Learning to Forgive

One day, a man, his heart heavy with grief, was walking in the woods. As he thought about his life on this day, he knew many things were not right. He thought
about those who had lied about him back when he had a job.
His thoughts turned to those who had stolen his things and cheated him. He remembered family that had passed on. His mind turned to the illness he had, that no one could cure. His very soul was filled with anger, resentment, and frustration.
Standing there, searching for answers he could not find, knowing all else had failed him, he knelt at the base of an old oak tree to seek the One he knew would always be there. And with tears in his eyes, he prayed:
“Lord, You have done wonderful things for me in this life. You have told me to do many things for you, and I happily obeyed. Today, you have told me to forgive. I am sad, Lord, because I cannot, I don’t know how. It is not fair Lord, I didn’t deserve these wrongs that were done against me and I shouldn’t have to forgive. As perfect as your way is Lord, this one thing I cannot do, for I don’t know how to forgive. My anger is so deep Lord, I fear I may not hear you, but I pray you teach me to do the one thing I cannot do: Teach me to forgive.”
As he knelt there in the quiet shade of that old oak tree, he felt something fall onto his shoulder. He opened his eyes. Out of the corner of one eye, he saw something red on his shirt. He could not turn to see what it was because where the oak tree had been was a large square piece of wood in the ground.
He raised his head and saw two feet held to the wood with a large spike through them. He raised his head more, and tears came to his eyes as he saw Jesus hanging on a cross. He saw spikes in His hands, a gash in His side, a torn and battered body, deep thorns sunk into His head. Finally he saw the suffering and pain on His precious face. As their eyes met, the man’s tears turned to sobbing, and Jesus began to speak.
“Have you ever told a lie?” He asked?
The man answered, “Yes, Lord.”
“Have you ever been given too much change and kept it?”
The man answered, “Yes. Lord.” And the man sobbed more and more.
“Have you ever taken something from work that wasn’t yours?” Jesus asked?
And the man answered, “Yes, Lord.”
“Have you ever sworn, using my Father’s name in vain?”
The man, crying now, answered, “Yes, Lord.”
As Jesus asked many more times, “Have you ever”? The man’s crying became uncontrollable, for he could only answer – “Yes, Lord”.
Then Jesus turned His head from one side to the other, and the man felt something fall on his other shoulder He looked and saw that it was the blood of Jesus. When he looked back up, his eyes met those of Jesus, and there was a look of love the man had never seen or known before.
Jesus said, “I didn’t deserve this either, but I forgive you.”
As we enter into the season of Lent and as we reflect again on what separates us from a full relationship with God, remember what Jesus has done for you. Remember that God loves you so much that he gave Jesus to die for you and Jesus did it willingly.
Your servant in Christ,
Pastor Anna

Tracking the Storms

Hurricane/tornado season has officially begun. Last week we prayed in the Litany:
            As we enter upon this season of vigilance, we ask that you watch over us. Keep us alert and watchful in our days.
           Protect us from all harm. Keep us from devastation.
           Deepen our faith, that our fears disappear in our trust in you.
Physical storms are not all that we face. We also face other storms: challenges that are thrown at us as fast as a tornado can whip up debris and sling it our way. How do we deal with the storms or challenges that we face? What are the storms in our lives?
One storm is the storm of change. We have had so many coming at us lately that we may be developing “storm” fatigue. And yet, here we find ourselves at yet another moment in the life of the church, where things are different, and change is needed.
This week, I had the privilege of having lunch with Law Enforcement Agencies and other faith leaders of Jacksonville, talking about another kind of storm, the storm of violence, that seems to be rocking our nation. All the mass shootings, the hatred, the increase in crime in our communities, have community leaders reeling, looking for real answers which are long overdue.
Retired Sheriff of Jacksonville, Nat Glover, said at the luncheon, “We have been here before. We have had [many and big challenges], but we got through them. Each time we got through them, we got better. We will get through this challenge, and we will be better!”
Change, in and of itself, creates an atmosphere of fear. We lose control of how we do things, we become uncertain in the new way, not knowing what to expect or even what to do. This could easily lead to increased stress levels, and as we have seen in our country, that leads to violence, or perhaps I should say, violent outbreaks.
We, the Church, the Body of Christ, can and will get through this time of uncertainty and we will be better at the other end. As we put our trust in God, as we allow love to fill our hearts, minds, and lives, we put away fear and find the path forward that God has intended for us walk.
On June 12, your leadership will be entering into a time of discernment and planning for our future. We ask that you keep us in your prayers that we may remain vigilant to the voice of the Holy Spirit, that our faith will be certain, and that we will be bold enough to step out on the path that God sets before us.
I pray this for the council, for myself, and also for each of you as we move out of the isolation brought on by the pandemic and find our way back to fullness of life.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Anna