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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Hudson-Athens Lighthouse NY (photo by Greg Schneider)
Hudson-Athens Lighthouse NY
(photo by Greg Schneider)

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"The Blessing Of Being Forgiven"

"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" (Colossians 3:13).

Through my 37 years of ministry I have used a variety of illustrations and object lessons to communicate spiritual truths.
Some have been effective; others not so much. When I was younger I was a bit more edgy. For instance I've ridden a bicycle in church, dressed up as a runner, portrayed various Biblical characters in my bath robe, etc.

But I have one story that will actually top them all It is undoubtedly my biggest ministry faux pas. 
I am also quite sure there will be some readers from the church in Northern Pennsylvania who will recall the incident.

Viola was a sweet older lady who attended the church we pastored and she had been sick for a month or two. What a joy it was to finally see her walk into the church one particular Sunday. She slowly made her way up the middle aisle with the assistance of her walker and then sat down in the front row. I made a big deal of her coming back that morning during our welcome time.

Tennis serve
During the sermon I shared an illustration using a tennis racquet. To this day I can't recall what I was trying to illustrate but as an avid tennis player and, at the time as a high school tennis coach, I felt quite proficient at the handling of a tennis racquet.  I planned to merely toss a tennis ball up in the air, swing through with my right hand as if serving, and let the unstruck ball fall into my left hand. I had done it many times before as a coach when I demonstrated the proper way to swing during a serve. (Note: The photo to right is not really me but is for illustration purposes)

Well, this time as I swung the racquet the edge accidentally grazed the tennis ball. Before I could blink the ball flew out and bonked dear old Viola right smack on the forehead. 

Tennis ball with forgiven
My heart sunk and the church grew stone silent. Viola looked up at me with this hurt, puzzled look that seemed to be saying, "Why did you do that?" I immediately apologized to her and somehow made it through the rest of the service although, if memory serves me correctly, someone left the church over my shoddy illustration. That afternoon Brooksyne and I went over to Viola's apartment and again apologized profusely. She forgave me and I was touched that she gave me the tennis ball with the words "Forgiven" written on it. It took a while for that story to die down and for Brooksyne to stop lecturing me about my poor choice of illustrations.

But there's a rest of the story: A couple of years after this incident I moved on from that church to serve a congregation in New England. A year or so later Viola went on to her eternal reward (and it wasn't due to the tennis ball fiasco years earlier). The officiating pastor was an older man who was Viola's pastor before she moved to our community. Marsha, a friend from our church attended the service, and the pastor told a very interesting story about Viola when she attended his church.

He was leading a service and he asked the people to bow their heads as he prayed. As he began to lead out in prayer a rubber band struck him right in the middle of his forehead. He stopped praying and looked toward the young people, then sternly spoke out, "OK, I want to know who did that."  He pleaded with the offender to confess, but no one did. The young people didn't budge though he held his gaze in their direction for an uncomfortable period of time.

Rubberband around fingers
Finally, Viola, who was a younger senior citizen at the time, meekly raised her hand and acknowledged the deed. Gasp! The pastor nodded his head indicating that there was a confession, but didn't point out who it was. It seems that Viola had been nervously wrapping and unwrapping a rubber band around her finger when it accidentally flew off her hand and snapped right on the pastor's forehead. Perhaps that explains her willingness to forgive me and even her ability to understand how "accidents do happen"!

The daily text teaches two great qualities needed in relationships; whether marriage and family, church, friendships or work:
"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" (Colossians 3:13).

Whom do you need to bear with and forgive today?

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, thank You for giving us the capacity to forgive those who sin against us. Jesus serves as the supreme example of One who forgave those who betrayed, abandoned, lied, scourged, and drove the nails in His hands raising Him on the cross to be humiliated and mocked by onlookers. We will bear no offense on this side of heaven that Jesus will not uphold us in our pain and comfort us in our sadness. We can forgive others because You have forgiven us. Help us to bear with those who repeatedly hurt us. Show us how to love those who are most unlovely and unloving toward us. We pray this through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Pastor appreciation day 1983

Brooksyne's Note:
We found this archive photo that demonstrates just how much Stephen was into tennis in his younger years. The church board blessed him with a brand new tennis racquet of his choice, but the way he was to pick it out was by redeeming the oversized racquet the church presented to him on a Pastor Appreciation Sunday back in the mid-eighties (they must have used a refrigerator box to make such a mammoth tennis racquet). He was thrilled and excitedly walked through the center of town to Dave's Sports Store. I was a little embarrassed and chose to walk a few feet behind him.

We played tennis for many years so he got a lot of use from his new racquet. The morning he messed up in church I was in the nursery. It's a good thing or I would have been beside myself if I had witnessed the tennis mishap with dear Viola. But I sure heard a lot about it after church, and he heard a lot about it from me. No more live action sports illustrations during sermons!!

Another story from Brooksyne: One Easter Sunday I recruited Stephen to play the part of Peter in a musical I conducted in Massachusetts. Problem was, I too hurriedly glued on his oversized wirey beard between Sunday School and church. He hid out until it was time to come on stage so he didn't get a chance to practice speaking with his new beard. Every time he spoke, using the best actor expression he could muster, his beard would move up and down completely covering up his lips. It turned out to be a pretty muffled mess. It was difficult to remain serious, stay on topic, and speak out with clear enunciation. The congregation initially responded with quiet smiles since it was a serious drama. But I could see that they were onto his BIG problem. The smiles turned to hushed snickers to uproarious laughter after the beard slid down his face. Unfortunately his dilemma was a bigger story than the Easter musical the choir had practiced for months!

Today's Suggested Music
and Supplemental Resources

"Forgive One Another "  Video   Faithful Heart

"Forgiveness"  Video  Matthew West

"The Power Of Forgiveness"  Video  An incredible story of forgiveness.

"Why Forgive?" a teaching article by by R.C. Sproul

"Amish Forgiveness"  An interesting article by Donald Kraybill regarding the aftermath of the Amish shooting back in 2006.

Today's lighthouse photo was taken by our friend Greg Schneider, a professional photographer and self-described lighthouse chaser. Many years ago we worked with Greg who is a photographer for a local newspaper. He is pleased to share his photos in the hope they will be a blessing to others through this internet site.

a message to Stephen & Brooksyne

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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