Dear Church Family and Community,
Growing up Memorial Day marked the unofficial beginning of summer. That meant the town pool was open when we were in North Jersey, and it meant official BBQ season on our block in Southwest Philly (if I try hard enough, I can still remember the taste of Mr. Leon’s ribs!). Memorial Day also meant “The Picnic” with lots of other churches like ours, where we celebrated with games, great food, and fellowship with friends old and new.
I never thought specifically about what Memorial Day commemorates until one of my best friends and cousin joined the military. I am glad that I get to celebrate my “holiday” this weekend, and that he’s still with us after his many tours. As Brethren in Christ, I believe that Jesus commands us to love our enemies, seek peace and pursue it, and to value all human life. Upholding our peace position doesn’t mean that we don’t remember what this holiday represents. We can believe wholeheartedly that God call us to be peacemakers, and join our sisters and brothers in remembering the sacrifices made and still being made, while also comforting them and ourselves as we grieve those who never made it home.
This past Sunday, we continued our current sermon series on The Beatitudes entitled Blessings: Promises of the Kingdom. We focused on Jesus’ fourth Beatitude: blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. In this promise, Jesus calls us to be desperately overeager for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus challenges us today and asks: are we hungry to the point of starvation, and thirsty to the brink of death, for God and His righteousness in our world?
Those who hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness believe that God is righteous, that God is the most good, excellent and virtuous. They celebrate God’s redemption (what God has done), join in God’s reconciliation (what God is doing now), and pray for God’s ultimate restoration (what God will do). They know righteousness is not individualized or a possession, but a collective working by God through His Spirit and people to rescue and release the oppressed and set them in their rightful place in the kingdom. Be hungry and thirsty for God’s righteousness by trusting God completely, and seeking God with all your heart. If you missed hearing this message, please be sure to check it out here on our website, or through our sermon podcast on Soundcloud, Google Play or iTunes.
This Sunday, we will continue Blessings: Promises of the Kingdom by looking at the fifth Beatitude: blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. This Beatitude reminds us that to be merciful is to be forgiving and to love how God loves. Mercy is more than not giving what might be deserved – it is loving even and especially when it’s unearned, because to do so is to be like our Heavenly Father.
Please take time to read and pray through both Matthew 5:1-12 and Matthew 18:21-35. As you read, think of why it’s important to forgive. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, but it is often an important step in starting the healing process. Furthermore, forgiveness allows us to glorify our Father in heaven; it is a chance for us to experience love and grace as our God and Father extends love and grace to us. How is God calling you to forgive today? Or perhaps it may be better said…who is God calling you to forgive today?
May the Lord continue to bless and keep you all!
Pastor Hank (Matthew 5:43-48)
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