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Monday, March 18 2013

Philippians 3:4b-14


          An older man looks out from prison bars.  It’s a sight he’s seen many times.  He’s been arrested many times.  He has suffered numerous beatings.  Humiliations.  Suffering.

           There was a time when he had been a prominent man.  A man of influence.  Well educated.  Well respected.  He had the right name, the right job, the right connections.

           But he lost it all.  His own friends wanted him dead.  How do these things happen?  After all, he had been somebody.  Now he was a no body.  And all because of one decision – a decision he would have made over again if he had to.

           The gentleman sits down and grasps a pen.  Who knows how much time he has left to tell the story?  For all he knows – this could be his last letter.  There’s even been talk about his upcoming execution.  Amazingly though – the man is not afraid.  He squints down at his piece of paper, and he begins to write:

           I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing

          Jesus Christ my Lord.  For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things, and  I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”

           Ah – you recognize those words, don’t you?  A man by the name of Paul – St. Paul – the Apostle Paul – wrote those words almost 2,000 years ago to the believers in the city of Philippi, Greece.  How could a man who has lost everything write words like these that are so full of hope?

           We first meet Paul in the New Testament book called the Book of Acts – the Acts of the Apostles.  At that time he is a young man.  When we first meet him he is not yet known as Paul.  His name is Saul.

           He has a family lineage to brag about.  He is a native of a city called Tarsus.  Tarsus is a capital city – prosperous – cosmopolitan.  Saul is well educated.  And he is a zealous member of the Jewish religious group known as the Pharisees.  The Pharisees were biblical scholars who followed the Law of Moses in every aspect of their daily lives.

           Saul loved being a Pharisee.  He was convinced that his zeal for God – and for the laws of God were so great that he himself was without sin.  Completely righteous.  And better than other people.

           Onto the scene came these followers – these disciples – of a crucified man by the name of Jesus.  They called themselves Christians.  They actually believed that this man Jesus was God’s Messiah – the Christ – the anointed One.  And that three days after he died, that he rose from the dead.   

           Saul believed so strongly that these Christians were wrong, that he made it a point to persecute them – round them up – put them in jail – and yes, at times, even put them to death.

           So zealous is Saul for the Jewish faith – and filled with so much hatred for the followers of Jesus, that one day he sets out to a city called Damascus, to arrest the Christians he might find there.  But as he approaches Damascus, Saul is blinded by a flash of light.  He is confronted by the voice of Jesus.  And in that moment – in that moment Saul’s life is changed.  And he becomes Paul – a follower of Jesus Christ.  A disciple.  And he commits the rest of his life to spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ everywhere he goes.  Preaching and teaching.  Starting churches.  Writing letters.

           And they all lived happily ever after, right?  Wrong.  Paul lost his position as a Pharisee.  Some of his old friends turned against him.  He was now the persecuted one – persecuted for sharing the same faith of those he himself once persecuted.

           Paul never again had a home of his own.  He traveled around from region to region, staying anywhere from several weeks to several years at any one place.  He spent years in prison.  He was beaten and abused.  And eventually he was executed by the Romans.  All of this for the sake of Jesus Christ.  And in spite of it all – in spite of everything he lost – in spite of everything he gave up – he never lost his faith in Jesus Christ.  His was a life of joy.  He lost everything – he gave up everything – for the one thing that truly matters – being a disciple of Jesus Christ.

           Listen!  I’ve just shared with you a brief overview of Paul’s life.  In this reading from the book of Philippians we’ve learned just what it is Paul gave up – how much he gave up for the sake of Jesus Christ.  AND just what it is that he gained as a result of losing everything. 

           So let me ask you a question – what is it – or what are the things – that you have lost or given up for the sake of Jesus Christ?  Now – we all know that Lent is seen by many people – maybe even many of you – as a time to give something up.  You know – give something up for Lent.  By the way – how are all you chocolate lovers out there doing?

           Can we agree that giving up something like chocolate for Lent – or for that matter – giving up anything for Lent is probably not the kind of thing that Paul was talking about when he said, “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things.”  Let me say that giving up something – even something like chocolate – for Lent is fine as far as it goes.  But may I suggest that there are other things in your life – other things in my life – that we might want to think about letting go of – perhaps even permanently letting go – of things that are keeping us from being fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. 

           Now, notice what I am not saying.  I am NOT saying that if you don’t give certain things up – if you don’t let go of certain things – that you cannot be a Christian.  That you cannot be a disciple of Jesus Christ.  I am NOT saying that.  So whether you are a super Christian – or just starting out in this thing called faith – there are always areas in our lives that we can examine – the things that we might think about getting over – or giving up.

           Now, I happen to know what some of the things that I need to focus on – what some of things that I am working on – working on giving up.  Would you like to know what they are?  I’ll just bet you would.  It’s hard sometimes, isn’t it, to give up or to let go of some things – things that are keeping us from being the fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ that Jesus is calling us to be. 

           And let me also suggest that the things that stand in the way are probably things that we value – and not necessarily in and of themselves bad things.  Not necessarily sinful things.  But still – they may be things that are – well – keeping you and me from being everything God wants us to be.  Or doing the things God is calling us to do.

           Listen.  Let me ask you – what are some of the things that are getting in the way?  I mean, it’s different things for different folks – and this is certainly not an exhaustive list by any means – but let me just ask you to think about it.  What might – might – we need or want to give up?

·        Status?

·        Possessions?

·        The need to impress others?

·        An “I don’t care” attitude about God? 

·        An “I don’t care” attitude about the church?

·        Self-centeredness?

·        Fear?  Guilt?  Shame?

·        A destructive habit?

·        The need to always insist on having things your way?  (Oops!  I wasn’t going to tell you what mine are!)

·        OR maybe what you need is just – an attitude adjustment.

           Think about it.  What one thing – just one thing – if there is anything at all – do you need – or maybe I should say what one thing that you want – to get rid of that’s keeping you from being a fully devoted disciple of Jesus Christ?  If you’ve got more than one thing – well – let me suggest that you might just want to work on them one at a time. 

           I haven’t done it in a while, but there was a time – mostly in my single days – that I enjoyed a hobby of furniture stripping.  Old tables.  A bedroom set.  In the first house I owned when I lived in Ohio – a house that was built in 1915 – I stripped, stained and refinished several doors.  The front door – the back door – and the basement door.  On a visit back to Dayton some years later with my wife and sons – I drove past that house to show the boys where I once lived.  The owner of that house was outside – and I stopped the car to introduce myself and tell her I used to live there.  Much to my delight – she invited us in.  Much to my chagrin – they had repainted that basement door.  “Oh,” she said.  “I’m sorry.”  And I said, “No.  It’s your house.  It’s your door.”

           Well.  If you’ve ever stripped furniture – or a door – you know just how challenging the task can be.  Those chemical strippers are pretty powerful!  But usually I found myself stripping several layers of paint off things.  Like that basement door.  Usually came off just one layer at a time.  By the way – stripping old varnish is easier than stripping things that are painted – like that basement door.

           But – I did it for two reasons.  First it was to get rid of the old paint – the old varnish.  In other words – all the old junk.  The second was to see what the original thing looked like.  To find the beautiful wood beneath with its rich wood grain – hiding beneath all the junk.

           Do you see where I’m going with this?  Sometimes I find myself to be like an old door – or a chair or a table – that needs to undergo the stripping process.  To strip away all the junk – sometimes one layer at a time.  To strip away the tired, old qualities that are keeping me from being the kind of person – the kind of disciple – God wants me to be. 

           And as that old stuff – that old junk – is being stripped away – and yes, sometimes I know it hurts – I find it most helpful to replace it with something new.  For me – when stripping furniture and doors – it always meant a fresh coat of stain and polyurethane – buffed to a smooth, semi-gloss finish with 0000 steel wool. 

           For Randy the man – sometimes it means stripping away old attitudes – old ways of thinking – and taking on a whole new attitude – a whole new way of thinking – a whole new way of being or of doing things. 

           It’s not always easy though, is it?  But is it worth it?  Is Jesus Christ – and being a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ worth it?  Are we willing to give up those things that are keeping us from being everything God wants us to be? 

           Listen.  Listen once again to the words of a man who lost everything.

           “I regard everything as loss for the sake of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ – and be found in him.”



Posted by: AT 09:08 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, March 18 2013
By David Sivecz

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32, “A Story that Changes Ours”

            We know this story.  Including the Good Samaritan, these two parables are probably the most well known stories through the Christian faith.  Story telling has been around for a long time.  They have been around since before the Internet, before television, and yes even before movies, so I have been told.  We love stories.  Personally, growing up at Zion, I always looked forward to hearing stories during the sermons, in my Sunday school classes, or even at confirmation.  Let me share with you a few stories that I remember.  Like the one about an elderly woman who saved her fork after every meal because she believed something better was going to come - the dessert.  I remember Pastor Randy acting out the story of the Mr. Rodgers television show and asking us “Won’t you be my neighbor?”  I remember coming to see Zion’s new sanctuary consecration and hearing one of the former pastors tell the story about this church being a little country parish.  One story that will forever stick with me is the story of my fifth grade Sunday schoolteacher John Fauhnestock.  We love stories.  But as the years have gone by my studies have caused me to drift away from Zion.  Because of the foundation I received from this place, I have made it an effort to come back and hear some stories.  In the recent past, there is one story that I will never forget.  I remember Pastor Steve climbing up and sitting at the top of an eight-foot ladder to tell the story of Zacchaeus.  I remember being on the edge of my pew looking up and wondering, “What’s the view like from up there?”  Have you ever wondered what a story would look like if we were sitting on the ladder viewing it from a different angle?

            I feel that the story, or parable, that we hear Jesus telling us today asks us to view it from a different angle of the ladder.  See, maybe the story has been referred to you by the name “Prodigal Son and his elder brother”.  But something doesn’t add up.  Why do we refer to it as the “Prodigal Son and his elder brother”?  I mean the father is the one who is faithful in the relationship.  The father continues to recognize both as his sons even though they insult him and break the relationship.  The father maintains the relationship with them by going to them.  Right before this parable Jesus tells us about a shepherd who loses a sheep and a woman who loses three coins.  The only way for the sheep and coins to be found is that the shepherd and woman have to search for them.  The sheep just don’t wander back.  The coins don’t just appear in her hand.  But they had to search for them.  The father, in our parable today, seeks and finds both of his sons.  So, why do we call the story the “Prodigal Son and his elder brother”?

            As I have read through this story numerous times, I hear Jesus asking us to view this story from the “Faithful Father”.  Now I am aware that not all of us have great relationships with our fathers.  So maybe we could call it the “Faithful Parent”, or the “Faithful Guardian”, or even the “Faithful Mentor”.  This is a story that we might not be used to hearing.  There is more to this parable, this story, then what meets our eyes.  See, we do not know why the younger of the two sons asks for his inheritance.  However, when the son asked for his inheritance he was telling his father that he doesn’t want any thing to do with him.  As we know the story, the son took off, wasted his inheritance, and then a famine hit the region.  Because he had nothing, the son truly became desperate.  The son is in such despair that he hires himself out, not just to a Gentile, but hires himself out to work with swine, pigs, or unclean animals.  Just when he thinks things cannot get worse he was tempted to eat what the pigs were eating. Talk about being despair!  So then all of a sudden, as we read, “He came to himself”.  Sometimes we tend to gloss over this part.  See, this did not actually mean that he felt remorse; rather he remembered where he could go to survive.  The son was in such deep despair that he did not even know it was despair.  He didn’t know how far gone he was.  Sometimes despair causes us to move into survival mode and do things that we would not otherwise do.  We even hear the younger son develop a prepared speech before he goes home.  If you have ever been trouble before you know the purpose of a prepared speech.  His purpose was to try to influence his father into hiring him.  So, as the story goes, he set off and went to his father.  But this is where our view of the story changes.  The father sees his son off in the distance, runs to him, and embraces him.  Before the younger son can get his speech out, the father embraces him and throws him the biggest party.  The father remained patient, faithful, meet him where he was, and found him.  What makes this a powerful parable is that the father acts even without the son repenting.  There was no work on the son’s part.

            Maybe in our lives we might have seen God running to meet us where we are.  Maybe you have heard someone’s story and seen God embrace them before they could even speak.  Maybe you know someone who is like Stephen Colbert.  Some of you might know him as the host of the popular comedic news show, called “The Colbert Report”.  He is well known for his humorous play on politics and other world issues.  While we see this wittiness on his show, his early childhood tells a different story.  Colbert, who is of Irish decent, was born in Washington, D.C., grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, and was the youngest of 11 children in a Catholic family.  His father, who was the vice president for academic affairs at the Medical University of South Carolina, and his mother, who was a homemaker, placed a strong emphasis intellectualism.  Through most of his young life, his parents taught him that he could question the Church and still be a devout Catholic.  But in 1974, when Colbert was ten years old, his father and two of his brothers were killed in a plane crash when the it failed to land in Charlotte, North Carolina.  After this tragic event, his mother picked up their family and relocated to a new city.  Stephen Colbert did not respond well to the changes that occurred in his life.  By the time he went to college, Colbert was deeply skeptical about his faith.  But while he was in college he came across a Gideon who was handing bibles out on the street.  Thinking nothing of it, Colbert grabbed one of the bibles.  After he took the bible, he opened it right away to Matthew chapter 5, which is the opening of the “Sermon on the Mount”.  As he put it, “That whole chapter is essentially about not worrying.  I didn’t read it – it spoke to me, and it was an effortless absorption of the idea.  Nothing came to me in a thunderbolt, but I thought to myself, ‘I’d be dumb not to reexamine this”.[1]

             Maybe the way in which God acted in Stephan Colbert’s life is not all that dissimilar to the father in our parable.  Maybe if we reexamine our story we will see how God acts even when we don’t.  Sometimes there are things in our lives that push us away from God, which are not simply because of some choice that we have made.  When we look at the whole story, we see those times that God remained faithful to us.  But do our actions having a barring on God loving us?  As the parable continues, the elder son found out his younger brother had returned and was filled with jealousy.  He thought that he was always there following the rules.  He thought he didn’t step out of line.  He thought that he earned the least of what the father had…  He thought wrong.  The eldest son didn’t want to come in to join the party because of his pride.  So maybe there are two lost sons.  Still the father left the party, came out, and pleaded with his son.  Even when we think we are in line with God, when we feel we have it right, or when we believe we can work our way up, God comes to us.

            A friend of mine discovered this same truth in one of his seminary classes, and as the story goes, on a Tuesday afternoon the students gathered together in one of the classrooms ready and prepared for another lecture.  Like every class, they took their seats and waited for the professor.  When the professor walked into the classroom, he pulled the notes out of his book, and set up for his lecture.  All the students took their seats and were ready to listen for the next three hours.  But about an hour into the lecture, some of the students became restless.  A couple of them began a conversation.  In another part of the classroom, a few more students started talking.  Before you knew it, the entire class was having side discussions and was no longer paying attention to the professor.  Now the professor saw what was happening.  Like any person who stands in front of a large group of people, he saw everything.  In the middle of his sentence, he stopped talking and no one noticed.  The professor just paused for a second.  He took the notes he had out on the desk, placed them in his book, and closed the book.  Then he turned around, took the chalk from the chalk tray, and drew a huge arrow pointed down on the blackboard.  He gathered his belongs, walked out the classroom door and let the door slam behind him.  All of sudden the conversations stopped.  The students looked confused and dazed.  They had no idea what just happened.  A few students were wondering what the arrow meant.  Some of the student tried figuring it out. “Does that mean our grades are going down?”  “Should we drop the class?” “Or is he telling us where to go?”

            Over the next two days, the students tried to decipher what their professor was telling them.  When Thursday came, the student gathered in the classroom and did not make a sound.  As they anxiously waited, the professor walked in and did not look at the class.  He put his books down on the desk, turned around, and again drew a large arrow on the blackboard that pointed down.  He turned around, grabbed his coffee cup, took a drink, and set it back down on the desk.  The professor looked at the class and everyone was starring right at him.  He then said, “Does anyone know what this means?” Not a word came from the class.  “Does anyone want to try to explain this arrow?”  Again, not a word.  “Anyone?” There was nothing but silence.  “If there is anything you take away from this, or even from seminary remember this… God comes down.” “The arrow does not go the other way.”  “God comes down to us and meets us where we are, we cannot work our way up.”

            Like how the stories of Zion keep pulling me back here, no matter how far we go, God brings us back.  My friends this story is the Gospel; this is the Good News.  But the story I am talking about is not the “Faithful Father”, or the “Woman with the Lost Coins”, or the Shepherd with Lost Sheep”, or even the “Good Samaritan”.  The story I am talking about is the one about God being faithful, in seeking and finding us, and bringing us home.  God comes down to meet us where we are.  We don’t have to climb up to meet God.  No… we can’t climb up to meet God.  Rather God searches for us when we are lost.  God comes down to us, in the brokenness of our lives.  God comes to us when we are stubborn.  God’s faithfulness to us gives us life.  This story is the story that changes ours.



-          Amen

[1]David Kinnaman with Aly Hawkins, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church-- and Rethinking Faith (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2011), pg 59.

Posted by: AT 09:05 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, March 04 2013

Luke 13:1-9, Romans 7:15-25a    



          “A man borrowed a book from an acquaintance. As he read through it, he was intrigued to find parts of the book underlined with the letters YBH written in the margin. When he returned the book to the owner, he asked what the YBH meant. The owner replied that the underlined paragraphs were sections of the book that he basically agreed with. They gave him hints on how to improve himself and pointed out truths that he wished to incorporate into his life. However, the letters YBH stood for ‘Yes, but how?’”


          When I was in seminary in Waterloo, Ontario, I took courses in homiletics.  That’s just a fancy word for those classes that taught us future preachers how to preach.  And we would take turns each week preaching our well-prepared sermons to the class, and then the class would critique the sermons. 


          And whenever we made statements in our sermons that talked about being disciples of Jesus Christ – or, I don’t know – loving one another – ultimately someone would say, “I agree with what you said – but you never said anything about how – and what I was waiting to hear – was how.  You never told me how I am to do what you said I should do.”


          We all have those “Yes, but how?” questions.  For instance – I think we all know – at least I hope we know – that we need to care of ourselves body, mind and spirit.  So it’s one thing to know that – but the question you might ask is, “Yes, but how?”


            “I know I ought to eat right and exercise more.  I know I ought to spend more time reading the Bible and praying; I know I ought to love my neighbor, treat my wife and kids with greater love and respect, be a more compassionate and understanding person.  I know all that.  The question is how.”


          I want to talk to you today about the “Yes, but how?” question.  And just one spoiler alert. I cannot promise that I will – by the end of this sermon – have answered all of your “Yes, but how?” questions.  But I suspect that as Christians, we all know – to some extent or another – that we ought to be – and quite frankly, when I’m preaching I hate to say to you –  you ought to be this or you should be doing that.  But sometimes we do beat ourselves up – and we to ourselves – I know I ought to be – I know I should be –a better Christian.  And I will tell you that I know that many of you – maybe even most of you –I know that you are doing the best you can. 


          And because – for the most part – most of us are doing the best we can – I’m not certain that we like to hear what Jesus is saying to us this [evening] [morning].  The story Jesus tells is called the Parable of the Fig Tree.  And in it, the owner of the tree wants to cut the tree down, because it isn’t yet bearing any fruit.  But the caretaker – the gardener – in essence asks for mercy for the tree.  He asks for patience from the owner.  “Let’s give it some time.  Let me fertilize it, prune it a little, make sure it’s adequately watered.  Give it another year.  Give it more time.”


          What I’m hearing in this lesson is that Jesus is asking two things of us.  He’s saying, number one, that we ought to repent and, number two, that we should bear good fruit.  Okay – there’s those two words again.  Ought and should.  And of course the question we might very well ask again at this juncture is:  “Yes, but how?”      


Our second reading today is from Romans 7.  Now, again, I am so glad that this chapter is in the Bible.  Paul is the author of this, and he’s wrestling with what I think so many of us wrestle with.  “How?  How can I be everything God wants me to be – when there is this war going on inside of me?  I want to do God's will – I want to live the right kind of life now that I am a Christian – but there’s still something else going on inside of me that makes me a slave to sin.  I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” 

          Sound like anybody you know?  Sound like you?  “Repent,” Jesus says. “Acknowledge your sinfulness.”  Yeah.  When it comes to repentance – I think it is really helpful if we can acknowledge that there is this kind of war going on inside of us.


          However, let me suggest that this is always the first step in answering the, “Yes, but how?” question – the first step in beginning to live the Christian life.  And that is to repent of those things that you have done wrong.   And then realize that as a Christian – as a disciple of Jesus Christ – you don’t have to be perfect.   


          Listen!  I don’t expect any of you to be perfect.  And having said that about my expectations for all of you – can somebody tell me why I often have perfectionist expectations of myself?  Isn’t it enough to know that God loves me?  That I am forgiven?  And therefore – I don’t have to worry about being perfect – because I’m never going to be perfect?  There.  I said it. 


          And what’s more – moms – dads – can we let go of expecting perfection in those kiddos God gave us to love and to nurture?  They’re no more perfect than you are – and we shouldn’t expect them to be.  But they are just as forgiven – just as loved – just as treasured – by God as you are.  


          So let’s not fall into the trap of perfection.  Because a perfect person doesn’t need God.  A perfect person doesn’t need to repent.  A perfect person doesn’t need Jesus Christ.  But we know that we do need Jesus.  We need Jesus because we know that – we’re not perfect.  We really don’t always have it all together. 


          And therefore, Jesus says repent.  Repentance is just another way of saying that I accept that I am not perfect – but that indeed I am need of forgiveness.  And in that recognition, I turn to you God.  For mercy, pardon, and forgiveness.  How?  Simply admit that you have failed.  Don’t deny it, and don’t try to cover it up!  God knows the truth.  The Bible says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”


          Listen!  We’re all in the same boat!  Saint Augustine said, “Whatever we are, we are not what we ought to be.”  And I love what that great theologian Mark Twain had to say about this when he wrote, “Man was made at the end of the week, when God was tired.”


          So the first step – and the ongoing steps that Christians take – is to confess our sins before God.  And you know what?  Remember the Scripture I quoted to you just a few seconds ago?  “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us”?  Well, that comes from I John chapter 1.  The verse that follows says this: “But if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”


          Did you hear that?  God forgives you!  God cleanses you from all unrighteousness.  God is faithful – God keeps His promise to forgive. 

          Let’s get back to the parable of the fig tree.  The owner was willing to give it more time – give it another year.  If Jesus is calling us to repent – His parable of the fig tree tells us something about who God is.  God is patient with us.  God is merciful.  And yet – at the same time – God does expect that as followers of His Son Jesus Christ – God expects that we will bear good fruit.  And that brings us to the second part of our lesson today – the call to us to bear good fruit.


          Now – I’m going out on a limb here.  I suspect that most of us have no trouble asking God for forgiveness – but just don’t ask me to change.  However – the reality is is that God might very well have to do some reconstructive surgery – on our hearts – on our attitudes – on our wills – on our beliefs – when we admit that we are sinners.


          You’ve heard it said, I’m sure, that God loves you just the way you are.  And that is a true statement.  However, it is also an incomplete statement.  God loves you just the way you are – but God loves you too much to let you stay that way.  There’s a reason why God wants to touch your heart and change your life.  It’s so you might bear fruit.


          Again, back to the parable.  When Jesus tells the parable of the Fig Tree – he’s talking about you and me being fruitful for the Kingdom.  He’s not asking us to produce apples when all that we are made for is to produce figs.  Each one of us has different gifts.  We were blessed in different ways with different talents and abilities and resources that we bring to the table. (Give examples of what that means.)


          And here’s the wonderful thing.  We CAN bear fruit.  Through the gifts and talents that God has given us – we can use these for the glory of God – for the benefit of others – and for our own good.

          So when you need an answer to the, “Yes, but how?” question – especially as we’re talking about the Christian life.  Just remember that the Christian life begins with – and is characterized by – confession and forgiveness.  And please know that God forgives.  Because, remember what Paul said?  “I do the very thing that I hate. 
Wretched man that I am!  Who will rescue me – who will deliver me – who will free me – from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

          So the Christian life begins with confession – and continues as we bear fruit for the Kingdom of God.  And it’s all because of Jesus.  Because in Jesus Christ we are set free from sin.  Free from worry.  Free from guilt.  Free from despair.  In Jesus Christ, you are set free to be the person God made you to be.  Amen


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