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As a pastor I have preached many sermons over my years in ministry, I am now retired, but one thing I want to share with the world is that ALL LIVES MATTER. I lived through the riots of the 60’s the killing of John Kennedy, and his brother Robert and the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. All of these were horrible things that happened in our society, yet we managed to continue on as a nation. We worked together to heal wounds that many thought would tear us apart. We survived them and we have come a long way from those horrible days, we have worked at becoming a country of one people, no matter our color, our background, we are one people. No matter what else may happen in our world, we must remember that if we are to be a nation, we must be one people, not many groups who happen to live in the same country.

The following sermon I preached in 1997 speaks to the idea that we are not a separate people, we have one story to tell and it asks the question – What is Your Story.

“Bishop Bevel Jones told the following story during a sermon delivered to the 1996 General Conference of the United Methodist Church.

“Andrew Young, former ambassador to the UN, tells a parable about having been visiting South Africa at the invitation of Nelson Mandela. For years Mandela was a leading opponent of apartheid, South Africa’s official policy of racial segregation. In 1964, the white establishment locked him up for life. But, as the legend of Mandela grew, so did the worldwide campaign to set him free. He was released in 1990. When apartheid was abolished, and South Africa held its first democratic elections in the spring of 1994, Nelson Mandela was elected president. Thirteen months later, Mandela invited Andrew Young to be his guest when South Africa hosted the Rugby World Cup Tournament. Now rugby is a white man’s game. The South African team, like most rugby teams, is entirely white. And South Africa is about 80 percent black. So, even though the world championship was being played right there in Johannesburg, there was a deliberate absence of support for the team. As the tournament approached, a heated debate broke out about the South African team symbol — a leaping gazelle called a “springbok.” Most of the white Afrikaners said, “The springbok has been the symbol of every rugby team we’ve ever had.” Most black South Africans said, “Exactly! It reminds us of South Africa’s racist history, and we want it changed.” It was an explosive situation.

Now Nelson Mandela has impeccable political sensibilities. More importantly, he understands the saving power of grace. A few days before the opening game, Mandela visited the South African team. After the visit, he called a press conference. Mandela showed up wearing a rugby jersey and an athletic cap with the team mascot, a springbok, on it. The newspaper and TV reporters were there and recorded it all. Mandela said that until the elections, he and most other black people in South Africa had always supported whoever was playing against the Springboks. “But regardless of the past,” he said, “these are our boys now. They may all be white, but they’re our boys, and we must get behind them and support them in this tournament.”
The next day, the Springboks’ coach sent word for his players not to show up in their practice gear. He told them to wear their suits and ties. He took them out to Robben Island, to the prison where Nelson Mandela had spent nearly three decades of his life behind bars. The coach and every player on the team walked into Mandela’s cell.
As they stood there, the coach said, “This is the cell where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. He was kept here for 27 years by the racist policies of our government. We Afrikaners tolerated his imprisonment for all those years, and yet he has backed us publicly. We can’t let him down.”
The tournament opened, and the Springboks played above their heads. To everyone’s surprise, they won their first game. In fact, they made it into the final game against New Zealand, a perennial power in rugby. It was like Slippery Rock playing Notre Dame. And yet, at the end of regulation, the game was tied.
President Mandela was in the stands, wearing a Springbok jersey. During the timeout he brought a South African children’s choir out of the stands. They sang an old African miners’ song which to them is sort of like Swing Low, Sweet Chariot was to the slaves in this country. Within minutes, 65,000 people in the stadium were standing and singing this black African miners’ song. Andrew Young said, “I don’t know anything about rugby, and I don’t understand the words of the song, but I was in tears.”
When the Springboks took the field, they were unstoppable. They won the World Rugby Championship. And for the next 24 hours, whites danced with blacks in the streets of South Africa. One of the most divided nations on the planet was united by something some people consider insignificant — a rugby match. But God used it ot help heal a nation.”

Have you ever tried to retell at story?
A story that had rocked you with laughter or some other emotion, and seen it fall flat. We’ve come up with some standard comebacks for this of course, comebacks we use to cover ourselves and our embarrasement:
“I guess you just had to be there.”
“It loses something in translation.”
“You just don’t get it.”

Storytelling, whether funny story or drama, is what you could call an unrepeatable art form. The variety of people listening, the inflections in your voice, the mood of the day, the color of the sky — these all combine to create a one time only atmosphere for the words you speak. A story may bring a tear or a smile at one telling, and yet, the very next audience experiences the same words in a completely different way.

Jesus chose to speak in parables:
That’s what Mark’s gospel tells us. There are those who say that this is annoying, and maybe a little dishonest. Why didn’t he just come out and say what he meant? Why leave behind all these cryptic sayings, loaded with innuendo, instead of a crisp code of laws or a stack of really good essays or books, with titles like: “How to be a Good disciple”, A Brief Definition of the Kingdom of God,” or “Seven Key Features of the Coming Kingdom and What This Means to You.”

But no. Instead we have this cross-eyed, cryptic, incomplete, awkward, and at times seemingly absurd collection of sayings known as Jesus’ parables.

A list of rules never changes:
Rules don’t adapt well to changing situations. Written essays are like insects encased in amber — beautiful and precisely formed, but no longer vital and alive. It takes the fluid format of a story, a tale that can never be told in precisely the same way again, to keep breathing new life into the Good News.

If you really like rules:
Try reading again the book of Leviticus or maybe the first few chapters of Numbers. When is the last time you really enjoyed reading this?

The parables, the stories that Jesus told tend to grab us they seem to entice us into the world that Jesus was talking about. Without that flow, even the Word of God can become a hard read.

By preaching in parables:
Jesus let each listener make the Good News his or her own story. As we become swept up in the story, we too become a part of a new parable — the parable of our own lives. Taking it all together, our individual experiences of the kingdom, our personal stories of God’s work and witness in our lives, end up creating a new gospel. We all know the gospel of Matthew, and of Mark, of Luke and John. the church has almost 2,000 years of those books to celebrate and to read over and again. Those are the faith stories that have brought all of us to a greater vision of Jesus.

Along with those gospels:
There are other faith stories that we have to share with each other, I don’t know that we can call them gospels, but they are an extension of what the gospel has done in the hearts and lives of those who came after. We hear the parables, the stories of Augustin, of Martin Luther, Thomas Merton, John Wesley and these too are a part of the vital tradition because they too speak of the power of the gospel. These are parables for us to read too. Then there are these other gospel parables that some of us will know and others will not, the gospel of Grandma, or Aunt Mary, or my friend Joseph, or maybe the story of that kid at camp, I don’t remember his name, but it was a good time.

You and I are in the process:
The process of writing our own gospel portions, our own parables, our own stories of our encounters with God, with the Good News of Jesus Christ. As we live it, we also write our gospel chapters, that is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Stories are what connects us together as human beings, they connect us as families to our past, to the world around us and to one another in the church and in our daily lives.
It is the parable, the story, that allows us all to experience the gospel fully for ourselves. What chapter did you add to your gospel story this week? How does it witness to the power of the gospel in your life?
Perhaps you added:
“The parable of the Crabby Boss and the Christian Coworker?”
“The Parable of the Kids Who won’t clean up their rooms and the Mother who is threatening to Ground them for life.”
How about “The Flat Tire and the new clothes?”
“The Parable of the Parents Who Don’t Have a Clue.”
“The Parable of the Empty Cupboard and the Overflowing ‘Bills To Pay’ Slot.”
Of course these don’t seem to be parables or gospel stories while they are what you are living through, but they stand the test of time. Later as we look at the happenings of our lives, we see the kingdom showing through, we realize the truth of God’s presence in all of this.

What do we do then with this gospel power, the wonderful gospel stories of our lives and those who came before us. We have those stories that we all know, the gospels that we celebrate each week, and we have the stories that are our own experience of the gospel. Monday is tomorrow, the world is sorely in need of the gospel, you carry it with you. Karin Bacon of Houston TX says: “We can’t preach the Good News and then be the bad news.” Disciples are the Good News. Let the others you meet read the Good News in you.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, Amen.”

So what is your story? Slavery was ended by the War between the States, it took many years to end the vestiges of that horror, but end it we did. I hate that today, we are for some reason returning to the hatreds of those days and to the death and destruction that was seen then and again today. We as a society need to wake up and realize who we are and the greatness we can achieve together. I hope all of us can begin again to walk the path of life together.  It is what God has for us to do, whether you believe in Him or not, it is still our best and brightest hope in for our nation to survive and become great once again.


I was enjoying some quiet time this morning and came across this verse: ” Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” As I thought about this verse, I began to think about all the different opinions there are about the Scriptures. I have to note that there are way too many opinions, and not enough agreement as to what the scriptures hold for those who claim the name of Christ. It has been said that this is a good thing, since we have so many denominations each of them has their own view of scripture. There, of course is the rub, each of the denominations has their own view of scripture. So which of us really has the truth? The verse above from Psalm 119:105 says that the word of God is a light to my path. If it is a light to my path, why then do I believe one thing and someone else believes another?

Perhaps if we look at the truth of society we may see a glimmer of that light. The sun shines brightly, and we can see well in the light of the day, yet the best eyes cannot see very well on a moonless night. Then too one who is blind cannot see what the sun reveals and therefore even though there is plenty of light, cannot see the green grass or the rose in bloom. That person percieves the world around himself differently than we who can see do. It is the same with the light of God’s word in the world. There are those who can discern what the word says, yet, cannot see the the beauty of that word, nor the truth that is imparted by it. Some read the word of God only so they can dispute what it says. Some come to it with preconceived notions about what it should say, and so they find in it what they want to find, instead of what God has to say to them.

Some will come to the word when yet new to Christ and others with many years steeped in the life of Christ, that too gives a different perspective. Others come with prejudicial views, such as having grown up in an abusive household, knowing that their father was a very harsh man. When the word of God says that God is our Father in heaven, it paints a picture that is not pleasant for that person, so they refuse to see that God is referred to as male because God is the creator, the builder and not because God is male. God is Spirit not male or female, yet when Jesus walked the earth, God in Man, he came as a man and is the human personification of God. Jesus was loving and caring, so God is loving and caring, yet there are those who cannot see that.

Another question asked of scripture might be, if it is light for the path, why do we need preaching? Good question there, if people would read in the Spirit then perhaps that would be true, but how can they read in the Spirit if no one told them about the Spirit. Yes scripture is the light, but the Spirit is the author of the Light for the Spirit is also God. Without someone to come and explain to him what he was reading, the eunuch would never have known about Christ, or about the grace of God, and would never have been baptized into Christ. He would have gone on in ignorance instead.

Another question for us is the idea that we cannot know the will of God for our lives and yet, the scriptures are very plain in their speaking of the will of God. Jesus said that the “Great Commandment” is to Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, body and mind. Then he says, and the second is like the first, Love your neighbor as yourself. The will of God is for you and I to live in grace and love first for the God of the universe, the one God who created all mankind, and all that we can see around us. Then to live in His love so that we can in turn love one another. If you, in truth, love others as yourself, you cannot break the commandments. Truly the word of God is a lamp to my feet and a light to my pathway, that I might walk with Jesus through life. Learning from the word of God as I go, not hating others, but offering instead love through He who first loved me.

How about your life? Have you discovered that God wants you to walk in His way and love one another, have you forgiven those who have hurt you? Remember the words of Jesus prayer that he taught the disciples. “and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matthew 6:12 ESV in other words forgive us our sins as we have forgiven those who sin against us. This is a tough thing, yet it is a light to my path and lamp to help me walk rightly. I am to forgive others then I open myself to be forgiven. There are many differences between us, but, we are to live as Christ not as others do. </p>

Luke 7:36-49 tells the story of Jesus being invited to the home of a Pharisee to enjoy lunch. As the recline at table, a woman comes in and stands behind Jesus, the story tells us that she is a sinner. She begins to weep and then washes his feet with her tears and dries them with her hair. She then applies first kisses to his feet and then anoints them with fragrant oils.
The Pharisee knows her and thinks to himself that if Jesus knew who she was, he would not allow her ministrations. Jesus tells the Pharisee a short parable, about two men who owed two sums of money, one greater than the other. Their debts are forgiven by the man they owe the money to.
“40 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”

So he said, “Teacher, say it.”

41 “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.””

Jesus replies, that Simon has answered rightly. Then looks to the woman and says to Simon, you did not offer me water for my feet, yet this woman has washed them with her tears, dried them with her hair and anointed my feet with perfumed oil. You did not offer me oil either. He then proceeds to forgive the woman her sins, because she loved enough to minister to his needs.

Sin, scars our souls, scars our lives, and leaves us in pain while forgiveness heals that pain, and begins to change those scars into beauty. I was a smoker for many years, it scarred my lungs and gave me the gift of emphysema. At times it is difficult to breathe, yet I know that God is healing that sin from my life. I will not get worse for God helped me to quit smoking in 1994. My lungs will not be the beautiful thing they could be because I harmed them, yet, they will continue to function, because I no longer am hurting them, and with God helping they will continue to heal. Life’s Scars are the evidence of the things we have done in life that were harmful to ourselves.

But God can and will heal those scars and make them be for us a thing of beauty which reminds us of sin forgiven. We still will struggle with sin in our lives, but with Christ as our companion and the Holy Spirit working in our soul, we will better be able to resist the wiles of Satan, and continue down the narrow road toward eternity in Heaven with our Lord.

Have you experienced that healing presence? What is your story? Have you begun to journey with Jesus?

Romans 12:9-21

<p>We have new life in Christ, and Paul talks today about what that means, to those who first heard his words, and to us today. The message is still the same. Genuine love is that which is practiced wholeheartedly, no hypocrisy. Love is to be the guiding prinicple in our lives. So Paul starts out saying that love is to be genuine. He also says we should abhor or hate what is evil, and cling to what we know is good.</p>

<p>Paul’s letter to the church at Rome is one that has begun with the depravity of man, and he moves through all the sinfulness of man, which then allows him to begin to talk about the Love of God. He talks about the cross of Christ, and in last weeks reading in Romans 12:1-8 he spoke of the transformation that happens when a man or woman comes to know the love of God personally through Jesus Christ. His voice was powerful saying that he urged, begged and implored the Romans to present themselves completely and without reservation to God as living sacrifices, that they might be renewed, transformed by God’s grace that they would learn the good and perfect will of God.</p>

<p>Now we learn of the reality of that transformation. Let love be Genuine that is the overriding thought that permeates this particular passage. It comes from the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, it is the Spirit that gives us the gifts that Paul speaks of and it is the Spirit that brings us to knowledge of God’s love for us and for all mankind. Paul is speaking of the love that we have received and that we should allow that love to flow through us to others. He speaks of our being renewed by that love and that we then are to work at bringing others to understand that love.</p>

<p>Paul says that we are to use the that love which permeates our soul, to persevere in prayer, rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, ardent in spirit, serving the Lord. Give to the needs of the Saints, extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you, bless them and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who are rejoicing, weep with those who weep. Live with one another in harmony. Then he says don’t be haughty, (blatantly and disdainfully proud).</p>

<p>Live in harmony with others, be humble, associate with those who cannot repay you. It sounds a lot like the teaching of Jesus in the beatitudes. Paul also says that we are hate that which is evil, not the person who is involved in the evil, but rather the evil itself. Again we are asked to stand in the gap, to stand for what we know is right. Evil exists in this world and love demands that we recognize it, and stand against it. To abhor (to loathe, to regard with extreme repugnance) that which is evil.</p>

<p>He goes on to say that we need to live humbly (deferring to others, not being haughty or better than others). The story is told of a church service in the after the War between the States. A black man attended a worship service in an all white church. When the communion was ready to be served, the black man waited his turn, and then got up and walked to the altar rail. No else in the church went with him. Then a stately and well dressed man stood and moved to the side of the black man, kneeling at the rail, they received the elements together they sipped wine from the same cup. Both men stood giving each other the right hand of fellowship, and returned to their seats. The white man who came forward, was Robert E. Lee. A great general and a greater Christian. He loved without hypocrisy, living his faith. He taught that group of people a great lesson on that day.</p>

<p>Hospitality toward strangers is central to the Christian faith. It includes assisting people in need and offering hospitality in one’s home. I remember the stories my folks told of the depression and how their parents would share with neighbors that which they had. My grandfather on my mother’s side was able to work throughout that time, and on my Dad’s side his father was a fireman and worked as well. My mother’s father, used to talk about the “bums” on park row, some of them had been working on wall street, some worked in banks, but all were in the same boat in the depression. They would come to the saloon where my grandfather worked at lunch time to see if they might be able to get a bite to eat. He would feed them when he could, and he would give them money to get something to eat if he couldn’t feed them.</p>

<p>Then Paul talks about blessing those who persecute you. Now we don’t suffer too much in this country, but in Paul’s day there was quite a bit of persecution. We also know of people who are forbidden to practice their faith in many places in the world. They also bless those who persecute them, they offer prayers for their enemies, and try to help them find Jesus for themselves. Many of these Christians suffer beatings, broken bones included, women in some of these countries suffer rapes, and physical abuse and some have been attacked by men carrying machetes, causing them horrible scarring on their bodies, if they even live from such an attack. Yet in the midst of all this mayhem, these folks still practice their faith, and love one another and even their enemies. Praising God that they can suffer as Jesus suffered.</p>

<p>So we are told to respond to evil with love, not with hatred, to allow God to handle the vengeance part, instead we are to offer drink to a thirsty enemy, food to one who is hungry.</p>

<p>I have to admit that the heaping burning coals on the head of those who are hateful, by doing good, is actually hoping that the person to whom you do good will realize their wrong. In Egypt there was a ritual where people would carry a pan of hot coals on their heads as evidence of penitence.</p>

<p>We have all faced personal insults, affronts and some even abuse in our lives. Paul admonishes us to soberly consider how we respond to wrongdoing. We do tend to want to get even, but, Paul reminds us that Vengeance belongs to God, he will repay those who practice evil. There will come a day when all will be judged for their actions, and that is God’s job not ours. We are of course not to suffer abuse needlessly. The point is not to take an action that could lead to a self-serving, vigilante kind of response. We Christians need to act with restraint, exploring practical ways to deal with evil. Instead of paying evil back with more evil, our response must be to show God’s love in our lives.</p>

<p>David & Leah Ortiz left their home in the United States to share the good news of Christ with Jews and Muslims in Israel. They settled on the West Bank, and David has picked up some Arabic in his work with their Palestinian neighbors. They have been there a number of years and have had to deal with many threats. But they faced a painful test of faith on March 20, 2008, when their son Ami, was nearly killed in a bomb attack likely intended for David, his pastor father. That morning Ami opened a gift basket that had been left in front of their apartment by an ultra-Orthodox Jewish nationalist. A bomb hidden in the basket exploded, destroying the apartment and tearing through Ami’s body.</p>

<p>Over three years later, Ami still have over 100 pieces of glass and metal in his body. Yet David and Leah still live in the same place, and practice their faith as they always have. They pray for complete healing for Ami.</p>

<p>David says that, “The Lord forgave David and many people in the Bible,” he said. “My goal and my prayer for the attacker is that he will repent and be saved.” (Voice of the Martyrs, July 2011)</p>

<p>These and many others like them, practice loving their enemies and their friends, they will continue to work for the gospel and the kingdom no matter the persecution, no matter who is against them. Their Church was burned down in October 2010, perhaps by the same group of ultra-Orthodox Jews who live near them. Evil is found in many groups in this world, yet God is present with David, Leah and Ami, and God’s love holds them up. They work to share that love, even with those who hate.</p>

<p>It is our job to not repay evil with more evil, but rather to allow the love of God to flow through us, that others will have a chance to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Vengeance is mine says God, leave the justice and the vengeance to God. Offer instead the love of God to all, deal with Evil as God has for you to do so. Let your love be genuine.</p>


As I was reading about relationships for this weeks sermon, I realized that our lives are so tied up in things, and in anger, fear and other emotions that sometimes we forget what it means to simply live as Christ lived. Remember that while he was on the cross, he forgave those who crucified him. How often do we neglect to forgive those who have hurt us?

In many of our Church services each Sunday we pray the prayer we call the “Lord’s Prayer” and in that prayer we say, “forgive us our trespasses (debts) as we forgive those who trespass (sin) against us.” How about if God actually took us at our word? How about all those who we have become angry at for one thing or another, for a slight that they did to us, have we forgiven them for that hurt? Do we carry that slight with us, and remember it all the time, taking it out of that door in our heart where we keep our hurts, and review it again just so we can keep on hurting?

How about Peter and his question to Jesus, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Matthew 18:21 (ESV) Jesus reply to Peter in verse 22 is “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”

Think about this, if you refuse to forgive that slight, then you have given that hurt power over you. Every time you remember that this person hurt you, you will again suffer he pain of that slight, yet that person is nowhere to be found, you are using that pain to make sure you never reconcile with that person, and that pain controls your life.  Jesus also said, “if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Mat 5:23-24 ESV). Rid yourself of those things that are not of God, they only place a wall between yourself and God, and do you no good. It has been shown that these kinds of things can actually make you ill, because you are harboring a poison in your soul.

Living as Christ lived, forgiving those who hurt us and not allowing them to control us through those hurts and pains, will free us to live in the grace of God, will allow us to love one another as Christ first loved us. Our first relationship is with our God, allowing his love to flow from us to others, means we are living in love instead of fear, anger or hatred. Which way would you rather live?

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Pastor and Wife

John & Yvonne Quigley, John is a retired Pastor in the UMC. This blog is about the journey I am on with Christ.