Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Doing Good

Doing Good: The Quote
Several of you have asked me about John Wesley’s quote on doing good because you found it inspirational, but wanted to get the exact language. Here is the quote that is often attributed to him: "Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as you ever can." 
It appears that Wesley never used this exact language, but that it is a rephrasing of what was said in a few of his sermons (further information at quoteinvestigator.com). His exact quotes are:

“Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Neither is love content with barely working no evil to our neighbour. It continually incites us to do good: as we have time, and opportunity, to do good in every possible kind, and in every possible degree to all men.” From the sermon The Law Established Through Faith in his collection Sermons on Several Occasions.

“But employ whatever God has intrusted you with, in doing good, all possible good, in every possible kind and degree, to the household of faith, to all men.” From the sermon The Use of Money in his collection Sermons on Several Occasions.

While it appears that Wesley never said the quote in its most memorable form, it is a great way to remind us of our Christian duty to doing good. We are not just to avoid doing evil, but we must be actively doing good, serving God and all humanity.

Doing Good In Our Church
The month of October in our church is a busy one for doing good. We will be finishing up collecting items for hygiene kits used for hurricane relief by the United Methodist Committee on Relief. We are also raising funds to purchase the turkeys for Redbud Area Ministries. And finally, there is Make a Difference Day on October 21st which provides us with lots of opportunities for volunteer service in our community! Details about each of these things are available elsewhere in the newsletter. I hope that you will get involved in these things. Join us in doing all the good we can, in as many ways as we can, in our community and in our world.

Doing Good as Individuals
Also, even as I commend us as a church for our hard work together, I further encourage you to be doing good in your personal lives. Do good things for your family, for your coworkers, for your friends and neighbors. This means helping them when needed, but it also means being kind to them, respecting them, treating them with dignity, showing compassion and love. Doing good is not just serving or giving financial support it is about how we interact with them each and every day. Make this duty part of your daily life.

So, my friends, let our love for our neighbors incite us to do good, through the church, through our personal lives, in every circumstance. 

Sermon: Just Rescued, Already Complaining

Exodus 16:2-15

Our story today follows up on last week. The Israelites have just been rescued by God in one of the greatest miracles in history. A sea was parted and walls of water stood alongside them as they escaped into freedom. Yesterday they were slaves with hard labor, watching their children be killed by an oppressive king, and today there is a sea between them and they are safe. That’s the kind of thing you think would make an impression, and would change your attitude about everything.

But now today as we heard the story, the people are already complaining. “Oh, how we wish that God had just put us to death in Egypt, we are going to starve to death out here in the desert.” Now, in some ways, their complaints are justified. They are in a desert. There isn’t much water, and there isn’t much food. Clearly they are still in a difficult situation. That much we understand, but what seems a little shocking is that they are so focused on their current situation, they have forgotten already just how powerful the God that they are following is and what God has done for them.

Think about it, if God just parted a sea, can’t God provide food in the desert? If God wanted to rescue them just a few days ago, would God abandon them already? Logically it would be silly for God to go to such great lengths to save them, just so that they would die a few days later in the desert. But the people aren’t being logical, in fact, people seldom are when they are afraid. They are in a new place, with new problems, and so that is what they are focused on. They don’t just have the “What have you done for me lately?” approach to God, they have the, “What are you going to do for me now?” approach.

In the midst of their complaints, God is amazingly patient. God doesn’t get mad and say, “If you all don’t stop complaining, I’ll turn this car around and do just what you ask, put you back into slavery.”

Instead, God responds with Manna – which if you say “Man, uh, what is this stuff” – you actually get what the word means. Manna in Hebrew means “what is it?”

People are still trying to figure that out. One theory is that it was a sweet tasting secretion of a kind of plant lice that infected certain shrubs in the Sinai desert. Kind of like honey, only from a different bug. Another theory was that it was either dried algae or lichen that had been carried on the wind and landed at their feet.[1] Neither of those sound quite like restaurant quality cuisine. On the other hand – perhaps it was heavenly food, that tasted like ambrosia. But that really doesn’t matter, because whatever it was, God had saved them again.

Whenever we read this story, it is always easy to be hard on the Israelites. We think, if I had just been saved by God through the parting of the sea, I would have trusted God and wouldn’t have complained. But I think we overestimate ourselves.

The truth is that as human beings we are good at complaining, even after we have immediately witnessed a miracle of God. There's an old story that comes out of the Missouri Ozarks,

I bet you have heard it a time or two; it tells of a hound dog sitting in a country store, howling his head off, as hounds are prone to do. A stranger came in and said to the storekeeper, "What's the matter with that dog?" The man said, "He's sittin' on a cockleburr." "Then," asked the stranger, "why doesn't he get off?" "Because," replied the storekeeper, "he'd rather holler!"

As human beings we’d often rather holler than move because, I think it has to do with our fear of change. When a miracle happens that leads us into a new place, we are frightened, we don’t know what to expect, and all those fears and anxieties overwhelm us. There is a part of us that would rather keep things the way they are, even if they are rotten, even if it involves being enslaved and beaten and watching our children die. Because moving on to something new, just might be worse.

When I am counseling people and they want to make a change for the better in their lives, I often warn them, that it will get worse before it gets better.

This is not pessimism on my part. It is a reality of change. When we want to change something, the first step of change often feels easy. God has given us a miracle and we run through it with joy. But when we get to the other side it is unfamiliar and frightening, and emotionally there is a big part of us that would rather go back. We would actually rather be stuck in our prior problems than improve our lives.

For example, Maureen Brady talks about how sexual abuse survivors often self-sabotage improving their lives. “Sometimes we self-sabotage just when things seem to be going smoothly. Perhaps this is a way to express our fear about whether it is okay for us to have a better life. We are bound to feel anxious as we leave behind old notions of our unworthiness. The challenge is not to be fearless, but to develop strategies of acknowledging our fears and finding out how we can allay them.”[2]

And so we fight the changes we know we want to make. Or sometimes it isn’t we ourselves who fight it, but everyone around us: our families, our friends, our coworkers. They don’t like the changes we are making and so they actually fight against us – usually without even thinking about it.

It is amazing how often an alcoholic will be committed to stop drinking, but when he or she does the stress in the family actually increases. For so long, alcoholism has been the center of their life. It has been what they tip-toed around, what they fought about, what they worried about, what they stressed about, and now there is this void. The alcoholic now has to face problems they have avoided, and they are trying to break their one familiar and comfortable pattern they used to deal with them – what emerges instead can be fear, blame, anger and hypersensitivity. At times the family, in the face of this new problem will actually intentionally or unintentionally sabotage the alcoholic’s attempt to become sober. This actually was part of the reason that Al-Anon was started.[3]

Those are just examples, but the reality is that resistance happens with many types of change. God leads us into a miraculous new place, and although our first reaction is joy, a few days later we find ourselves wishing the miracle had never happened.

So what should we do, when we discover ourselves complaining just after experiencing a miracle?

Remember that God is still at work in our lives even after the first step and the big miracle. God has more miracles ahead, we simply have to be willing to fight through our own fears and anxieties about the change. Use that logical part of your brain – say to yourself, God wouldn’t have brought me through the Red Sea just to let me die in the desert. God will be faithful. Keep saying that over and over to yourself!

Remember also, that although we may look at the new situation God has given us and ask “What is this?” just like the people looked at the manna and wondered what it was, this unrecognized thing is a provision from the hand of God. Our new situation may be uncomfortable, it may be unknown, but it is part of the pathway of God – leading us on a journey to the promised land.

We have to be willing to accept the discomfort even in the face of the unknown. We have to be willing to face the resistance of others in order to get to the land that God has promised for us in the future. Keep your eyes open so that you see each miracle along the way, remember the miracles of the past, and most of all know that God has not abandoned us in the process, God will continue to help us, we simply have to trust and believe.

[1] http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/what-the-heck-was-manna-anyway-56294548/
[2] Maureen Brady, Beyond Survival: A Writing Journey for Healing Childhood Sexual Abuse
[3] http://www.silkworth.net/magazine_newspaper/pageant_dec_1955.html

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Sermon: Trapped Between

Exodus 14:19-31

The situation of the Israelites is dire. They have run from Pharaoh, but they are being followed by chariots and warriors on horseback. And now they come to the shore of a sea. They cannot swim across. They have an army at their back and an impassible sea in front of them. It looks like they are going to be slaughtered. But God comes in a mighty way and saves them. The waters of the sea part, and the people walk across between walls of water.

The army starts to follow them, but the mud jams up the chariot wheels, and they are slowed, so the Israelites are able to get across before being caught. Then the waters of the sea close up behind them, and the Egyptians are covered: the chariots, the cavalry and the army, so they are destroyed. It is a miracle of salvation from the hand of God.  But the story may raise questions for us about the character of God. Couldn’t God have saved the people without so much death?

One retelling I heard a number of years ago which is from an ancient source, said that at this moment, the angels in heaven began cheering what God had done, like you or I might cheer the winning touchdown in the last seconds of a game.

But when they looked around they saw that God was weeping. One of the angels asks God, “Why are you crying?” And God says, “Don’t you see my people that are dying in the sea?”

I appreciate that retelling. There is a sense even in the ancient Jewish storytellers that although there is celebration in the freedom of the people, God is also saddened at the cost of that freedom. That’s often the problem with being trapped between things, there is no easy answer, no simple painless resolution for the situations we humans get ourselves into, and even when God steps in there is weeping.

Martin Niemoeller was a commander in the German navy in World War I. After the war, he studied theology and became a pastor. But post WWI Germany was in crisis with high inflation. So when Hitler began his rise to power, Niemoeller saw Hitler as the hope for restoring Germany and became a strong support – so strong that he could speak with Hitler on any subject.

In 1933 Hitler started interfering in the church. He appointed one of his cronies as the bishop of the Protestant church in Germany – and made the churches serve Hitler rather than God. Niemoeller became concerned, and voiced his concern to Hitler. It made no difference.

Niemoeller eventually joined Dietrich Bonhoeffer to create a group of pastors who stood against Hitler. “Niemöller was arrested in July 1937 for speaking out against Hitler from the pulpit, was imprisoned for eight months, fined after a trial, and then immediately re-arrested as a “personal prisoner of Hitler.”  He was sent to Sachsenhausen for “re-education.”  Because he was a poor student and refused to learn the new ways, he was then sent to Dachau, where he was to spend the next eight years of his life.  For all he knew, it was where he would die.”[1] But it was not, he was freed by the Allies in 1945.

I share that story so you can hear the power behind this quote. It was Martin Niemoeller who said, “It took me a long time to learn that God is not the enemy of my enemies. [God] is not even the enemy of [God’s] enemies.”

He had been on both sides, as a Nazi and as an enemy of the state. And from it he learned what the ancient rabbi knew, that God does not hate those who resist God’s salvation, but God weeps for them because they too are God’s people.

We would be wise to remember that God would prefer solutions that lead to peaceful resolution of injustice, but the hardness of our hearts often leads to answers that are less than ideal – in our eyes and in the eyes of God. Suffering is unavoidable as those who refuse to change their hearts collide with those who must be rescued. That is the first lesson that this scripture has to offer us, a reminder that God weeps when the Egyptians die because they are not God’s enemies, they are God’s people. It is an important reminder in a time when people are far too likely to vilify their enemies. Remember: even our enemies are God’s people.

The second lesson of this passage is about God’s character in another of our situations in life. The fact is, we often find ourselves caught between two things in life and feeling like there is no way out.

We might say we are between a rock and a hard place or the devil and the deep blue sea. This place can be deeply uncomfortable as we feel as though our whole life is about to fall apart. We may feet utterly trapped.

But this story says that there are often paths ahead that we are not able to see. That deep blue sea that is ahead can actually be dried up, that rock can be moved, that hard place can be softened, and that devil defeated. God is able to see options which we are unable to see. In fact, God may have a plan for our salvation that leads us through one of the very troubles we think is impossible to survive. None of us like to think this.

In my mind’s ear, I can hear the conversation right now between myself and God.

“God, I’m stuck, there is no way out. I have an ocean of problems in front of me that there is no way through, and an army of problems about to overtake me from behind.”

“Okay, Rob, step into the ocean in front of you.”

“God, I can’t do that. I won’t survive. I’ll drown.”

“No you won’t. Calm down. Take a deep breath.”

[frustrated!!!] “I am not holding my breath while walking through an ocean!”

“That isn’t what I meant. I meant take a deep breath and get ready. I am about to do something you never even imagined. But you have to step forward.”

At that point I am sure there would be some whining and complaining until God convinced me that God really was going to take care of me.

This passage reminds us that God may be working to part the waters, to create a new opportunity, in places where we thought there was no way through. There is always hope.

But it may require us to leave behind the life we knew, it may require us to step into the mud, it may even require us to wander in the desert for 40 years to finally be at peace with it. But there is always hope. We are never so trapped that God cannot help rescue us and bring us salvation from our troubles.

Ultimately that is what the cross is about. God was willing to do something new that we might be set free. God’s love for us was so strong, that Christ came and died to make a way where there was no way before: parting the waters of death, and bringing life to those who thought they were his enemies. It is a story much like the parting of the Red Sea.

So remember our enemies are not God’s enemies, but God’s people, and we are never so trapped that we cannot be saved. The angels in heaven learned both that day when they saw God work miracles and weep at the same time. And they probably relearned the lesson the day Christ died on the cross.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Sermon: Why Do We Remember

Exodus 12:1-14

Most of the events of the Bible happened a long time ago. They are often about people and situations that are very different from our modern world. They talk about things that are parts of a culture that literally is foreign to us, because it takes place in a different part of the world; and a culture that is primitive in its attitudes towards women, animals, children, and life in general.

And yet, we still read them, and some of them we still read and remember on a regular basis.

For example, today’s story. Passover is over 3000 years old. It is a story of the Israelite slaves being set free from Egypt. It is a reminder of a situation where God tried and tried to persuade Pharaoh and the Egyptians to do what was right, and let their slaves go free. God sent a messenger, Moses; God sent signs and wonders, and God even sent plagues. But nothing worked. And in the end God chooses to do what many of us would hesitate to do – God tells the Israelites to kill a lamb and put the blood on their doorposts, and that night the Spirit of God will pass through the city, and kill the firstborn of any household which does not have blood on the doorposts.

This brutal act finally convinces the Pharaoh to set the slaves free. That’s great, but in many ways this is a story that we find a bit gross – very few of us are likely to kill a lamb and smear some of the blood on our doorposts. Even the Jewish houses don’t do that, although they certainly will eat unleavened bread and have a traditional Seder meal of lamb and bitter herbs. But why do we who are not from Jewish households, for whom Easter has replaced the celebration Passover --  Why do we remember? Why do we continue to remember a story that is so old, that is about people we have never met, and that contains instructions to do things we definitely aren’t going to do?

Let me tell you another story, of another group running from violence, trying to get to freedom. In the early 1980’s there was in the Assam region of India group of Muslims that had lived in the area since immigrating from Bangladesh and Nepal in the early 20th century.

Despite their decades of residence, the government still did not treat them as complete citizens and they did not have the right to vote. In 1983 that change, when Indira Gandhi decided to give 4 million immigrants and their descendants the right to vote – it was a huge victory for human rights.

But the other people of the surrounding villages were not happy. And on February 18th in the villages of Nellie and its nearby neighbors, the non-Muslims decided to drive the Muslims from their land. In the just six hours they massacred 2191 from 14 villages in the area.[1]

One survivors says, “I saw our people leaving their homes and running... I tied one of my sons to my back and held the other one... I ran... I was thirsty... I made my sons sit down... The older one walked towards the river and drank the murky water... Then they started to fire at us... I ran...”[2] And due to the graphic nature, I will stop quoting him there.

What is amazing about this event is that it is largely forgotten. Very few people talk about it, even in India, even though nearly 2200 people died. The director of What the Fields Remember a documentary about this almost forgotten event says, “There hardly exists any conversation around Nellie except as some kind of a footnote when we talk of places where mass violence has taken place. So I was also interested in the larger question of what we choose to remember and forget — basically the idea of collective memory and amnesia. I am hoping that the narratives of the survivors will leave the audience with some of these questions — questions not just about Nellie, but places that have seen conflict or continue to.”[3]

Why is this event nearly forgotten? And of course it would take a sociologist to really answer that, but here is what I was left thinking –

Perhaps the better question about Passover is why would we dare to forget something that is so vital to who we are as Christians just because it happened so long ago, just because it makes us uncomfortable?

The truth is that we can forget that we were once part of a people who were oppressed, who were enslaved. We can forget that we were once the people that were crying out to God for help, against the evils of the world. We can forget that we share a common history with every person who is oppressed today, who lives in a land that is not their first home, who does not feel welcomed, who is enslaved, or watches their children die at the hands of evil governmental regimes or at the hands of angry mobs.

And what happens when we forget? Oh we know the quote don’t we. I probably don’t even have to share it, but I will. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana. Yes, that is the problem with forgetting. When we forget that we were once on the receiving end of mistreatment, what often happens is that we are tempted to step into the role of the oppressors. We are tempted to be the people who enslave others, we are tempted to take up sickles against people we think are the foreigners. That’s what happens when we forget – we become the Pharaohs of today whose hearts become so hard that we don’t care if others are suffering as long as we are doing okay.

But let me be more specific. One of the absolutely necessary steps in the development of compassion for other people is being able to share in their pain. That is what compassion means. The root passion means to suffer, and the prefix com means with. Compassion is suffering with another person.

But to have compassion for another person we must feel connected to them. If we feel like unconnected, if we feel like they are others, outsiders, totally different from us, we cannot have compassion on them – we won’t suffer with them and our hearts will be hard. The only way to soften our hearts is to see how we are alike in our humanity. It is seeing ourselves in others, seeing in their pain our pain.

We need to be able to see ourselves in the hungry, in the enslaved, in the suffering. We need to be able to see ourselves in the hurting. That is part of the essential development of compassion: a realization that their pain is my pain.

If we want to avoid being hard-hearted like Pharaoh, if we want to follow the words of Paul in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to each other, in the same way God forgave you in Christ.”, If we want to follow the words of Jesus in Luke 6:36, “Be compassionate just as your God is compassionate.”, we dare not forget. We have to remember, otherwise we will lose our link to the suffering and the enslaved, and we may find ourselves one day on the wrong side of God’s will.

You see, that’s the other reason we remember this story. Not only do we remain connected to each other as human beings, but this story helps us to stay connected with the heart of God.

It reminds us that God cares so much about the plight of the oppressed that God is willing to go to great lengths, uncomfortable lengths to end evil and oppression. It reminds us that Jesus came not only to set souls free, but to help people to live life fully and abundantly here on earth. That he was sent “to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)

This is good news! It means that God not only cares about you after you die, but God cares about your situation now. It means that God wants slavery to end. It means that God sees the suffering of humanity and not only cares, but is actively at work saving those who are oppressed.

When we remember that, we can share the hope of Passover – that God has set people free in the past – and we can be agents of that hope as we work to set a new people free. We can say, “We understand that it feels like nothing is changing.” We can talk about how plague after plague Pharaoh resisted and refused to budge, how systems can seem totally impossible to move—but God will not give up on you.  This type of sharing keeps hope alive in people who are suffering so that they hold onto the dream of change, it keeps hope alive in people who are working for change so that they know God is helping them along the way. It reminds us that true peace, true justice, and true mercy are being woven by the master weaver into the tapestry of life.

That is why we remember these stories even though so much about them is foreign to us. We remember because they teach us compassion, they teach us God’s heart for the suffering and oppressed, and they proclaim everlasting hope. And we need that. Our world needs that!

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nellie_massacre
[2] http://www.thehindu.com/features/magazine/baradwaj-rangan-on-what-the-fields-remember/article7641365.ece
[3] http://www.thehindu.com/features/magazine/baradwaj-rangan-on-what-the-fields-remember/article7641365.ece

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Sermon: Resisting Wrongdoing

Exodus 1:8-2:10

One of the challenges of last week’s topic, forgiveness, is that people think that to be forgiving people or to be compassionate people means that you let evil people walk all over you. That you let others do wrong to you. And yet the Bible shows us, right after telling us one of the greatest stories of forgiveness, that resisting wrongdoing is a godly thing. So last week we heard how Joseph forgave his brothers for selling him into slavery – that he was able to see beyond the pain of what had happened to him, and he was able to see how God had used his situation to bless others – in fact to save their lives.

Many years later, still in Egypt, the Bible tells us that people have forgotten what Joseph did. In fact, the Israelites are now being mistreated. Because the Istraelites numbers have grown, the Egyptians are afraid of them so they are forcing the Israelites into work gangs and giving them hard labor. Then to make matters worse the Pharaoh tells the midwives that if they are delivering a Hebrew baby and it is a boy, kill him. It is a horrible situation.

But into this situation, steps the very salvation of God. First we have midwives, women who are helping in the delivering of children, and they know that the orders that they have been given are wrong.

These are women who have dedicated themselves to the bringing of life into the world, so how could they suddenly become agents of death? They can’t. So they resist the orders. They play on Egyptian prejudice that thinks the Israelites are more like animals They claim that the Hebrew women give birth too quickly and they can’t get there in time – and Pharaoh believes it.

Unfortunately it does not stop the injustice. Pharaoh makes the decree even more strict. Throw all the Hebrew baby boys into the Nile River. It doesn’t matter if they have been alive for a few minutes, days or weeks, drown them in the river.

Which of course leads to mothers hiding their children, striving their best to keep their babies secret. One mother, named Jochebed, who has a healthy and beautiful son is able to hide him for three months, but then realizes that she cannot hide him any longer.

So she puts him in a basket of reeds and sets the basket among the reeds. The woman’s daughter, Miriam, follows behind, making sure the baby is safe.

Then we have Pharaoh’s daughter who finds the baby. And we another act of resistance in the face of oppression.

She knows that the child is one of the Hebrews, she knows what her father has said, but she provides for the child’s life and in fact adopts him as her own son, naming him Moses.

So right after last week’s wonderful story of forgiveness and setting aside a wrong that is done, we have this equally powerful story with many women who are resisting evil. They are standing up to it in their own way and refusing to give in to it. And while it may seem like these two ways of responding evil are opposite or in conflict, they are not.

I am quoting from The Book of Joy as the Dalai Lama explains that forgiveness is not acceptance of the wrong.

“There is an important distinction between forgiveness and simply allowing others’ wrongdoing. Sometimes people misunderstand and think forgiveness means you accept or approve of wrongdoing. No, this is not the case. We must make an important distinction.” The Dalai Lama was speaking emphatically, striking one hand against the other. “The actor and action, or the person and what he has done. Where the wrong action is concerned, it may be necessary to take appropriate counteraction to stop it. Toward the actor, or the person, however, you can choose not to develop anger and hatred. This is where the power of forgiveness lies— not losing sight of the humanity of the person while responding to the wrong with clarity and firmness.”

“We stand firm against the wrong not only to protect those who are being harmed but also to protect the person who is harming others, because eventually they, too, will suffer. So it’s out of a sense of concern for their own long-term well-being that we stop their wrongdoing. This is exactly what we are doing”[1]

So essentially what he says is that you separate the evil act from the person. You do what you need to do to stop the evil actions. But you do not become angry or hateful of the person or persons who are hurting you – never lose sight of the fact that they are human too. In fact, by helping them to stop being evil you actually protect them from the harm that they will do to themselves if they continue to act in an unacceptable manner.

So imagine that you are one of the individuals who was injured when the Neo-nazi drove his car into the crowd who were standing in opposition to racism. Clearly what he did was wrong. And you want to stop that from ever happening again, but you don’t have to harbor hatred and resentment against him. In fact, you can work to forgive him. You see, being agents of God’s forgiveness actually has the potential to be the most powerful response to evil.

But it cannot be cheap forgiveness. For it to bring real change, we must move those who are doing wrong into a place where they realize what they are doing and are repentant. You have to confront them and convince them.

I admit, this requires deep internal strength, and often can only begin by resisting those who are doing wrong. In our bible passages, the resistance is in refusing to obey evil orders. In the last century the resistance has been in the efforts of the civil rights movement where people both refused to obey laws that discriminated but also spoke clearly and powerfully to educate people about the need for change. We see it in the recent the peaceful protests in various countries against corruption and injustice, where people see that their government is no longer serving the interests of the people, and where favoritism, nepotism and financial fraud taint their leaders. So they resist and they make known the issues.

The idea is to help those who are doing wrong to see what they have done, and to get them to repent, to change their ways. To get the neo-Nazi’s to see that racial hatred is just plain wrong, and get them to repent.

But those gains are slow – in fact, as we can see there are still some who refuse to acknowledge that what was done was wrong – they want to hold onto evil. But we do not give up. We continue to not only hope and pray that those who spew hate and bigotry will come to see the evil that that are doing, but we resist their efforts to harm others, we speak out against them clearly, we educate and develop relationships until the human beings who are doing wrong repent of what they have done, and forgiveness, real forgiveness can happen.

That’s what we would hope to do if we were one of those injured by the driver. If and when these means are successful, we have brought salvation not only to those who were being oppressed but also to those who were causing the harm.

A side note: While last week’s passage dealt more with personal hurts and suffering. This week’s talks about how we address systems that cause human suffering. But there are deep similarities. Both of them talk about the power of forgiveness. Both are about everyday people, like you and I. Both are about seeing God at work in the world – in the first believing that God has brought good out of the harm that we have experienced, and the second believing that God can bring change (even if we don’t believe that we can change things), and being courageous and compassionate in the face of wrong.

The opening of the book of Exodus, with the examples of the many women who oppose Pharaoh’s orders is a reminder that despite our limitations, God works through our hearts, refusing to accept the wrong, and bringing about change.

Whether one is a midwife or a mother, or a princess resisting wrongdoing, we can be part of God’s intricate plan of salvation. The world becomes a better place, lives can be changed (lives have been changed – people like yourselves have even saved lives) – simply by resisting wrong, refusing to obey an unjust decree, showing compassion to those who are being treated unfairly, and educating and converting those who are doing wrong.

Being Christian and being forgiving does not mean sitting back and doing nothing, it means powerfully moving people toward repentance and the saving power of God – and you and I have a role in that every day. Whether we realize it or not, our small acts bring God’s salvation.

[1] Lama, Dalai; Tutu, Desmond; Abrams, Douglas Carlton. The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World (p. 234). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.