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Good morning! Thank you for joining us as we continue our sermon series “Home is the Way.” We have been using Menti as an engagement tool for our sermons and I want to invite you to join us at 8591 6241. This sermon series not only sets us up for the rest of 2022, but also articulates our values, our principles as a Christian community. We hope that you can revisit these sermons, and internalise what we have been talking about in these series. “This is the way.” We don’t want it to be dogmatic – we want to model after how Jesus taught his followers as well.
Pauline and I have talked a lot about what home should be:
Home is where we feel comfortable and have a sense of belonging.
Home is a place where we feel safe and be truly ourselves – to be authentic.
Home is where we learn how to love and be loved more deeply and authentically.
Home is where we create and hold space for each other to grow.
Home is where we take care of one another.
Home is where we find healing.
That’s a rather tall order. And if we are honest, then some of us may have experienced the opposite here at FCC.
Some of you may have felt uncomfortable because we lack the awareness of how to create a welcoming and safe space for you – it may be differences in culture, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, social economic background, nationality, neurodivergence.
Some of you may struggle to find a sense of belonging.
Some of you may have even been hurt here at FCC – even by me.
We are far from being the perfect community – but we strive to be a loving community.
We have emphasised here – that you are God’s beloved – no ifs, no buts. We understand grace as something we do not deserve, something we do not have to earn. Grace isn’t a transaction, grace isn’t a trade, grace isn’t an exchange. Grace is love, grace is forgiveness, grace is mercy.
“The sin underneath all our sins is to trust the lie of the serpent that we cannot trust the love and grace of Christ and must take matters into our own hands” ― Martin Luther
If we think that there is something we can do to earn God’s love and grace, then we are not trusting God’s love and grace.
It is from the realisation that we are loved beyond measure by God, that we begin to heal. While Martin Luther warns about not taking matters into our own hands, that doesn’t mean we are passive. It starts from accepting undeserved grace, and it moves to our participation in working with God in transforming our wounds and our pain instead of transmitting them. It is not easy – just like folks with physical injuries or illnesses often go for physiotherapy, we also need to participate in our healing.
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus[a] was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers[b] approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ 14 When he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’[c] feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ 19 Then he said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.’
The 10 lepers participated in their healing – they trusted in God’s grace and love – and followed Jesus’ instructions even before healing took place. It was on their way that they were made clean.
More than that, the Samaritan returned – and Jesus tells him “Your faith has made you well.” Healing wasn’t just healing on the outside, but also healing that is inside. Healing also means being “made well.” Healing doesn’t happen only the instant when our condition is healed, but also after – as we respond to the healing with changes within ourselves with gratitude and deeper faith.
Do you see the order of what happened within the Samaritan here? First, they trust and have faith in God’s grace and love, then take action towards their healing, returning in gratitude with deeper faith within.
I want to emphasise this because sometimes we think of transformation as something that happens to us, rather than something that we participate in. We want the pain and the wounds to heal, yet we avoid doing anything about it. It is just like not wanting to seek treatment for our injuries because we are afraid of the pain. What happens when we don’t clean up a wound? It gets infected, it festers and it gets worse.
And this transformation and healing doesn’t stop at ourselves. As an imperfect community of imperfect and hurt people seeking God, seeking healing, seeking restoration, grace is critical. Because without grace, we will continue passing around our hurts and our pain. Grace helps us learn to transform our pain as a community.
In the Gospel of Matthew 19, when Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive a sibling if a sibling sins against him, Jesus answered, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.’ and then Jesus told the parable of the unforgiving servant.
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
23 ‘For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents[i] was brought to him; 25 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. 26 So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” 27 And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow-slaves who owed him a hundred denarii;[j] and seizing him by the throat, he said, “Pay what you owe.” 29 Then his fellow-slave fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” 30 But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt. 31 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. 32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?” 34 And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt. 35 So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister[k] from your heart.’
Because we have been shown grace, we are to show grace to others.
“Love each other as I have loved you”
I want to highlight that while grace is something we don’t deserve, it isn’t supposed to make us feel bad about ourselves. When we offer grace to others, it isn’t about making that person feel wretched, less than, unworthy (or that we are superior). If grace makes you feel less than, makes you feel ashamed, then it isn’t grace.
<M> Something practical – How do we show grace and love to each other?
I want to highlight also what grace doesn’t mean we stop holding people accountable for their actions and behaviour. Grace is shown in HOW we hold people accountable. And when we don’t hold someone accountable, we are actually doing injustice to the community, and injustice to this person. Remember – God forgives us, God shows us grace, and God still holds us accountable.
When someone does something wrong, and we just let them off, then they won’t grow. Of course nobody wants to do the difficult work of holding someone accountable. Have you encountered times when a friend says something that is racist, sexist, something that is just plain wrong? What did you do? I can remember times when that happened and I didn’t do anything, because I don’t want to affect our friendship. I also want to avoid a confrontation – because who enjoys having a confrontation with a friend? But when we show grace, when we hold someone accountable with grace – it helps make it less confrontational.
Grace is shown in how we hold people accountable as we do it in love and compassion. Remember grace is unmerited. That person did do something that was wrong and may have even hurt and harmed other people or us – but grace means we respond in a way that this person doesn’t deserve. We do it in love and compassion – and not punish that person for the sake of punishment, or retribution or vengeance. We don’t lash out and retaliate – which is a very human thing – but show grace. God’s justice is restorative, not retributive.
Grace is also not making assumptions. Grace requires us to be in relationship to understand.
We have been taught to try put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. “Imagining oneself in the situation or circumstances of another person so as to understand or empathize with their perspective, opinion, or point of view.”
I have learned in the past year that very often when I try to put myself in someone’s position, I end up projecting a lot onto them instead. Instead of empathising with them, I end up projecting my own biases, my own issues onto them.
Give you an example I learned from Teo Yeu Yenn’s book “This is What Inequality Looks Like”
“Many rental flats may have flat-screen TVs and other luxury appliances. Looking from the outside in, it’s easy to use this as fuel for claims that rental flat conditions are not as bad as some claim; or to judge these people for wasting money on what is seemed as unnecessary for basic survival. But it’s only with truly interacting with these people that we discover much of their furniture are actually castaways of the mega-rich who change appliances like changing clothes, or that the television is the only form of entertainment for the entire family who cannot afford the expensive costs of shopping and dining outside.
So loving someone requires us to find out more to understand. We need to avoid making assumptions based on our own experiences. If we are putting ourselves in someone’s shoes as ourselves we would only be projecting. How many times have I wondered why some folks who are in poverty don’t get proper jobs? That is me putting myself in their shoes – I would get a job in their shoes. I don’t realise that there are barriers – some of them need to be caregivers for the very young, or the elderly – and taking a full time job would mean there isn’t anyone to take care of them. So they end up with odd jobs – like food delivery.
Empathy requires us to try and understand their position.
There are also times we read into what people say instead of clarifying with them – we project our assumptions and bias onto what they say. That is not helpful in community.
One way we can show each other grace is by being clear.
We deal directly with one another – and that is something we need to learn, because It is not easy and we often choose the short cut of making assumptions or we even triangulate – we tell everyone except the actual person we need to tell. We have a problem with someone, and then we tell everyone except the person we have an issue with. We need the people who need to hear it – hear it.
Of course I am not saying we don’t ask for a 3rd party perspective, or seek someone to help us mediate – but we need to be consciously working towards being direct with that person.
As a community, when we learn to be direct and honest – then we can be authentic, and then we take each other at face value, without second guessing what the other person is saying.
There are occasions when people ask me – are you talking about me when you spoke about this in your sermon? The answer is no. I want to walk the talk, really – preach what I teach. If I have some concerns, I want to be able to tell you in a direct but loving way.
This is an area of growth even for me – offering and receiving feedback. I tend to get defensive when receiving feedback – especially when I perceive the feedback as an attack. This happens often – and this comes from my own wounds. While growing up, my mistakes are seen as failures, and instead of seeing them as learning opportunities, I end up seeing myself as a failure and taken on shame and unworthiness. Pauline has helped me a lot in this area. From trauma being scolded as a child – when people offer even constructive criticism, I can feel the child inside me curl up.
I have come to see that when we avoid dealing directly with the person we have issues with, we often act in passive aggressive ways. I see that a lot in myself. I think many of us learned it through our parents because in our culture, it is more important to maintain harmony, so we don’t deal with the actual issue. So often, we get the silent treatment or cold wars, instead of dealing with issues in a direct way. And to deal with issues in a non-passive aggressive way, we need grace. Instead of being angry at someone but saying nothing to that person (and worse tell everyone else why I am angry at that person) – we learn to be clear about what we are feeling, and communicate that with the person we are angry at.
It is still an area of growth. In moments when I am not grounded, when I am worn out, tired – I still react that passive aggressively. And that is when I need your grace.
Grace requires us to remain in relationship with one another –
When we offer grace to each other – we need to remember – grace is never deserved.
It is this grace that heals and restores both the one who is hurt and the one who caused the hurt.
It is this grace that creates home –
where we feel comfortable and have a sense of belonging.
where we feel safe and be truly ourselves – to be authentic.
where we learn how to love and be loved more deeply and authentically.
where we create and hold space for each other to grow.
where we take care of one another.
where we find healing.
This is how loving each other as God loves us look like. With grace.
People who live in grace are free.
Grace breaks the cycle of transmitting hurt, resentment, pain.
Lutheran minister Nadia Bolz-Weber
“Maybe retaliation or holding onto anger about the harm done to me doesn’t actually combat evil. Maybe it feeds it. Because in the end, if we’re not careful, we can actually absorb the worst of our enemy, and at some level, start to become them. So what if forgiveness, rather than being a pansy way to say, ‘It’s okay,’ is actually a way of wielding bolt-cutters, and snapping the chains that link us? What if it’s saying, ‘What you did was so not okay, I refuse to be connected to it anymore.’? Forgiveness is about being a freedom fighter. And free people are dangerous people. Free people aren’t controlled by the past. Free people laugh more than others. Free people see beauty where others do not. Free people are not easily offended. Free people are unafraid to speak truth to stupid. Free people are not chained to resentments. And that’s worth fighting for.”
People who live in grace are free.
Welcome Home, to Free Community Church.