Sermon preached at Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee by its Scottish pastor John Stuart on Sunday, May 28, 2017.
Sunday, May 28, 2017
Thursday, May 25, 2017
Luke 6:37 Jesus said, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (NIV)
Of all the sayings of Jesus, I find this one to be among the hardest to put into practice. Whenever people upset me, whether it be family, friends, or acquaintances, I find it difficult to initially forgive them. I think unkind thoughts and harbor some resentment. I want them to be punished for upsetting me or at least put through something similar. I dwell on the hurt and ponder another saying, definitely not from Christ, ‘don’t get mad, get even.’ Even though I am a pastor with over thirty years’ experience, I’m a human being first and foremost, with all of the accompanying common weaknesses, faults, and sins.
Because I’m so human, it makes me wonder why Jesus said this in the first place. If He knew it was very difficult and almost impossible to practice, why set up His followers to fail? If we are all guilty of judging, condemning, and not forgiving others, does this mean that we have no hope of being saved? Did Jesus expect us to live holy and perfect lives in order to be accepted and embraced by God?
The more I read this passage, the better I understand my need for being honest with myself, as well as the absolute necessity of requiring God’s grace. If I arrogantly think that I am perfect, do no wrong, and have no need of forgiveness, then I am dangerously deluding myself and placing my soul in perdition. However, if I humbly acknowledge that I am as guilty as sin and often fail to practice what Christ preaches, then I am confessing my faults and placing my soul in His hands. Just like most of us, I would rather seek God’s mercy and grace than rely on my own misunderstanding and graceless ways.
Point to ponder
Have I recently judged, condemned, or not forgiven someone else? Have I confessed my failure to Christ? What does He expect me to do now?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You never said that faith would be easy or that we could live according to our own standards as Christians. As Your people, You challenge and confront us constantly because we carry Your Name wherever we go and whatever we do. Help us to become channels of Your mercy and conduits of Your grace. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. You can read the church website at www.erinpresbyterian.org.
Today’s image is one of John’s latest Pentecost drawings called ‘Fiesta.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Fiesta.
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Luke 6:9 Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” (NIV)
Like most people, I cannot understand why religious extremists think that killing other human beings with suicide bombs will honor God in any shape or form. The evil thoughts that go through these cowards’ minds must be diabolically offensive to the Creator who gave us life – a divine gift which is to be enjoyed, not obliterated. In my opinion, these inhumane acts have no connection to God whatsoever; they emerge from deranged human beings whose allegiance to evil is clearly displayed to the rest of the world. They might think that when they invoke God that they are glorifying His sacred name: all that they are really doing is giving voice to their own cowardly delusions and will end up being separated from God forever.
In today’s Gospel passage (Luke 6:6-11), Jesus confronts a group of religious extremists who were so shackled by their own rigid rules that they could not even grant grace to a person in need of healing. Jesus both shamed them for their lack of compassion and showed them how God truly operates. Most of the folks who saw this event gladly accepted it for what it was: a beautiful display of God’s love. Sadly, those who most needed that visual lesson retreated behind their religious restrictions and ended up with murder on their minds. Instead of embracing the mercy of God, they hung on to their fanaticism; rather than being released from their self-created chains of legalism, they clung to its links of hatred, pride, and intolerance.
Despite all of the pain I see in the world and the evil that tries to terrorize us, I believe in the goodness of God, the joy of Jesus, and the sweetness of the Holy Spirit. Others may try to obliterate the love I feel for this broken planet, but I will not give way to the cowardly wickedness that others use to try to break my faith in Christ. His love sustains me and His mercy guides me. He is the Savior of the world and the Healer of the planet, now and forevermore.
Point to ponder
In times like these, how severely is my faith tested? How do I share Christ’s love with others during troubled times?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we pray for those whose lives have been devastated by the recent suicide bombing in Manchester and other places. Help us to reach out to those in need of help, reassurance, and comfort. Draw us closer to You and one another, so that love and grace will prevail against fear and evil. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. You can view the church website at www.erinpresbyterian.org.
Today’s image is one of John’s drawings called ‘Peacemakers.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Peacemakers.