Three Great Words For Any Family

“Three Great Words for Families” Friday, October 23, 2015

Pastor Paul Purdue’s Friday’s Rough Draft

We offer this draft to assist those with difficulty hearing.

On Sunday, we ask God to perfect this sermon in our hearing!

Today, we wrap up our series on the family.  I thought we might think about three Great words for any family. TIME- FORGIVE- GRACE.

The Angel Gabriel came to Mary and said: “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you. Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. …the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.” That would take nine long months, refuge with an aunt, and a birth in a barn.

The heavenly host, a glorious band of angels, filled the sky on that first Christmas singing to shepherds “Do not be afraid—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”  It would be 30 years before Jesus preached.

When Jesus began to preach: “he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. Jesus found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because God has anointed me, to bring good news to the poor. God has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ ” Jesus then preached his first sermon saying “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” It would take three years of teaching and healing, then three sorrowful days in the tomb, then forty days before Christ’s Ascension, then forty more days until Pentecost birthed the church and indeed the Gospel scroll is being unfurled and fulfilled even to this day. Time!

Have you ever wanted more time? I know of only one time when God added hours to a day. Joshua 10 reports a strange story first recorded in the now lost Book of Jashar where God makes the sun stand still. You astrophysicists can explain the implications of the sun not moving for a few hours. However, barring a miracle, time ticks away. You don’t get it back!

Anything good takes time.   Our first graders are not reading Kierkegaard or ancient Ordo; they might one day. Our second graders are not mastering calculus.  Given time and effort they can.  Our sixth graders have not touched Liszt. Good things take time. Time matters.

The problem is we live in an instant oatmeal, micro-wave, ready-made, drive-thru, heat and eat, instant messaging, all access, 24-7, right now, google that, face-time culture.   Hear some good news, in this swirling world parents are spending more time with their children. Moms are spending 3 hours more per week than they did in 1965 and dads have tripled their time spent with their children up to almost 8 hours per week! (Quality Time Begets Quality Time – KJ Dell’Antonia: NY Times March 30, 2015)

Jesus spent time with the disciples.  Jesus took the inner circle aside and answered questions.

Your family needs your time.  Love takes time.  Good things take time.

Paul writes to Timothy: “I long to see you so that I might be filled with joy.”  (2 Timothy 1:4)

I had to work last weekend on Santa Rosa Beach- tough pastoral work in Florida marrying a couple.  Saturday afternoon, I woke up on the beach after a little nap to hear my wife chatting to a stranger.  I just laid there with a t-shirt over my head.  Connie was talking to a mother of three preschoolers from Hendersonville.  Ten years past preschoolers, Connie reassured this young mom about being a mom as her two preschoolers buried Connie’s feet in the sand with giggles and laughs.  I basked in the sun thinking: I lucky am to be married to a woman so kind that children see she is safe and strangers seek her counsel.  Feeling safe and blessed I returned to dreamland.  I am not sure the last time Connie and I got away just the two of us without our boys or mom.  I will confess I had forgotten how lucky I am.

You need time to be a family.  Friendship takes time.  Love takes time. “You can’t have a transcendent moment with your family unless you are together” (adapted Quality Time NYT).  Goodness takes time!

There are no pre-fabricated ready-made solutions, sitting on a shelf, ready to heal your family.  There is no microwave peace. There is no quick and easy app to bring joy into your family.  You just have to spend time at it.  Goodness takes time.

And time needs to be spent not in the general area of your family but engaged with each other.   If I was at the golf course and Connie on the beach, she will not see me slice one into an alligator and I will not see her kindness to strangers.  And if we are all looking at our phones we may be 1,000 miles away even as we share a table.

In our reading today, listen for time. “Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when Jesus was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival.” That was about a 100 mile family hike. It took 8-12 days. They walked together in huge extended kin-community groups. This big group allows Mary and Joseph to miss their 12 year old Bar-Mitzvahed son. The Passover Feast lasted 7days. Let’s add that time up together: 10 days traveling towards the Temple, 7 days worshipping together, and 10 days walking home makes 27 days together. Goodness takes time. Do you want the love of God in your family? Spend an hour each Sunday in Sunday School and an hour in worship and an hour at lunch dissecting it all.

When the boys were little, I asked Max, a pastor colleague of mine, whose father was a pastor, to give me advice on raising my Preacher’s Kids.  He looked at me and simply said “Go home.”  I waited for more.  That is all- “Go Home.”

The second Great word for our families is FORGIVE!

Do we live like we know that Jesus said: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”? (Matthew 6:14-15)  Are we known for forgiveness? Are you known for forgiving?

We will never become Christ-like if we do not learn to forgive.  Indeed, you cannot grow in Christ without forgiveness.  Christianity without forgiveness is the sort of hollow legalism Jesus denounced. You will never know the depths of God’s love until you begin to regularly forgive.  You must learn to forgive.  Jesus warns that if we, who are forgiven, fail to forgive from the depths of our hearts we will have much to answer for when God sets the world aright. (Matthew 18:35)

Un-forgiveness will ruin your family.   Un-forgiveness poisons the family picnic.

A friend once confessed to me, “Preacher I cannot understand something.  My ex-wife forgives me, but my son cannot.   My ex-wife even is my stylist. It took courage for me to let my ex be around my ears with scissors, but we are friends again.  We talk about the kids. Most weekends my children and my grandchildren come down to our dock, but my son will not come. I ask, his sisters plead, his mother encourages him- but he even can’t forgive me enough to swim in the same lake with me. My ex-wife/his mother and his stepdad even come to the dock on special weekends but my son is stuck in my twenty year old stupidity.  I see all these grandkids jumping off the dock with their cousins. I see his sisters pulling each other on the tubes.  I see my ex-wife’s husband driving my boat… I grieve for my son who is missing his family because he can’t forgive me.”

If you hold anger close to your heart, if you have an un-forgiving fire near your soul, who gets burned?  Who is scarred by your holding un-forgiveness?

Peter asks “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother, up to seven times?” Let’s give Peter credit for seven, for that is more than most of us will forgive.   Jesus answers with an enigmatic higher math problem. Jesus says not seven times but 70×7.   The answer is beyond 490  (Matthew 18:22). Forgiveness is the very heart of Christ’s mission.  Forgiveness is the essence of Jesus.  Jesus even speaks forgiveness from the cross.

Listen Friends, forgiveness is not accepting bad behavior, or renaming bad behavior as good, or calling a blessing a curse. You can forgive and decide to not be vulnerable before an offender again. You can forgive and press charges.  We may forgive and move on or move away from destructive relationships.  In Matthew 10:14, Jesus tells the disciples “to shake the dust off their feet and move on” when people will not receive the gospel, listen, or welcome them.  God does not bind us to those who continually seek to wound us.

Forgiveness releases people who have done wrong to God. Forgiveness says there is a great and merciful Judge and entrusts the offender to God and at times the legal system.  The first step in forgiveness is stepping away from retribution, revenge, and releasing the other to God. The second stanza is to pray they find peace and healing. Jesus prays, “Lord, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.” Jesus never said that our sins were acceptable.  Forgive and be free.  Forgive and move on.   Forgive and perhaps God will restore relationships.  Forgive and become like Christ.  It is not easy, but it is essential.

TIME, FORGIVENESS-The third great word for families is Grace.

Philip Yancey in his excellent book What is so Amazing About Grace calls grace the last great Christian word.  Yancey teaches that “Grace is the Christian worldview.”

Grace may be defined as: a) God’s favor, kindness, compassion b) God’s forgiveness and mercy c) the Gospel as distinguished from the law d) undeserved forgiveness given by God  e)Christian virtue f) The presence of Christ

Your family needs grace.  You need grace.  We are all called to be agents of grace. Grace is the stuff that Christians must breathe, drink, consume, speak, and radiate.  Grace is the very essence of the Christian life.

Hear the Good words from Ephesians 4:29-31 “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.  Put away all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”

How would one life, organized around grace, kindness, tenderhearted, and forgiveness change your family?  If you decided today to live your life devoted to grace, what would happen inside your kin group or your circle of friends?  Will you live a life committed to grace?  Will you be the grace-filled person your family, your friends, and our world needs?

Let’s revisit our story.  After Jesus is “lost” in the Temple, Mary and Joseph do not understand what is going on with their adolescent son. Listen for the grace in the story. Mary and Joseph are frantic, at losing this amazing child-this perfect child. When they find Jesus, he offers an enigmatic teenage parable to explain not coming home on time. It must have been difficult to raise this odd-ball kid who never sinned and saw the world through the eyes of Almighty.  “After three days they find Jesus in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions”…and Mary blurts out “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” Jesus replies with his first parable, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  Now what would you say back to adolescent Jesus? Luke tells us “But they did not understand what Jesus said to them. Then Jesus went down with them to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.

I love that verse “But they did not understand.” There will be times in your family you will not understand.   There will be moments when you simply do not “get” each other.   Things will happen you can’t grasp or comprehend. What will you do? May I suggest you offer TIME-FORGIVENSS and GRACE.

Offer Grace- undeserved mercy- unearned favor- unwarranted compassion- unexpected kindness and unusual love.   Mary and Joseph do not understand the treasure God has entrusted to them in Jesus so they drop “it,” treasure each other, and go home. That is pretty good parenting- drop it-treasure them-and go home.   That might work with your sister, your brother, your aunt, your mother, your friend: drop it-treasure them-and go home.

Let us take the time, forgive, and offer grace. Let us be people of unwarranted grace- exceptional favor- undeserved warmth- unrequired kindness- unencumbered compassion-unusual forgiveness and uninhibited love. Grace is the Gospel that calls us, saves us, empowers us and perfects us. May we offer our time, forgiveness and grace to everyone we encounter.  Thanks be to our God of Amazing Grace – Amen.

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