The Rev. Thomas Nibbe
Sunday, September 27, 2020 @ 11:00 a.m.
I took a poll of readers regarding “a touch of humor”…the jokes won out…a couple of one-liners today…
Why did Noah scold the chickens on the Ark? …because they were using fowl language…
Does God love everyone? …Yes, but He prefers “fruits of the spirit” over “religious nuts”…
What kind of automobile did the Disciples drive? …they were all of one Accord…
What’s the problem with “forbidden fruit’? …It’ll create a jam…
Who do mice pray to? …Cheesus…
Why are atoms Catholic? …because they have mass…
Did Eve ever have a date with Adam? …No, only an apple…
Why didn’t they play cards on the Ark? …because Noah was standing on the deck…
Today I will share with you some of my favorite prayers:
Help Please Don’tShow me Guide me Change me Are you there…? Why’d you do that? Oh! Thank you.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you knowthat the testing of your faith develops perseverance…Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, that person should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to that person.” (James 1:2-5)
“…but someone will say, you have faith, I have done good works. Show me your faith without your good works, and I will show you my faith by what I do…” (James 2:18)
“…and I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and wide and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge
that you would be filled with the measure of all the fullness of God…” (Ephesians 3:18-19)
Would you pray with me today?
Dear God, Today I will begin “anew” pondering your saving power in my present life. I have been rescued from shame, guilt, regret, resentment and anger…and I’m simply grateful. How tragic my life would have been without your transforming power hovering over me in the dark places of my past. There you were in the abyss…
Today, therefore, I will express gratefulness for my past. By the pouring forth of your Holy Spirit over me, you have been able to change my mind about why – what has happened to me – took place…and now…I can replace personal regrets and bad feelings with acceptance, and live fully with your peace riding with me.
The concept of the Hebrew word for “deep, pervasive, all-encompassing peace” is “Shalom”. I want it in
my life. You want it in your life. It is one of the most important words in the Hebrew language. In the Middle East and in the Jewish world it rests at the heart of what is valuable in this life. The Arabic word that is equivalent is pronounced “Sala’am”. Jesus uses the term in John 14:27, as He provides a most precious gift…the gift the disciples will need most in the ministry years to come in establishing the true church:
“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I don’t give this as the world gives to you. Don’t let your hearts be troubled & don’t be afraid.”
Today for all practical circumstances in your life and mine, I would like to focus on being blessed with”shalom”…receiving and retaining what Saint Paul called (Philippians 4:7):
“…the peace God that transcends, all understanding…
Saint Paul suggests that this deep pervasive, all-encompassing sense of peace or “Shalom”:
“…will guard your hearts and your minds [in Christ Jesus]…”
Note Paul’s use of a focus upon the human heart and the human mind. The “heart”, of course, refers to our feelings as people and the mind refers to our ability to think things through. These are the two basic receptors of receiving and processing information for us human beings. At times in our culture we have been confused about the connection between the two, and it’s caused great problems when not addressed, and great triumphs for the human spirit when combined and balanced. The great English poet, John Donne suggested that the greatest journey an Englishman could travel was not from London to Calcutta, but rather from the brain to the heart, a distance of twelve inches. What we think and what we feel are often two different things. The point is that when the two are combined, what we think and what we feel, we have arrived at a place that we could call, “near perfect human emotional and mental health”.
We all need to come to terms with the ability to combine the two, heart and mind, to be healthy and wise. Many are convinced that Saint Paul was acutely aware of the need to come to terms with using both in combination.
SHALOM (PEACE) WITH OUR PAST
The ancient, Agathon, suggested, “Even God cannot change the past…”
When we hold on to the past in our lives, either through guilt, or denial of things that have happened, things we have done, or not done — or longing for things — circumstances in life, or people we want to want us or to need us, or resentment over other people or some other “fallout” in our lives, we simply are wasting our valuable time. That time is precious. We only have limited time to experience this life. Why waste it? The thing is…it is not illegal to feel guilt, or to deny, or to resent…as long as we don’t act out on these things…but, often such feelings end up with us “acting out” in some way. The point is it is a waste of valuable energy.
…that energy can be used to transform our today and our tomorrow…
I heard the testimony of a female patient I met while working as a chaplain intern at the University of California San Francisco under Chaplain Rod Seeger in 1983:
She used to live in the past. She was either trying to change things or she was letting it control her. Usually both. She constantly felt guilty…things she had done…things others had done to her…She’d make amends for most everything she could think of…but the guilt continued to run deep within. Having done “this evil deed or that worse deed” was all her fault. She just could never let it go. She held on to her anger over things for years, even decades, telling herself she deserved to feel the way she did. She was manifestly in denial but never stopped to discover what was going on…her past was like a shadow that followed her around and she couldn’t shake it. She was afraid to let it go…afraid of today…afraid of tomorrow…
“…they know nothing…they understand nothing…they walk about in darkness…” (Psalm 81:5)
She found Christ. She shared, “After many struggles I had, the faith I’ve found in Christ Jesus has helped me a great deal. It was the sense — the radical acceptance of dying to myself and being born again that saved me.” By coming to faith she was able to release the terrible bondage of regret and anger. Behind it all was the thought that she was released from regret and anger, because she had become “born again”.
RELEASED FROM THE NEGATIVITY OF OUR PAST
She used the quotation of Saint Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation, the old has gone, the new is come.” As people of faith we are — radically severed — cut clean away from the burden of agonizing over things past. The text argues that God in His great mercy reconciles us to himself, and in so doing, choses not to count people’s sins against them. This was and is her understanding, that instead of condemning people for their sins, God condemned sin in sinful people. How great it would be if so many others would understand the radical nature of faith in Christ Jesus. No wonder John Newton was inspired to write the words of the great hymn, “Amazing Grace”.
The lady continued to tell me she had been walking with Jesus as a “new creation” for many years. She talked about a proper perspective on the past within the redeeming power of knowing Jesus Christ as a great transformer of the human spirit: mind, body and soul. She decided not to go the route of trying to forget the past, as she had done formerly, but rather, to heal from it…by examining and affirming the connection between “salvation” and “service”…the two “S’s” of faith. Now being “saved” by receiving the Lord, she had truly arrived at the heart of Christian faith. It was the “service” angle of faith that brought about the personal healing for her. Once you are saved, you need to serve. Having gone through the dark places of existence in this world, she could relate to those who were experiencing the agony of dealing with her negative past.
She continued, “I have to choose to not blame myself for the painful experiences that happened to me and the bad experiences that I have caused. The key is trusting in the Bible concept that frees the human soul from inclining toward “the pits”…Indeed, we are always “on schedule” for God’s perfect plan for our lives.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Whatever happened…is happening…will happen to us is part of God’s perfect plan for our lives…put more succinctly…for my life. That is…because we have worth to God…because we count to God. God has a special and unfathomable love for us. He wouldn’t allow anything to happen to us that was unnecessary.
At times, that thought can be hard, if not impossible, to swallow whole.
When I first started thinking in biblical terms years ago, as I served as a chaplain at the hospital, a couple gave birth to a child without a proper head and neck. The time was not appropriate to share Romans 8:28. The couple suffered with the horrible fact of being in the circumstance they were…with their newborn — what a painful situation that was for them, for me, and for the hospital staff. As Saint Francis would have done, I “preached the Gospel” by just being present, not a single word spoken, just holding a hand — being. The child died. Years later, the couple connected up with me to bring my attention to a verse from the Bible…Romans 8:28…and how much they had been impacted by that verse. They explained how they came to faith after the death of their child and how that life and that death had been instrumental in their powerful faith-lives in Christ Jesus. Pause. What if I had shared at that time? It would’ve been a disaster.I pondered at the greatness of God…just be present…appropriate words may follow…
HOW DO WE DEAL WITH A PAINFUL PAST?
We need to stop blaming ourselves for the painful things we have experienced. We need to trust that everything has happened to us on schedule. All is fine. We need to learn to stop regretting and start being grateful. Not always easy to do at the beginning. We need to start being grateful as an attitude, not as a feeling. It’s God’s way of switching things around a bit. We feel and we let go. Instead of feeling…the activity of the heart…we replace feelings with attitude…the activity of the mind. All too often, we get the design function of the heart mixed up with the design function of the mind, and our lives become confused. When we have bad feelings about our past, our faith mindset informs us we need learn to be grateful…not when we feel like it. Rather, to set our mind to always give thanks and praise to God (anyway).
We don’t need to accuse God (Habakkuk) of not exposing himself to disgrace, suffering, and death, because we know the story of Jesus. How different it would have been had Jesus led a full and happy life into his later years, never suffering, never experiencing despair. It wasn’t the Father’s plan and purpose.
DO WE SUFFER WITH CHRIST FOR THE REDEMPTION OF THE WORLD?
It’s not God’s purpose that we are exempt from the difficulties of life…and in this…because of Jesus…we have fellowship with God. Recently, I sat at the bedside of a dear friend suffering terribly in the hospital. We discussed his pain and the mystery of suffering. I don’t know how theologically sound it may have been, but I said, “…your suffering is not in vain…you share with Christ the suffering of the Cross for the redemption of the world…” It really seemed to help him bear the pain. When we suffer, when we have negative feelings, we share a very rarefied relationship with God. As Christ’s suffering was not in vain, ours is not either.
So, not as religious people, but as people of faith, we thank God for our memories and we also thank God that he will heal us. If we need to amend for something or the other, we go ahead and make amends, and be done with it. When it comes to things past we look with compassion on ourselves, as we do for others, in the assurance that God was in control then, as He is now very apparently in control in the present.
Often, the worst things that have happened to us are the things that have formed the very best part of our character and were instrumental in developing our finer points. When it comes to failed relationships with others or very special others, we simply need to understand that what happened back then has brought us to who and where we are today. It was and is all part of God’s plan to make us satisfied and whole.
We need to learn to come to a point of true acceptance…without regrets, without shame or blame, and without anger. Indeed, we have no control of our past. Through the power of the Holy Spirit in our relationship with Jesus we can transform our lives…in the now…and that transformation is very real, evidenced by literally millions over the centuries. And God today is still in the same business of healing, redemption, and personal transformation that He was in Bible times. We can allow the healing to take place even in our lives…and as we love others without condition…truly…we start to appreciate and love ourselves having been loved by God. In the process, we will come to a recognition that failures and the negativity of the past (as we had perceived it prior) was all part of God’s perfect plan for our lives. We are loved by God.
HOW ABOUT YOU?
So this is a great little message about receiving “shalom”, receiving God’s peace. How about your personal experience? What kind of grudges, resentment, unforgiveness, and anger do you harbor? What you say? — I don’t hang onto those things…because I am very religious… Have you learned God’s way of you accepting your anger and managing it? How about your life in general? Do you have “shalom”…an incredible endowment of inner peace and assurance and affirmation? Be honest with yourself…
…because you need God’s peace…
…to make your life worthwhile living…
…to receive the promise of God’s personal peace for you…
HOW DOES ONE GET SHALOM?At this very moment the Lord is waiting for your response to this message. Though you may feel unworthy…tell Him you are ready to receive His peace…Shalom…tell him you will not resist Him anylonger or keep Him at a distance. Tell Him…that as He loves you…you love Him and choose to followJesus with all of your heart, soul, and mind. Ask Him for forgiveness…you know what you’ve beenholding out on…and receive complete pardon and reconciliation. Then… God’s peace and joy will comeupon you and you will feel just great. May the peace of God that passes all understanding guard yourheart and mind in Christ Jesus!