Middle school was the best time of my life. It was so easy. I was so confident in who I was. I never had an awkward look from others. Everyone was extremely nice and got along and things were just amazing. I really wish I could go back to middle school…
Actually, in case you didn’t guess, that last paragraph was sarcasm. Middle school is actually one of the hardest times of many teenagers’ lives. You are awkward, you feel funny all the time, and people can be just plain mean. You know that middle school is hard because almost no one ever says “Wow, I really wish I could go back to middle school.” (I don’t know that I know anyone who would say this, but never say never.)
I am a youth leader and also teach Bible classes in our Lutheran Day School. A lot of my work is with middle school students, and I can tell you that our church and our school are not here because your kids will never experience people being mean or cruel to each other. In fact, I know that they will be this year. Every kid, parent and teacher in middle school will experience people being downright awful. I know this because kids are sinners. Parents are sinners and so are teachers. Every year I know that we will experience people who are rude to us. They attack us and may say things that sting deeply. Maybe you as a parent or student will be the one who speaks those words of pain this year. Maybe it will be the teacher or youth leader. We all fall short and use words that hurt.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14 NIV
If you haven’t done it, read that text above again.
This year I pray that all of us focus on these words of kindness and compassion. It is easy to cut down. It is easy to attack and strike out at people and hurt them. We have all done it and we will all do it again, but Jesus has called us to be people of kindness and forgiveness. That is what makes the Church community different from the world. We are called to forgive. We are called to look at others and forgive them because of Jesus’ incredible love for us. We are called to be kind.
I was talking with a parent once about his son who was a senior in high school. He said a girl from his middle school days was coming to his house to pick something up. The son was hiding and didn’t want to see her because she was very mean to him in middle school.
Today if you are reading this and thinking “I have been the issue”, let me remind you, Jesus’ incredible love is enough to cover over all your sin. You are forgiven. You are new today. Start over and live in that forgiveness.
Lastly, let’s follow Jesus’ lead and be kind and forgiving. For parents, for kids, for everyone – let’s forgive those things of the past. Maybe you as a parent or you as a teacher or you as a student need to forgive. Let others know us by our kindness, let them know us as people of forgiveness. Let go of the things that are in the past and start over. It is what the Church should be known for, and it is what we as God’s people are called to do. So this year be kind and forgive.
This morning in chapel at St. John I thought it would be fun to take all the palm branches left over from Palm Sunday and strewn them all down the aisles. It was a huge mess. I would say it might have been the biggest mess you can make in Church. In fact I was pretty sure after chapel the janitor would no longer be speaking to me with kind words. Kids walked in and were shocked by the mess on the floors. It was a glories mess. (By the way as a youth leader making a mess is what I do)
I had them read with me Mark 11:1-11. It is my favorite version of the story of Jesus being called king. In this text, Jesus rides his donkey into Jerusalem and the people were excited that this might be the next king to rule. They are excited because they thought he would come and kick out the romans and rule the world again. Jesus walks into the temple and does nothing. He just walks back out. I would say all the people who are holding those palm branches just dropped them on the floor. He wasn’t the king they expected, but He is a king and he would show them how he would clean up their mess they had in their lives.
I proceeded to share with the kids and staff about the mess we all live with. My family can make some big messes. Please don’t ever plan on just dropping in because if you do you will see a mess. If you give me some time I can clean up some and make it look like my house is clean. In fact I say to my wife and kids. The trick is make it look good but not too good so they don’t know we worked for a couple hours making it look clean. You see I think many of us have a mess in our lives we pretend isn’t really there, or we spend a lot of time making clean ups look like we have it all together. But here is the thing we are a mess.
This week is Holy week. It is the week Jesus shares with us that he isn’t here as some great king to conquer the world but here to clean up our mess. He shows us his love Thursday through being a servant, then he continues that service on Friday to make the ultimate sacrifice on the cross to clean up our mess. He rose again Sunday to keep His promise of new life in Him.
If you haven’t been in worship in awhile I would encourage you to join the Church any Church these next four days. Come and see all He did for us. It wasn’t necessarily what we expected and certainly is more than just a quick cleaning. Jesus has come and rose again to bring new life and clean up the mess that is our life.
Thank you Jesus for your love and grace.
(By the way we did clean up the sanctuary today, and the janitor is still speaking to me…)
Today I am sitting in my office and thinking thank you Jesus it is Friday and Sunday is coming. As I go through facebook, twitter and news sites I am disheartened. I am tired of it all. I am tired of the media stuff I see all around me. I am tires of the memes and misleading articles about this candidate and that candidate. I am tired of all the anger and hate. I am tired of people looking back at past this person wronged me and now I need to hate them forever. I am tired of all the damage in our world and I am tired of all the sin. I am tired from my own sin, I am tired of hearing about the brokenness all around me. As I was sitting in my office today all I could think is how can I lead my kids through this? How can I lead my children from fear to hope?
As parents and adults we are scaring our children. We are teaching them to live in fear. I have been at a number of meetings lately with adults who are bemoaning the Church is dying, the country is going to fall apart, what are we going to do? Her is my response stop it. Stop it right now. Stop spending every waking hour worrying about who is going to be elected, stop worrying that our church is missing kids, stop worrying about everything. No matter who is elected in a month the World is not going to end. The government isn’t going to collapse and the Church isn’t going to blow up. Above all remember who is in control.
Jesus is in control. He in control of the Church, the government, and the world. He is doing amazing things everyday if we just take the time to look around. I have spent the last 2 weeks meeting with 10 baptismal families. These are families with young children who are focusing on how they can help their children be a part of the Church so they can be connected to Jesus. It is amazing.
Lets just stop freaking out. Let stop and be in prayer for our leaders. Lets stop and be in prayer for our friends and enemies. Lets stop and be in prayer for our Church. Jesus in control and leading the way. Lets turn that fear into hope.
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
So here is the thing. I am not a perfect parent. In fact I probably do more wrong than I do right. I fail to have patience. I fail to look up from my computer screen. I fail to say the right things at the right times. I miss the mark on so many occasions. In fact today I was talking with another Dad and we both commented on how this parenting thing doesn’t have a manual to follow more of a play book. You run certain plays and sometimes it works and more than often it fails. My goal isn’t to be a perfect parent. In fact I would say may goal has nothing to do with even being a good parent.
My goal is very simple. I want my kids to know Jesus and his forgiveness. In ministry my goal isn’t perfect kids. My goal in my family is not to have perfect kids either. (Mostly this is because it isn’t possible) My goal is to show them forgiveness. To show them when they screw up like I do Grace can come. Sure we have consequences. Sure we have struggles because of sin. Grace is bigger than that. Forgiveness is bigger than that. My goal is for my kids to know forgiveness. Whether it is from me or from each other we are a family of forgiveness.
This week as we gather together as families around a dinner table I would ask you to remember these words. To remember we are to be people of forgiveness. Family time can be a challenge because we have failed each other. We have hurt each other. However we have a God who is bigger than that. He is a God of forgiveness. He forgave us, so let us also forgive one another. May you experience that peace that comes through forgiveness Jesus has won for us. May God help you forgive as you have bee forgiven this week.
13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Colossians 3:13 (NIV)
Life and ministry are messy. When your sitting in a class in college it all seems so easy. Everything is black and white, you can always look in a book for answers. I sometimes long for the day when I could sit in a class room and just think about ministry instead of having to get in the trenches and speak truth into peoples lives. Alas, that is not possible. We can’t stay in the classroom forever we are all called by God to get in the trenches. Whether it is ministry or any walk of life you eventually have to get into the real world. That is where it gets messy.
Speaking the truth in love is a very difficult thing. First and formost speaking truth in someone’s life is a struggle because sometimes we can stand up and think we are speaking “The truth” but in reality we are just speaking our truth. You can’t always know the difference, but I would tell you humility and prayer is where you should start. In any conversation about difficult issues you may end up offending someone or hurting someone because what you learned in class is all well and good, but this is someones real life and it can hurt. You need to be careful.
So how do you speak the truth in love? I often tell people that you can be right and wrong all at the same time. You can be speaking the truth but doing it as such a jerk that you get it wrong. You can do great damage and never get that truth to them because you speak in such a poor way. Speaking the truth in love is one of the hardest things in life to do. The second most important part of speaking the truth in love happens before you speak. Before you speak listen, listen, listen. You can’t speak the truth to someone without listening to them. Understand their story so you can speak truth into it. Lastly understand that you can speak all the truth and all the love you want to a person and sometimes they just won’t hear you. Sometimes their heart is hard, or sometimes you aren’t the one who gets to see their lives changed. Truth change happens when
This is hard part about speaking the truth in love. You do it to people, and people are messy. As you and I speak the truth to people. Let us remember to speak it in love.