly all of us have had to carry things, but especially those who have gone canoeing in the Boundary Waters or general camping in the wilderness have known the experience.
"It's bad enough," Brad said, "when carrying something is physically back breaking, but to carry emotional burdens is worse." He was referring especially to grudges. He compared grudges to babies, which was interesting. He pulled a small, fist sized rock from the backpack and held it up. Like babies, we nurse our grudges, we feed them... we help them grow.
He then pulled out and held up an even larger rock, saying that our "grudgette" soon becomes a full grown grudge. This is where we get in trouble.
Brad shared the story of Lamech from Genesis 4, a descendant of Cain. Cain, when he killed his brother Abel, was marked by God who said, “If anyone kills Cain he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Humans are not supposed to take vengeance, the pastor stated
Lamech, the first bigamist, evidently took Cain’s life and even seemed to glory in it, saying, "If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven," thereby justifying his grudge.
Grudges have tragic consequences, with some being passed on to future generations. Many do not know that Ann Landers was actually a sister of Dear Abby. Though they both gave years of advice to people on how to get along, neither one spoke to the other, having each nourished their perpetual grudges against one another. Sadly, the daughters of these two influential women continue to carry on the unforgiveness and enmity that split their mothers.
Nursing grudges happens in the workplace and it happens in the church. But Jesus came along to tell us there's another way.
In the famous passage from Matthew where Peter asks his Lord how many times he must forgive saying, "Up to seven times?" ... well, Jesus raises the bar. "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."
Brad drew our attention once more to the parable about the unmerciful servant who was forgiven much by his master, but in turn was mercilessly brutal to someone who owed him a pittance. The parable ends with what Brad calls "the scariest words in the Bible." From Matthew 18... 33Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' 34In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35"This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."
Put down the stone, your grudge... and forgive.
We so easily forget the cost of forgiveness. It cost Jesus the Cross for God to forgive us.
Brad shared story about going to the prom in his ultimate best outfit, feeling jazzed and atop the world, looking spiff with his cane and accessories. His cheer was dampened a bit when a bird, flying overhead, let go a dropping to land on his shoulder. This suit was stained.
So it is that we ourselves have been inwardly stained by our sins, a major source of stain being our unforgiveness.
At this point Brad held up the rocks and said, "There's a place to put these rocks," which were symbols now of our grudges. He carried them to the foot of the cross and urged us to not focus on the rocks, our grudges, but to put our eyes on the cross.
"What is the grudge that you're carrying?"
Afterwards we celebrated the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, followed by a picnic at the Cresman's who graciously hosted the church on their lakefront property.