Monday, November 30, 2015

Sunday's Sermon - More Than a Blip

Below is a copy of the sermon I preached on Sunday, November 29, at 11:00 a.m. in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia. During this sermon, we looked at how we might find hope in the face of problems and pain You can also find a podcast of this sermon on The Cove Podbean page. 

If you find this sermon meaningful, please consider supporting this ministry by sending an offering to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.


Jeremiah 33:14-16

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”

More Than a Blip

Well, we’ve survived Thanksgiving. And now, it’s on to Christmas. And even though the season officially started a few days ago, I think we all know that the big day will be here before you know it. I’ll tell you, each year I’m blown away by how fast those thirty odd days can pass, which means I only have twenty-eight days before I have to start my Christmas shopping. I guess time really does fly when you’re having a fun.

Of course, that wasn’t the case when we were kids, was it? No, it seemed as though the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas took forever. And I’ve go to be honest, even though I was part of a good, church-going family and knew all about Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus in the manger, as I remember, the excitement I felt during this time of the year had little to do with theology. Man, it was all about the big guy from the North Pole. I mean, when I was seven or so, I may have paid lip-service to Jesus, especially in Mrs. Butts’ Sunday School class, but I knew what we all knew; I knew the true reason for the season and his name was Santa Claus. And the closer we got to the twenty-fourth, the more excited and hopeful I became.

And I’ll tell you, this anticipation peaked on Christmas Eve, when we were over my Grandmother McClannan’s and saw the first indication that the big guy was on his way. You see, it was somewhere around eight o’clock when the reports from NORAD started coming in as they tracked Santa on his trip south. Now, looking back, I recognize that there’s an irony here. I mean, NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, was established in 1957, a great year for both air defensive systems and babies, to spot and track Soviet bombers and missiles heading to the United States. But ever since 1955, after the Sears in Colorado Springs ran an ad giving to kids Santa’s personal phone number which was actually the number to the command center of NORAD’s predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command, NORAD has been tracking Santa’s Christmas Eve movements on radar. And I’ve got to tell you, when I saw the blip on that black and white television set, I knew that Christmas was just hours away. And after a restless night, my sister and I, my brother was just a baby so he didn’t count, we’d be heading down the hall, avoiding that huge, hot lights dad had set up so that he could film it all, and tearing into the benefits of a year’s relative good behavior. I’ll tell you, that blip was the sign of something wonderful coming.

And you know, I think in a very real way that’s what “the righteous branch” meant for Jeremiah, times about five million. Of course the situation he faced was different than our lives in Virginia. You see, while we were just impatient, Jeremiah and his people had been facing some horrible times. You see, after Solomon, his kingdom split into two countries, with the northern part called Israel, with Samaria as it’s capital, and the south called Judah, with a Davidic king ruling from Jerusalem. Now, about two hundred years before Jeremiah, Israel was overrun by the Assyrians, and Judah became a vassal state to it’s powerful neighbor. Well, during the time of Jeremiah, the whole middle east was in turmoil, because a new empire, centered around the city of Babylon, was chewing up the Assyrians. Now, in Judah, most of the king’s advisor’s, and back then they were called prophets, they thought this was a great opportunity to become truly independent and thought they should turn to another neighbor, the Egyptians, for support against the Babylonians. But Jeremiah, a prophet speaking God’s word, disagreed, warning that any alliance with Egypt would be disastrous and instead of focusing on geopolitics, the people should spend their time and energy getting themselves right with God, which meant doing things like feeding the poor rather then ornamenting themselves. Of course, the other prophets disagreed, and they mocked Jeremiah when it appeared that they had bet on the right horse, that is, until the Babylonians lay siege to Jerusalem and destruction appeared unavoidable and imminent.

But when the end just about to come, Jeremiah’s message suddenly changed. I mean, instead of saying, “I told you so;” the prophet started focusing on a future that lay on the other side of a destroyed city and a captive people. You see, it’s at this point that he offered the prophecy that we read a little while ago, you know, about how the time would come when God would “...cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’” In other words, when all seemed lost and when the present was horrible and the future seemed worse, Jeremiah told the people to look forward and to trust that, in spite of what they could see happening all around them, including watching the Davidic king being blinded and taken into captivity and the Temple of the Lord destroyed, in spite of everything their senses told them was true,  the Lord had not forgotten his wayward people and that the time would come when he would restore them to the glory they’d once known. You see, sometime in the future a righteous Branch would come, and truth and justice, salvation and safety would be restored. In this they could hope.

And even though we as Christians believe the fulfillment of this promise started with the coming of Jesus Christ, it also pretty obvious that it wasn’t fulfilled when he was born nor when he died nor when he rose. Now, don’t get me wrong, these were pivotal events in human history and they marked the beginning of a new age, but we’re talking about just the beginning. My gosh, you’d have to be living under a rock to believe that for the last two thousand years, we’ve been living in an age of justice and righteousness, much less a time of salvation and safety. I mean, give me a break, I’m an old history teacher; since the birth of Christ, we’ve seen our share of wars and conquests and genocides. We’ve lived through Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan and Adolf Hitler. And we’ve endured tyrannies and exploitations and purges. I’ll tell you, we even survived things like the rack and nuclear weapons and of course the Spanish Inquisition, and no one expects the Spanish Inquisition. I’m telling you, all of that’s been part of our story for the last two thousand years; therefore, there’s no way that we can say that after Jesus was born, paradise was restored. Now maybe the mustard seed was planted and the yeast was worked into the dough, but the results, well, for them we’re still waiting.

But just because we have to wait, man, that doesn’t mean it’s not coming, because I’ve got to tell you, it is. I mean, just like Jeremiah could see the coming of a righteous Branch that offered him hope for the future, right here and right now, we can also feel hope because we can believe that the one who came at Christmas, man, he’s coming again. Just like Jesus himself said, “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” And of course, this is something that John of Patmos described in his revelation when he wrote, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I, John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying, Behold the tabernacle of God is with men and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes;  and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. The throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him; And they shall see his face, and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.” You see, the return of Jesus Christ and the coming of his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, this is our hope, our righteous Branch. And this is something which we can hang onto regardless of what ISIS does or who wins the next election or how the climate changes.

And I’ll tell you, this feeling, well, I think it’s a lot like the feeling I got everything year, when that newscaster said, in his best newscaster voice, that NORAD had picked up Santa and his reindeer heading toward a house on Moose Avenue, in the South Bayview section of Norfolk, Virginia, in the United States of America. You see, that little bit of information filled me with all kinds of anticipation and hope, the same thing that Jeremiah tried to communicate to his depressed and downtrodden people when he talked about that “righteous Branch that would spring up for David.” In fact, it’s the same kind of feeling we can know, when we make the decision to look past all the mess that’s happening in our world right now and focus on the world that’s coming when the child of Christmas returns and his kingdom is made complete. You see, I think the feelings are similar, but as it relates to it’s impact on us and on the entire world, well, let’s just say the second advent of Christ is a whole lot more than just a blip.

A Thought from the Word - A 15-second thought based on Psalm 136:1, 26

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for November 30, 2015

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for November 30, 2015: Today our passages are Daniel 7:1-28; 1 John 1:1-10; Psalm 119:153-176; and Proverbs 28:23-24. The readings are from the  Contemporar...

Saturday, November 28, 2015

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line – Blind by Choice

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find a recording of this devotion on the prayer line (1-304-748-7900) or on the Cove Presbyterian Church Podbean page. If you find this devotion meaningful, please consider supporting this ministry by sending an offering to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

Matthew 20:29-34

As they were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. There were two blind men sitting by the roadside. When they heard that Jesus was passing by, they shouted, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd sternly ordered them to be quiet; but they shouted even more loudly, “Have mercy on us, Lord, Son of David!” Jesus stood still and called them, saying, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they regained their sight and followed him.

Blind by Choice

According to the passage we just read, there were two blind men who desperately wanted to see. And so, when they had the opportunity, they cried out to the one whom they knew could change their condition. And even though the crowd tried their best to get the men to be quiet, they shouted even louder, seeking mercy from the person they believed to be the Son of David. And as a result of their persistence and his love, Jesus did exactly what they wanted him to do. He opened their eyes and they could see. They sought sight and that’s exactly what they received.

And this story has got me thinking; I wonder how often I either don’t seek sight at all or give into the pressures around me and simply stop praying that Christ broaden my vision and insight. I mean, in the face of the suffering and pain that surrounds me within the world and even in my community, I think I probably have more faith in the secular voices I hear coming from comfortable folks who tell me exactly what I want to hear than in the one who embodies the truth. And so I listen to them and stand silent before my savior. You see, I wonder about all the opportunities I’ve missed because I made the conscious decision to be blind by choice.

A Thought from the Word - A 15-second thought based on Colossians 3:16

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for November 28, 2015

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for November 28, 2015: Today our passages are  Daniel 5:1-31; 2 Peter 2:1-22; Psalm 119:113-128; and Proverbs 28:19-20 . The readings are from the  Contempor...

Friday, November 27, 2015

Children's Bulletins for Sunday, November 29, 2015

Cove Kids: Children's Bulletins for Sunday, November 29, 2015...: Below are puzzles for children focused on the Jeremiah 22:14-16. There are two “bulletins,” one for ages 3-6 and the other for ages 7-12. Fe...

Prayer Requests, to be shared during Sunday’s worship service

On Sunday, November 29, Cove Presbyterian Church will lift to God the following needs.

Adults
Amy Slisik
Audrey Vincent
Beth Fracasso
Betty Michael
Bill Manley
Carol Baker
Chad Wilson
Christine Lee Trushel
Cindi Livingston
Clyde Wright
Darcy Keffer
David Craig
David Johns
Deloris Chesebro
Diane Roney
Edward Morgan III
Emery Edwards
Evan Pulice
Faith Bonyak
Gen Meyer
Georgette Gordon
Goldie Baly
Greta Billham
Harry Hutch
Jeff Grant
Jim & Shelley Pearson
Joanie Lawrence
John Guglielmo
John Schlotter
Jonathan Smith
Joyce Booth
Karen Lombardi
Kelly Stephens
Lou Ann Seevers
Marcia Cooper
Marge Oslett
Maria Parker
Marybeth Lewis
Matthew Kirtley
Michael Frank
Michael Shade
Mike Churchman
M'Liz Held
Nick Mourat
Patricia Cox
Patty Notte
Peggy Stewart
Penny Mourat
Rob Roy Jones
Ronnie Buffington
Sam Fortunato
Sharon Wheeler
Shirley Everhart Kirtley
Stacy Jo Vogel
Susie Kurcina
Vicki Williams
Wink Harner

Children
Aksel Ace
Audri King
Devon Bragg
Jeffrey Konovich
Jonathan Marte
Lily Ghrist

Military
Cory Shumard
Isaac Stephens
Jason Kerr
Jonathan Criss
Lisa Burk
Michael Criss

Church Families
Dar Johnson
Jason & Kim Josephs
Mike & Ann Koon

Local Church
Mt. Olive Baptist Church

Special Friends
Kitty Heilman – 1215 Glencairn Road, Weirton, WV  26062-4323
Theresa Skiles – Weirton Geriatric Center, 2526 Pennsylvania Ave., Weirton, WV  26062-3653

Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery Congregations 
First Presbyterian Church, Powhatan Point, Ohio – Vacant Pulpit
Glen Robbins Presbyterian Church, Rayland, Ohio – CRE Cindy Foster

Also Remember in Your Prayers
Alice & Kenny Orr – Weirton Geriatric Center, 2525 Pennsylvania Ave., Weirton, WV  26062
Carl Hamill – Serra Manor, Apt. 11, 205 Serra Manor, Weirton, WV  26062
Dolores Edwards – Wyngate, 100 Wyngate Dr., Weirton, WV  26062
Eleanor Dueley – Brightwood Center, 840 Lee Ridge Rd., Follansbee, WV  26037
Harry Hutch – Villa Vista, Room 406, 1800 Sinclair Ave., Steubenville, OH  43953
June Virtue – Grace Cottage, 195 Eden Dr., Weirton, WV  26062-3664
Theresa Skiles – Weirton Geriatric Center, 2525 Pennsylvania Ave., Weirton, WV  26062
Ruth Ann Oestering – Woodland Hills, 608 North 10th St., Weirton, WV  26062

What's Happening at Cove Presbyterian Church?

Below are the announcements as they appear in Sunday's bulletin.

CHANCEL CHOIR PRACTICE  . . .
is being held in the sanctuary on Sunday mornings beginning at 9:30 a.m.  Everyone wishing to praise our Lord thru song is welcome to join us!

DON’T FORGET SUNDAY SCHOOL  . . . 
we meet every Sunday morning at 9:45 a.m.

OUR NURSERY FOR CHILDREN . . .
(infant thru five years) is open during Sunday School and the Worship Service. We still need some volunteer help.  We thank those of you in advance who help to care for the future members of our Cove Family.

CHRISTMAS EVERYWHERE . . .
will be the theme for the Myrtle McHendry Christmas Social & Luncheon on Tuesday, December 1.  The catered luncheon will be served at 12:30 p.m. by Marcia & Patti assisted by hostesses Eloise Evans, Sue Willson, Peggy Baldt and Miranda Flesher. Eleanor Cline will lead devotions. The children’s Christmas Stockings will be dedicated by Penny Mourat and taken to the Salvation Army.  The current officers have graciously agreed to continue on for 2016 and will be installed.

OUR TUESDAY EVENING STUDY . . .
will  meet on Tuesday, December 1, at 6:30 p.m. to continue our study in which we’ll answer some of the questions of faith. During this session, we’ll consider the question: Does it even matter what I believe?

COVE’S 225 ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION . . .
is scheduled for next Sunday, December 6 starting with a special anniversary service at 11:00 a.m., Communion will be served.  A catered dinner will follow at 12:30 p.m. in Fellowship Hall.  For reservations call the church office at 307-748 -5980.  The cost of the dinner is $10.00 ~ Adults;  $5.00~Children 5-12; Children under 12~ Free   All are invited to help us celebrate this incredible milestone!

LAST BOARD MEETINGS OF 2015. . .
The Board of Deacons will meet on Wednesday, December 2 at 6:30 p.m. at the home of Linda & Chuck Caleffie for a Holiday Dinner and the December  meeting.
The Board of Trustees will meet on Monday, December 14 at 6:30 p.m. in the boardroom.

ANNUAL CHRISTMAS LUNCHEON . . .
and Children’s Program will be held on Sunday, December 13 at 12:30 p.m. in Fellowship Hall. The meat & beverages will be provided. We ask that you please bring a covered dish to share & your place settings. There will be a surprise visitor for the “little ones”.

PLEASE RETURN -WHAT IS BORROWED  . . . 
recently items have been removed, especially from the church office. Items can be borrowed anytime, we only ask that you return them so they can be used by others.  We thank you in advance for your cooperation!

HOLIDAY TIME . . . 
is fast approaching, and is holiday shopping. We are asking everyone if they are not enrolled in Kroger Community Rewards to please enroll. It costs you nothing, you retain all your points, your information is not viewed by anyone or shared with anyone but, you will be earning Free Money for Cove. 1% of sales from enrolled shoppers is quarterly distributed to the church. For more information, or if you need assistance in enrolling contact the church office.

POINSETTIA ORDER FORM . . .
is available in the back of today’s bulletin.

THE CHRISTMAS SECTION OF HANDEL’S MESSIAH . . .
will be presented at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 1443 Belleview Blvd., Steubenville, Friday, December 18, at 7:00 pm. If you would like to sing in the chorus, there will be a rehearsal for just singers Saturday, December 12, at 10:00 am at the church. The full rehearsal with orchestra will be Monday, December 14, at 7:00 pm. This is the 20th Anniversary presenting Handel’s masterpiece at Covenant and we would like it to be the best. If you have any questions call the church Tuesday through Friday 9:00 am to 2:00 pm at 740- 282-1320.

BEFORE SCHEDULING A MEETING . . .
please contact the church office beforehand to be sure that the church will be staffed on that day and time. We are not here every evening.

A SPIRITUAL MESSAGE . . .
can be found by calling 304-748-7900 Cove’s Prayer Line. You can call at anytime to hear a message by Rev. Rudiger. The messages are changed every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.  You can also hear the devotion at covepresbyterian.podbean.com and iTunes (search Cove Presbyterian). You can also read the devotion at www.thecovecommunity.blogspot.com.

WE ARE UPDATING OUR PRAYER CHAIN . . . 
regularly. If you wish to add someone, contact the church office.

WE NOW HAVE FIVE BLOGS . . . 
that you can check out for information and on which you can leave comments. They’re listed below:
The Cove Community (www.thecovecommunity.blogspot.com) - This is for the whole church. I’ll post sermons and announcements. I also Invite y’all to send in material that you’d like to share with other members of the congregation. And please feel free to comment on anything you might read.
Cove Kids (www.covekids.blogspot.com) - This is tailored for the preteen young people in our church. Again I’ll post announcements. You’re also invited to send in any writings, photographs and art work you’d like to post. And they don’t have to deal with the church. We also post artwork from Jesus Time.
Bible Talk (www.cove-bibletalk.blogspot.com) - We’ve established this blog to give pastors and lay people the chance to discuss Scripture. The weekly passages are from the Common Lectionary, and we’re posting the pastor’s translation of the  Greek text. We want you to read any or all of the passages and to leave any comment or ask any question that you feel is appropriate. Please include any research you’ve done. As we share our ideas and insights, we hope that we’ll all come to a better and deeper understanding of the Bible. Each passage is linked to a website that offers some informative information.
The Bible in a Year (www.cove-bibleinayear.blogspot.com) - Each day, we’ll post passages so that you can read the Bible in one year.
Growing in Grace (http://sproutsoffaith.blogspot.com/) - Although we’re saved by God’s grace, we can grow in our understanding of grace. At Cove Presbyterian Church, we offer a variety of different classes for children and adults, many of which are recorded and the podcasts posted on our PodBean (covepresbyterian). In this Blog, we’ll offer the link to the podcast and notes from the particular session.

GREETERS NEEDED . . . 
if you would like to serve as a greeter before a Sunday morning worship service, please contact Bonnie Nichols at 304-723-5134.

SERMONS, DEVOTIONS, LESSONS, AND ESSAYS ARE AVAILABLE ON . . .
the Cove PodBean page (covepresbyterian.podbean.com) and iTunes (search Cove Presbyterian).

IF YOU’RE ONLINE . . .
“like” us on Facebook (Cove Presbyterian Church,  https://www.facebook .com/Covepresbyterian) or join our Facebook group (The Cove Community, https://www.facebook.com/groups/115579235630/). You can also connect with Pastor Rudiger on Instagram (rev_ed).

IN THE HOSPITAL? HOMEBOUND? RECENT ILLNESS?
if you know of someone who is in the hospital please contact the church office, due to privacy laws the hospital is unable to contact us. If you are unable to attend services and would like to arrange for a visit from Rev. Ed Rudiger or to receive communion please contact the church office. Also, if you would like to receive the Sunday Bulletin contact the church office.

IF YOU DON’T PLAN TO TAKE YOUR BULLETIN HOME . . .
drop it in the purple container at the back door so that it can be recycled.

VASES OF FLOWERS. . .
can be purchased for a service. The cost is $16.00 a vase.  You may also purchase silk flowers or live plants, the choice is yours.  Telephone the church office to place your order. After the service, the flowers will be placed in a vase for you to take with you.

ONGOING MISSION PROJECTS . . . 
Campbell’s Labels are being collected by the Presbyterian Women for the Weirton Christian Center.  The labels including the bar code or just the bar code can be dropped off in the container located in the main  hallway downstairs.
Greeting Cards are being collected. Please drop off your used Greeting Cards or just the front of the card in the box located in the main hallway downstairs. No envelopes -please. The cards are being sent to St. Jude’s  Ranch to be remade into cards to be sold in their gift shop.  FYI . . . Hallmark, Disney or American Greeting Cards can not be accepted as they are trade marked.
Can Tabs are being collected for the Ronald McDonald House in Morgantown, West Virginia. Put your tabs in the container located in the hallway downstairs.

Cove's Bulletin for Sunday, November 29, 2015

Below is a copy of our Sunday bulletin. During the 11:00 service, we’ll consider why Christmas was a pivotal event in the history of the world.










Friday’s Essay – On the Day after Thanksgiving

Below is an essay that I sent to those on the Cove Presbyterian Church e-mailing list. You can hear a podcast of this essay by going to the Cove Presbyterian Podbean page. 

If you find this essay helpful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.


Well, today is the day after Thanksgiving, and I can look back to yesterday with some sense of genuine satisfaction. I mean, not only did I cook the dinner, something that’s become sort of a tradition at the Rudiger house, I didn’t eat myself into a stupor. For maybe the first time in my life, I avoided the “you need to go back for seconds” siren’s song. And I can tell you, it was only by the grace of God. And this morning, before coming over to the church, I even rinsed and put all the dishes, pots and pains in the dishwasher just so my wife could wake up to a relatively clean kitchen. Of course, I know exactly what you’re thinking; Debbie is a lucky girl. That is what you’re thinking, isn’t it?

Well, be that as it may, today is a new day, one that points forward toward Christmas and a whole new set of activities and obligations. And so as we move past one holiday to the next, I think there are two things we might want to remember as we plunge into Advent.

First, it might be a good idea to continue to be thankful, something that seems a whole easier on Thanksgiving than Black Friday. I mean, somehow the kind of appreciation for the simple things we expressed yesterday gets lost in all the decorations we feel we need to put out and all the presents we think we have to buy. But this year, let’s make an intention to keep the unpretentious in focus, especially in these next four weeks. And that seems more than appropriate. My goodness, the savior of the world came through the simplicity of a baby born in a stable. And so, as we ornament our homes and max-out our credit cards, let’s not lose sight of the reason we celebrate this season and let’s give thanks. That’s one thing we can remember.

And second, let’s remember that we have the power to do something so that others might be able to be thankful as well. In other words, let’s offer some of those around us reasons to give thanks. And again, advent is the perfect time to do that. For example, this morning I saw something on Facebook that really caused me to pause and think. It was an advertisement for a company that was selling t-shirts, and the one they were promoting in the ad had this printed on the front: “Want to keep Christ in Christmas? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies & do unto others as you would have done unto you.” And you know, that can also be our focus as we move past Thanksgiving. Together we can work to make sure that some of those who are the least among the members of our human family have some reason to offer thanks next year. And to find those opportunities, well, to be honest, I think it takes genuine effort and dedication to avoid seeing all those in need. I’m telling you, we can be conveyers of thanksgiving, and starting on this day after the day, we can remember that this is an opportunity given to us by God himself.

Of course, since is the day after, I assume we’ll have turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes tonight, but they probably won’t be as good as they were yesterday. Like it or not, Thanksgiving is now in our rearview mirror. But as we enter this new season of Advent and Christmas, let’s try as hard as we can to remember the simple things for which we can be thankful and to remember that God has put us in the position to help others experience those same reasons for thanks.

A Thought from the Word - A 15-second thought based on Hebrews 12:28

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for November 27, 2015

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for November 27, 2015: Today our passages are Daniel 4:1-37; 2 Peter 1:1-21; Psalm 119:97-112; and Proverbs 28:17-18. The readings are from the  Contemporar...

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Questions of Faith – How can anyone say they know the truth?

Growing in Grace: The Questions of Faith – How can anyone say they k...: Below are the notes from the fourth session of a study entitled “The Questions of Faith.” This 15-session series attempts to answer some of ...

The Lectionary Passages for Sunday, November 29, 2015 (First Sunday in Advent)

Bible Talk: The Lectionary Passages for Sunday, November 29, 2...: Below are NRSV translations of the lessons from the  Old Testament (Jeremiah 33:14-16), the Psalms (Psalm 25:1-10), the Letters (1 Thessalon...

A Thought from the Word - A 15-second thought based on Colossians 2:6-7

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for November 25, 2015

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for November 25, 2015: Today our passages are Daniel 1:1–2:23; 1 Peter 3:8–4:6; Psalm 119:65-80; and Proverbs 28:14. The readings are from the  Contempor...

The View from Cove - December 2015/January 2016
















Deacons' Meeting - Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Deacons in attendance: Tina Viakley, Linda Krynicki, Linda Caleffie, Staci Breen and Debbie Rudiger.

Debbie Rudiger gave the opening prayer.

Treasurer’s Report was given by Linda Caleffie.
  1. Linda stated $1,065.00 was made on the Spaghetti Dinner.
  2. Linda Caleffie made a motion of putting the allotted money for utilities $ 250.00 to current expenses of the church. Staci seconded. All agreed.
Old Business:
  1. There are 9 candles to sell. 
    1. It was agreed to pay the remaining balance of the candles for the kids.
  2. Scouting for Food brought in 1008 items. Debbie made a motion to give $ 60.00 to the scouts for collecting for the Food Pantry. Linda Caleffie seconded, all agreed.
  3. Paper Challenge collected $ 57.00. 
    1. Debbie will get a prize for the kids who won.
  4. Spaghetti Dinner
    1. Change time to 12:00 p.m. till 1:30 p.m.
    2. Make two roasters of sauce and one pot.
    3. 14 loaves of bread is a good amount.
    4. Need more desserts, may have to. make 3 each.
New Business:
  1. Thanksgiving Basket assembly will be done on Sunday, November 15 after the service. We will get the children to help.
  2. Check with Eleanor Cline about a card making class.
  3. Holiday Decorating
    1. Make a flyer for decorating.
    2. Will get pizza and chips for the helpers.
    3. Each deacon to bring a two liter of pop.
  4. Anniversary Celebration
    1. Debbie Rudiger and Diana Durst are working on it.
    2. Starting at 12:30 p.m. on December 6th
  5. Project Christmas Smile
    1. Information sheets received on 15 children.
    2. 7 families will be helped with Christmas this year.
    3. Staci will make cheese potatoes.
    4. Tina will get the chicken, green beans and cake.
    5. $75.00 is allotted to each child in addition to the wish gift on the tree.
    6. Each child’s wish list was passed out.
    7. Staci will get gingerbread houses.
    8. Will ask Kayla to contact the Horvaths to see if they are available as Mr & Mrs Clause.
    9. Debbie will do games.
  6. Children’s Program
    1. Will do 8 roasts for the program.
Deacons Christmas dinner will be hosted by Linda Caleffie at 6:00 p.m. on Monday, December 7th.

Next meeting date: Wednesday, December 2, 6:30 p.m.

Sunday's Minute for Mission - Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship

Middle East believers gather to pray for their country and the world. Courtesy of Bill Young
Middle East believers gather to pray for their
country and the world.
Jesus’ words in Luke 4:18–19 make it clear that his kingdom is about preaching the good news of the gospel: proclaiming release, healing, liberation—in other words, God’s favor! Followers of Jesus in some parts of the world understand the reality behind these words in ways that most in the United States cannot. They face tyranny, oppression, and even persecution because of their faith.
Throughout the Middle East, our sisters and brothers in Christ can testify to experiencing violence at the hands of those who oppress them. Yet they often have shown in their reactions the reality of God’s kingdom. They have responded with love, peace, and forgiveness. They enjoy and display a sense of unity among themselves that was not previously evident.
One night, on the most popular television news station in Cairo, a Christian mother of a young girl who had been murdered by the Muslim Brotherhood asked the government not to give the killers the death sentence so that they might have time to repent and discover the true love of God. It became a famous interview on Egyptian television. This grieving mother’s request bore a profound witness to the words of the psalmist: “In you, Lord my God, I put my trust. I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. . . . You are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long” (Ps. 25:1–2,5b NIV).
—Bill Young, former executive director, and Richard Haney, executive director, Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship

Let us pray

O Lord, you rule over all things. Uphold our brothers and sisters around the world who face oppression and injustice. Use them, and us, to proclaim the good news of your kingdom, that people may be set free from their bondage to sin, and victims of sin from its ongoing effects. In Jesus’ mighty name. Amen.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line – The Difference Between Little Children and Young Men

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find a recording of this devotion on the prayer line (1-304-748-7900) or on the Cove Presbyterian Church Podbean page. If you find this devotion meaningful, please consider supporting this ministry by sending an offering to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

Matthew 19:13-22

Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.

Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

The Difference Between Little Children and Young Men

A couple of years ago I had an interesting conversation with another brother in Christ. We were talking about salvation, and he was telling me about the things he believed a person must do to get saved. Of course, most involved accepting that Jesus was the one he claimed to be and giving him things that I’m not sure we have the power to give, you know, like our lives and our hearts and our wills. Anyway, after he’d finished, I said something like, “Well, what if he says to us the same thing he said to the young man, to go, ‘sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’” Now that’s what I said or words to that effect. And my friend’s reaction, well, it was quick and right to the point. He said this passage only applied to this one young man, who was obviously not willing to accept Jesus as his personal Lord and savior and to give his life to Christ. What Jesus said applied only to him; it has nothing to do with us. We can still get in by giving Christ stuff that’s not as tangible as possessions, I’m talking about things we know he won’t be collecting anytime soon. Now, for complete honesty, he didn’t say the last sentence, but that how I took it.

And to tell the truth, I really think he’s mistaken, because I’ve got to gut feeling that, if Jesus were with us right now, he might be challenging us to do the same thing he challenged the young man. And the reason, well, that has everything to do with what he said in the verses that come before. You see, he said that the kingdom of heaven belongs to the little children, to those who are weak and dependent. They’re the ones who are forced to rely on the grace and mercy of others; therefore, they’re in the right position to appreciate life under God’s rule and standards. And that’s more difficult for folks who have resources to understand, and I’m talking about men and women who have the ability to be self-reliant. Being dependent is hard for them to grasp, and yet, if we can’t accept our need and God’s grace, I’m not sure we can ever truly follow Christ. You see, in a very real way, it all comes down to the difference between little children and young men.

A Thought from the Word - A 15-second thought based on Psalm 100:4-5

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for November 24, 2015

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for November 24, 2015: Today our passages are Ezekiel 47:1– 48:35; 1 Peter 2:11–3:7; Psalm 119:49-64; and Proverbs 28:12-13. The readings are from the  C...

Monday, November 23, 2015

Cove's Worship Service – Christ the King (2 Samuel 23:1-7)

Below is a copy of the service I led in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia, on Sunday, November 22, 2015. You can also find a podcast of this service at The Cove Podbean page.

If you found this service meaningful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.



The Order of Worship
Christ the King – November 22, 2015


Enter Worship with Praise

Entry of the Word: “This is the Day that the Lord Has Made”

Praising God Through Song
Hymn: “Crown Him with Many Crown”
Hymn: “We Have Come to Worship You”
Song for the Children: “Awesome God”


Approach God with Humility and Thanks

A Special Time for Children

The Choir Offering Praise thru Music: “Count Your Blessings”

Our Congregational Prayer, followed by The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.  Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil;  For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.  Amen.

Our Song Glorifying God: Gloria Patri


Giving Back to God: “Simple Gifts”

Song of Praise: Doxology

Our Prayer of Thanks and Dedication

Stating Our Faith: The Larger Catechism
Leader: How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
People: Christ executeth the office of a king, in calling out of the world a people to himself; and giving them officers, laws, and censures, by which he visibly governs them; in bestowing saving grace upon his elect, rewarding their obedience, and correcting them for their sins, preserving and supporting them under all their temptations and sufferings; restraining and overcoming all their enemies, and powerfully ordering all things for his own glory, and their good; and also in taking vengeance on the rest, who know not God, and obey not the gospel. 

Hear the Word with Understanding

The Word Read: 2 Samuel 23:1-7
Now these are the last words of David: The oracle of David, son of Jesse, the oracle of the man whom God exalted, the anointed of the God of Jacob, the favorite of the Strong One of Israel: The spirit of the Lord speaks through me, his word is upon my tongue. The God of Israel has spoken, the Rock of Israel has said to me: One who rules over people justly, ruling in the fear of God, is like the light of morning, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the rain on the grassy land. Is not my house like this with God? For he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and secure. Will he not cause to prosper all my help and my desire? But the godless are all like thorns that are thrown away; for they cannot be picked up with the hand; to touch them one uses an iron bar or the shaft of a spear. And they are entirely consumed in fire on the spot.

The Word Proclaimed: “When Facing Evil”

Leave Worship with Joy

Hymn: “Peace in the Valley”

Charge and Blessing

Congregational Response    

Postlude: “Praises”

News from Laughlin Chapel

The girls club has been getting ready for the Christmas parades by rehearsing Sundays and Tuesdays. This year over 80 girls will be marching in area parades and over 25 parents or guardians will accompany them. The uniforms are ordered and the first parade is the Wheeling Christmas parade on November 20. We will be marching in 9 parades this year. The girls club will be having a quarter auction December 13. The doors will open at 1:00 and the auction starts at 2:00 pm. Admission is $5.00 for one paddle and additional paddles are $1.00 (max 3). There will be plenty of great food to eat, a 50/50 raffle, and a Chinese auction. For information call Laughlin Chapel 304 232-2630, Ms. Patty 304 650-5682, or Marsha Woods 304 975-0097.

The middle/high school students visited Peterson Home Wednesday, November 18, and helped the residents in a Thanksgiving craft class. They made Indian hats and Give Thanks banners for the residents’ rooms. They visited in October and will be visiting each month.

Laughlin Chapel and the Ohio Valley will celebrate ‘tis the season’ Caroling by riding the bus to three locations on Sunday, December 13, beginning at 5:00 pm. Meet at the Ohio Valley Christian Center and join in and sing. For more information, call OVCC at 304 232-1600. 

Help us change the life of a child at Laughlin. By sponsoring or adopting a child you will give them the gift of a brighter future. Laughlin Chapel has received tax credits through the West Virginia Neighborhood Investment Program. Under the program, the Chapel has been awarded tax credits to issue for contributors. Credit is awarded for 50% of the gift, but the minimum of $500.00 donation is required to qualify for the credit. Credits are limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Help a child and help the Chapel.

The family Christmas celebration will be December 8, and the children’s party will be December 10. The December 8 celebration for families will be held at 6:30 for the children’s plays, singing, and there will be refreshments for those attending. The children’s party will be right after school on December 10 with games, gifts, and a Christmas special meal. The Christmas break will be from December 10, 2015, to January 11, 2016, to allow more time to get ready for chapel after the 1st of the New Year.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving and CHRISTmas let us remember that Jesus is the reason for both celebrated holidays. Without HIM, we wouldn’t be here. Don’t forget those less fortunate than yourself and continue to pray for those countries and the enemy that is trying to destroy others. God is love and we must love everybody.

Thank you for your support of Laughlin Chapel and the ministry that God began. We wish a Happy Thanksgiving and Merry CHRISTmas to all of you.

In His service,
Rev. Marcia Allen
Director

Sunday's Sermon - When Facing Evil

Below is a copy of the sermon I preached on Sunday, November 22, at 11:00 a.m. in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia. During this sermon, we looked at how we might better face evil. You can also find a podcast of this sermon on The Cove Podbean page. 

If you find this sermon meaningful, please consider supporting this ministry by sending an offering to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.


2 Samuel 23:1-7

Now these are the last words of David: The oracle of David, son of Jesse, the oracle of the man whom God exalted, the anointed of the God of Jacob, the favorite of the Strong One of Israel: The spirit of the Lord speaks through me, his word is upon my tongue. The God of Israel has spoken, the Rock of Israel has said to me: One who rules over people justly, ruling in the fear of God, is like the light of morning, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the rain on the grassy land. Is not my house like this with God? For he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and secure. Will he not cause to prosper all my help and my desire? But the godless are all like thorns that are thrown away; for they cannot be picked up with the hand; to touch them one uses an iron bar or the shaft of a spear. And they are entirely consumed in fire on the spot.

When Facing Evil

Friday night, Debbie, Maggie and I did something we really enjoy. We went to Pittsburgh, but we didn’t go because it was “Light Up Night.” We had absolutely no idea, and as some of y’all I’m sure know, the traffic was crazy. But that’s not the reason we went. Instead, we went to Benedum to see a play that won four Tonies last year, including Best Musical. And the title, “A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder.”



Now the plot is pretty simple. A young man discovers that he’s actually a member of an important British family, the D’Ysquiths, and is, in fact, eighth in line to become the Earl of Highhurst.” And the play is basically about him either killing or trying to kill the seven cousins and uncles and aunts who stand between him and the earlship. Now I know that sounds pretty heavy, but it’s actually a musical comedy so that undertow of evil is sort of buried by peppy songs, elaborate costumes, and the same actor playing the seven D’Ysquiths, including two women, who by the end of the play, go to meet their maker.

Of course, right now, I’m talking about a musical, not anything in the real world, because I think we all know that the reality of evil isn’t even remotely clever, much less funny. And sadly, it sure seems as though signs of evil are all around us. I mean, it’s certainly alive and well and living in our world. My gosh, unless you’re living under a rock, we all know about Paris and ISIS and what’s happening in Syria and Iraq. But it’s not just there; we can see the same kind of stuff happening in Burundi and Mali and along the Mexican border and even within some of our own cities. And I’ll tell you something, as the father of a 13-year-old girl, Jared Fogle represents a whole lot more to me than how you can lose 200 pounds eating Subway sandwiches. But let’s get real, you don’t have to look overseas or watch television to see evil. No, it’s right here in Weirton, isn’t it? And we can see it every time a child is bullied or a reputation is slandered or an innocent person is hurt. I’m telling you, there’s evil all around us. And even though it may take different forms and come from different sources and claim different victims, I think the reality of evil affects us all in pretty much the same way. You see, it makes us feel scared, doesn’t it; vulnerable, powerless, hopeless.

And maybe that explains why it often causes us to do or at least to consider doing the same sort of things we’re confronting. I mean, when I’m face-to-face with evil, that’s when I want to put aside the New Testament and all this stuff about loving your neighbor and praying for those who persecute you, I want to push that stuff aside and trot out some good, Old Testament retribution, you know like “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” And I sure don’t want Jesus telling me, “But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.” In the face of evil, I mean, real, ISIS evil, that just doesn’t work, am I right? Man, that’s not what I want to hear, because I want those who commit evil to suffer, you know, like we’ve suffered, like I’ve suffered, even if that means that I have to descend to their level to make it happen, and then go through some pseudo-spiritual gymnastics to justify doing something that I know is not the answer to the question, “What would Jesus do?” But I guess that’s one of those consequences of evil, isn’t it? If we’re not careful it can both throw us down as well as draw us in.

And for that reason, I think it’s important for us to be as prepared as we can be in dealing all the very real evil that’s present all around us. And I’ll tell you, as a starter, I think there are three things that we can begin to do right now.

For example, if we’re serious about facing evil, first, I believe we need to recognize what evil actually is. I mean, good night, we can’t confront something we don’t recognize. And I’ll tell you, it’s amazing. The word “evil” is used 580 times in the New Revised Standard translation of the Bible, and every single time, it’s somehow related human beings, to actions and values, to thoughts and motivations. You see, storms and natural disasters and diseases are never called evil. They may be destructive. They may cause pain. They may even result in death. But evil, evil involves us. It involves us turning from what we know is right so that we can do what we know is wrong. It’s like Paul wrote to the Romans, “from heaven God shows how angry he is with all the wicked and evil things that sinful people do to crush the truth. They know everything that can be known about God, because God has shown it all to them. God’s eternal power and character cannot be seen. But from the beginning of creation, God has shown what these are like by all he has made. That’s why those people don’t have any excuse. They know about God, but they don’t honor him or even thank him. Their thoughts are useless, and their stupid minds are in the dark. They claim to be wise, but they are fools.” You see, that’s what evil is all about, it’s intentional, not accidental. And even though it may be instigated by Satan or by sin, they’re not the ones who do the deed. It’s our hands that get dirty. And it’s our neighbor who gets hurt. And it’s our consciences that get calloused. And our faith that gets distorted and destroyed. I’m telling you, evil comes from people who look a lot like us, sometimes exactly like us. You see, that’s what evil is, and I think that’s the first thing we need to recognize if we’re serious about facing it.

And second, when confronting evil, I believe it’s crucial that we remember that, in spite of what humanity might do to itself and its world, Christ is still the king who reigns with justice and love. In other words, we’re not alone. In fact, we’re not even ultimately in control. That position belongs to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And that really brings us back to the passage we read a little while ago and I’m talking about these last words from King David. You see, Jesus is also the son of Jesse, the one “...whom God exalted, the anointed of the God of Jacob, the favorite of the Strong One of Israel.” You see, Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the great king from the house of David. And that’s why, when he entered Jerusalem, the crowds shouted: “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” And he’s the “one who [will] rule over people justly, ruling in the fear of God, [which] is like the light of morning, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the rain on the grassy land.” And he’s the one with whom God “...has made...an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and secure.” You see, it’s through the one who, from David’s perspective, was coming but the one who, from where we stand, has come, it’s through Jesus Christ, Son of God and son of man, that God is bringing his creation to its destiny. And no amount of evil can interfere with the will of God. You see, when facing evil, second, we need to remember that Christ is still the king and that his will is justice and mercy and compassion.

And third, after we recognize what evil is and remember who Jesus will always be, I’ll tell you, its right here that we can decide to respond as citizens of this kingdom. And to do that, well, we’re going to need to be strong. You see, we’re going to need genuine strength to resist that little voice that whispers in our ears, telling us that things are out of control and that the world is heading to Hell in a handbasket and that no one is charge and telling us that we have all kinds of reasons to feel afraid and hopelessness because evil is winning and telling us that the only way to defeat evil is to turn away from what we know is right and moral and good and to become evil ourselves, in other words, to become just as cruel and as calloused and as godless as the people we oppose. Man, we’re going to need strength to resist the perverse logic of evil. And then we’re going to need to be strong to follow the one who said that the entire law can be summed up in two commandments: “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” I think we also need to remember that this same one said, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Let’s not fool ourselves, it’ll take strength to resist the pull of evil and to follow the example of the king. In other words, living as citizens of the God’s kingdom isn’t for wimps. But you know, when this is what we decide to do, I think we’re going to understand some things we may not have understood before. You see, we’re going to understand the potential of a tiny mustard seed, that’s planted in field and becomes the biggest of all shrubs. And we’re going to understand the power of yeast, that when added to a whole bunch of flour and water and sugar can effect all the dough. I’m telling you, in the face of evil, we can respond to the one we call king. That’s the third thing we can do.

Now, I think Debbie, Maggie and I really liked “A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder,” although there’s no way we enjoyed the traffic we encountered coming and going. The play was a lot of fun. But of course, there’s absolutely nothing fun or funny about the evil that surrounds us. No, evil is not only scary but causes us to do things that we know are wrong. And for those reasons, I think it’s really important for us to recognize what evil is and to remember that Christ is the king who reigns with justice and love and to respond as citizens of his kingdom. You see, I believe that’s what we can do, when facing evil.

A Thought from the Word - A 15-second thought based on Colossians 3:15

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for November 23, 2015

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for November 23, 2015: Today our passages are Ezekiel 45:13–46:24; 1 Peter 1:13–2:10; Psalm 119:33-48; and Proverbs 28:11. The readings are from the  Cont...

Saturday, November 21, 2015

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line – Forgiveness in an Unforgiving World

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find a recording of this devotion on the prayer line (1-304-748-7900) or on the Cove Presbyterian Church Podbean page. If you find this devotion meaningful, please consider supporting this ministry by sending an offering to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

Matthew 18:21-35

Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Forgiveness in an Unforgiving World

In the last decade or so, our world has become a harsh place, one in which mercy and forgiveness have become signs of weakness. As a matter of fact, anything short of impartial retribution is viewed as impotent and wimpy. Of course, the reason for this situation is pretty obvious. We now face enemies who do cruel and inhuman things with no apparent hesitation or regret and who seem opposed to those principles and values that make us who we are. And so, any appearance of tolerance much less compassion is viewed as spineless accommodation, appeasement of the worst kind, an acceptance of evil. Now that’s what our world has become.

And yet, within that world, we also have these words of Jesus Christ where he suggests that, since we’ve been forgiven so much by God, we should be willing to work a little forgiveness into our relationship with others. And even though this is not particularly difficult or troubling when we’re dealing with relatively petty slights, when we’re facing the reality of evil, forgiveness is not only challenging but also grossly inappropriate. But that’s what we’ve been called to do, and when you think about it, maybe that’s the point. You see, I believe there’s tension between forgiveness and the unforgiving demands of our world but rather than being a problem, maybe the tension itself is good. I mean, even though I’d prefer simple examples and thoughtless applications, maybe I should struggle with these words from Christ, because the very nature of the struggle reminds me of my own limitations and humbles me as I deal with the limitations of others. It also forces me to look beyond myself for some sense of order and direction.