Illuminate the beauty in others…

I was sitting before my laptop today trying to put words together for a song when I saw two things on my Momentum dashboard in Chrome.

[Side note: I’ve been doing a lot of stress management during Covid – music helps me; apologies for not writing much; work has been busy.]

The first was a quote:

“One who knows all the answers has not been asked all the questions.”

Confucius

That is definitely true. No matter how much I think I might know about something, there is always something new to learn, and I acknowledge that. The second is from the mantra’s that provide daily encouragement, and it simply said this…

So this is what I’m going to attempt to do.

Still, I fear I may be touching on a controversial subject – who should or should not participate in communion. Reflecting on those with more restrictive rules or self-imposed exile from the sharing because, let’s face it, there are always times when we don’t feel worthy [clue, we are never as righteous as we believe we are].

Now, I should point out, I’m not a priest, but I am a child of God, a brother of Jesus, cousin, brother, father and son to the multitude of Christians who share the love of Christ in our hearts – I don’t make rules, neither do I enforce laws in a church, but I do have opinions. I feel I’m entitled to hold them, whether other people support them or not.

Bit of background; we have a broad mix of people in our church, whose personalities vary from a more high church or traditional experience right through to the more modern and more open traditions. I have been told I’m more traditional than trendy, reflecting my earlier understanding of the church in youth. We all have different ideas of what church is, what it means to us. Ask anyone around you, “what is a church to you” and I’m sure you’ll get quite a few different answers.

Today I witnessed the struggle of another person.

A person who was painfully aware they have sinned, and their struggle between that knowledge and forgiveness.

This struggle between sin and forgiveness happened during communion. As the rows of people stood and went forward (abiding by our current social distancing practices), one row within earshot caught my attention. I’m not sure if anyone else noticed this, and if this struggle had not resolved itself, I might have taken it upon myself to offer help and prayer, but thankfully I did not have to, although I will still pray for this person.

One by one, each person stood up away from the pew, but one person, the last, remained seated and quiet as a mouse said to themselves, “I can’t… I have sinned”. Now, this should not be a surprise to us, we are in this together, and we all find ourselves in this situation, the conflict between sin and forgiveness. But this alarmed me, but I had the patience enough to wait; I’m not sure how long I’d have waited but wait, I did.

My mind was crying out. “No, you sought forgiveness from our Lord God, our vicar has given the general absolution, even still you have been absolved from all sin by the death of Jesus upon his cross, and in his resurrection, he defeated the devil and all his works”.

The Parable of the Lost Son
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

Luke 15:11-31

The other thing was “please don’t judge yourself, you do not need to seek forgiveness, God forgives, Jesus forgives, They forgive freely, even when we don’t ask, especially then; think of the parable of the lost son, so many examples. Jesus broke bread with sinners. He went out of His way to break bread with sinners. So if anyone should get up to receive communion, it is you above all others”.

Jesus Calls Levi and Eats With Sinners
13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Mark 2:13-17

While I think all of this, something remarkable happened, something beautiful – that person, the one who acknowledged their sin before God in His house, stood and joined the queue to receive a socially distanced communion.

Inwardly I was cheering – if we were allowed to shout in church, I’d have shouted for joy with one almighty

“Yes! Thank you, Jesus!!”

So if you are ever sat there and feel as if you don’t deserve the forgiveness of Jesus, stop thinking, stop talking, because it is the devil within you that is fooling you. You are always welcome to forgiveness through Jesus Christ our Lord, through the love of our God, our Father, bestowed upon us through his grace and mercy.

We seek forgiveness and receive absolution in church services or otherwise is not an excuse to continuously sin. Still, unfortunately, it is within our nature. Unfortunately, it is often the easier path to take, so be a mindful Christian, be aware of your circumstances, the situations you find yourself in and the needs of those around you.

If you don’t consider yourself a Christian yet, or at all, remember that to deny that God exists, you are, in fact, acknowledging that He is there. After all, you cannot deny something that does not exist because denial is a refusal to accept the truth.

Regardless, do not deny yourself forgiveness or communion as one body with Christ, as this one person almost did. They did a beautiful thing today. Whether anyone else noticed it does not matter (that I did was perhaps circumstantial), the only thing that mattered was that inner conversation at that time between that person and God. I am so happy that took place.

I am so glad forgiveness won.

If I am ever in a situation where I am priested (seems more unlikely each passing year) and you are before me refusing communion because you have sinned, please don’t sit there. Instead, come forward because you need it more than those who don’t readily acknowledge their sins. To judge another is a sin. To judge oneself is a sin and carries a much heavier burden that we cannot afford to have.

Jesus broke bread with sinners.

I will break bread with you just as gladly as He did.

What you lookin’ at?

Do you walk with your eyes open or your eyes closed?

Do you walk looking at your feet or with your eyes on your destination?

Today, October 31st, millions of people will be dancing to a tune played by the flute of evil, and I bet the majority of them don’t realise it, some probably don’t care if they do not see hope in their lives and want to live to the full in the here and now – there is no comparison to life in the Kingdom of the Lord our God, but they are blind to this; they walk with their eyes closed to it.  They do not set their sight on their destination; they are too distracted. They are distracted by merchandise, by parties, by friends and family, by everything that is subtly put in their path to distract them from where they should be looking; the Idols used to turn our gaze away from God.  It’s so easy to fall into step, dance the same dance, it is a seductive tune, and it’s easy to do that which we should not do (Romans 7:15-20).  We must resist using the strength we gain through Jesus’ example (Matthew 4:1-11).

One of the most challenging things to do is not to judge others (ref. my failure in the previous paragraph!) – my mind is continuously thinking about planks, reminding me of this, and I sometimes step right into mine, like stepping on a rake and planting my face squarely into the front of the board.  I sometimes feel I should have a collection of planks by my side so I can gift them to people, sign their name on them as say “here’s your plank”.

Try to be forgiving for those who are not aware of what they are doing tonight; they lack strength in the Lord our God to resist the silver tongue that Jesus so skilfully countered.  Instead, pray for them, as Jesus taught us to pray for our enemies as well as our friends (Matthew 5:43-48).

Churches hold light parties to encourage the young, and the old, to turn their eyes away from all of the distractions, to turn their eyes back to God. We remember one of their pit stops along the way to their ultimate destination, which is their judgement day before the Lord our God.  We all have it approaching, and there is no avoiding it; judgement is coming.  They will shuffle around looking at their feet wishing they’d not done this, not done that. Is it too late? It is never too late! He sees through us to the very core of our being, and we will be judged not on our deeds, but our hearts, our love, of Jesus, of our fellow humankind, of all creation.

Judging Others

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Matthew 7:1-6 New International Version (NIV)