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In the Business of Forgiveness

In my last writing on pain, I purposely left out one thing that causes pain. When people intentionally or unintentionally hurt each other in a number of ways the result is pain. It can be physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, or psychological. Most of us know the old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” That statement is all wrong. Just ask a victim of abuse who has never been physically harmed but the degrading language and attitude of others has cut deeply. Just ask the people who were bullied as children in a playground. It takes a long time to heal. Just ask a person who, as a child lived in a home where parents constantly fought, and the child was caught in the middle. It takes a lifetime to heal.
If you need Biblical examples, there are plenty. Joseph was father Jacob’s favorite son, and probably, in his youthful arrogance, Joseph went around showing off the beautiful coat he got from his father. The dysfunction of that family speaks volumes – special son, the coat, jealousy, anger, sold into slavery, time in prison. Hurt upon hurt, and that is only the tip of the iceberg; everyone had something to apologize for. In the gospels we see the blind, the lame, the lepers. It wasn’t just the fact that their condition caused them pain, it was also the attitude of the people. There was no social network to take care of them. The synagogue was the social network, and it didn’t live up to its obligation. These were the people they were supposed to be worshipping with, all equal under God. The synagogue failed and it must have hurt spiritually and emotionally. There is also the story of the “woman caught in adultery.” She was caught red-handed and we don’t know if it was a one-time act or chosen profession. Nor do we know the circumstances. What we do know is that, in that culture, if you were a single woman or a widow, the hurt of poverty was always present. She was caught by the self-righteous religious leaders who themselves had more guilt to account for than she. Think of the pain she must have felt, the pain of poverty, the pain of getting caught relieving the poverty, and the pain of being used as a pawn in the struggle and hatred the leaders had for Jesus. Then when they flee because Jesus points out that they are two-faced, she stands alone with Jesus, he refuses to condemn her and essentially forgives her. He cautions her to not do this sin again. That reminds me that in the end we all stand alone with Jesus. And, as in the story, Christ is without sin and has the right to “cast the first stone.” Yet he forgave the woman because of his compassion and mercy. Isn’t that what it all comes down to? In the end we stand alone before Him in his courtroom, where his gospel rules us and his gospel saves us. Through our faith and his mercy, we are forgiven and washed whiter than snow.
That brings me to the business of forgiveness. Like myself, you have probably heard people say. “I will never forgive him or her.” This is brought on by some kind of pain that hardens the heart. I share with you a story. We have a dear friend in Nova Scotia whose brother was murdered years ago. She was able to forgive the murderer almost immediately. This is what she wrote me: “Forgiveness is a gift which I received from Jesus and I gladly share it with others, including those who have caused us heartache.” She gives all the glory to God for this gift.
There is also another way of looking at it. One of the petitions of The Lord’s Prayer says: Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. The following is what Gordon Spykman (Never On Your Own) writes, “Forgiveness runs in two directions. There is the vertical dimension – Father, forgive us our debts. And there is a horizontal dimension – As we forgive our debtors. God’s forgiveness of our sins and our forgiveness of the sins of others go hand in hand. Our readiness to forgive others is an inner testimony of the reality of our own forgiveness.” It goes even deeper than that. If we are not ready to forgive others it affects our whole life. This is what I learned from a fellow pastor. When we are hurt by another it doesn’t sit well. We start to rehearse it over and over again, recalling the situation. Then we really start to nurse it. We treat it with special care, so it takes on some form of false healthiness that won’t allow it to die. At the same time, we curse it because it consumes so much energy and time. There is only one way to avoid all this and be rid of it and that is to disperse it. The only way to disperse it is to forgive that person, even though they may not have asked to be forgiven. It is for our own spiritual well-being, that peace of heart and mind, that we need to take that route. We can say that is much easier said than done, but as our friend said – that is a gift of God. It is only through prayer that we get the gift and the courage to exercise that gift.
Matthew 18: 21-35 talks about this very thing. Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive another person. Jesus’ answer was seventy times seven; seven represents the full number of God. We need to go beyond that. God does that with us. His forgiveness seems to be never ending because our sin is never ending. Jesus himself had the ability to forgive; on the cross he prayed, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” Stephen, the first martyr for Christ prayed those same words when he was being stoned to death. Because we are followers of Christ it places us in the “business of forgiveness.” Sin causes so much pain in the world, even the small ones, the ones we only think about for a short moment. Forgiveness offers so much peace and relieves so much pain. We are Christ’s and we are the Church. Philip Yancey writes, “if the world demands retribution, the church dispenses grace. If the world destroys its enemies, the church loves them.” If you carry the pain forgive as Christ forgave. If you carry the pain of not having been forgiven by someone you have wronged, do the Christlike thing to make the pain go away. Remember Anna Waterman’s song (1920)
I know, yes, I know Jesus’ blood can make the vilest sinner clean.
Pastor Job


The Problem of Pain

When we speak of pain we often assume the person suffers from physical pain. And for many nothing could be further from the truth. As a pastor I look at the faces before me at worship to be reminded of the pain almost every person is going through.
Then I think of all that is written in the Bible. In the beginning there was no pain. Genesis 3:8 suggests that it was normal for God to walk in the garden in the cool of the day to be with the crown of His creation, the first humans. But when they rebelled against God the pain started. Woman would have pain in childbearing, the ground was cursed, and man would eat only through painful toil. At the other end of Scripture there is also no pain. Revelation 22 tells us that at the end of time as we know it there will be no more curse; chapter 7 tells us there will be no more hunger or thirst and “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” What a promise! So the Bible is like two beautiful book ends with many volumes of painful ugly stories in between. And throughout these stories is woven the whole narrative of God’s beautiful plan for salvation, redemption, and restoration. Think about some of those stories.
Think about how Adam and Eve must have felt when they recalled the beauty and peace of the garden before they were sent out to endure a life of pain. If they were still alive, the pain of having one of their boys murder the other would have brought the pain of sorrow. Abraham and Sarah doubted the promise of God when they grew old and childless. Then when Isaac was born did they suffer the pain of guilt because of their doubt? How did Joseph feel as he was left in an Egyptian prison for years for a crime he did not commit? Elijah the prophet ran for his life into the desert and laid down under a broom tree after the prophets of Baal were destroyed. The pain of fear and failure overcame him. What about King David. The pain of grief and guilt he suffered at his own hand because the of the death of the child born out of his adulterous liaison with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband must have been excruciating. And if you study David’s dysfunctional family you recognize many painful days.
Turning to the New Testament changes nothing. The gospel of Mark has a leper coming to Jesus. That’s basically a painless disease, at least physically. He askes Jesus to make him clean. The mindset of the people was that if you had leprosy you must have done something terrible against God. So he felt dirty, ashamed; he felt cut off from worship; he was lonely because he was cut off from society and family. So much pain. He wanted to be clean so that he could get back to some normalcy. Luke 7 tells the story of the funeral of a widow’s only son. If there wasn’t enough pain in losing her only son, there was also the pain of her existence as a widow. If you were a widow in Israel you were automatically poor and this son was her only lifeline. Now there existed the pain of loneliness and poverty. A man brings his son to Jesus for healing because he couldn’t speak and was possessed by an evil spirit. How painful for that father. And the father tells Jesus that he believes, and yet needs help because he also has doubts. Because of that pain he asks Jesus to help both him and his son.
As you read through Scriptures somewhere you can identify yourself. Pain comes in many forms – physical, mental, psychological, social, physiological, and spiritual. They can be brought on by illness, death, grief, loneliness, poverty, abuse, family breakdown, hatred, ignorance, situation in life. You can probably add on to those lists. And no one escapes the problem of pain. There are no easy answers, at least not from a human point of view. Philip Yancey, in his book “Where is God When It Hurts” makes an interesting observation. There are two groupings. “The older ones, people like Aquinas, Bunyan, Donne, Luther, Calvin, and Augustine, ungrudgingly accept pain and suffering as God’s useful agents. These authors do not question God’s actions. They merely try to justify the ways of God to man.” Then there is the other group of moderns who ask how God can possibly justify himself. And Yancey draws attention to an added fact. “Do we forget that Luther and Calvin lived in a world without ether and penicillin, when life expectancy averaged thirty years, and that Bunyan and Donne wrote their greatest works in a jail and quarantine room? Ironically the modern authors – who live in princely comfort, toil in climate-controlled offices, and hoard elixirs in their medicine cabinets – are the ones smoldering with rage.”
We know when and how pain and entered this world. Often the questions can’t get answered and I personally have to say – I don’t know! But we do know who has the final answer on suffering. That one person is our Lord Jesus Christ. He suffered, coming from his place in glory to take on our human sinful form. To pay for our sins he took our place and suffered and died on the cross. Then He cried out from the cross, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” At that point he experienced the worst pain and loneliness possible – being cut off from God His Father, our Father. That had to be the ultimate experience of hell itself. Then think of all the rejection, the mockery, the physical pain he experienced for us. At the center of time stands His cross, meant for us, that speaks of the most unbearable pain ever experienced. When you suffer keep that cross in your focus because he won that battle and now intercedes for us to bring us home. He knows what we go through. In 1901 Frank Graeff wrote:
Does Jesus care when my heart is pained too deeply for mirth and song,
As the burdens press, and the cares distress, and the way grows weary and long?
Oh, yes, He cares, I know He cares, His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary, I know my Saviour cares.
Pastor Job

Extending the re-opening of
St. Andrew’s

Greetings to all the St. Andrew’s family.
Pastor Job, Session and the Board met on October 21, 2020 to review the possible announcement of when we all can join in worship within the sanctuary of our church.
Considering the present COVID uncertainties and concerns for our congregation, we have sadly decided to extend our possible opening to January 17, 2021. The possible health risks, Pastor Job’s surgery on October 28, 2020 and the well being of the congregation in general have been instrumental in making this decision. We feel God is telling us to be patient and he is reminding us that he is always guiding us in these decisions.
This means there will be no Christmas Eve service. There are no congregations celebrating “in church” services in our Presbytery. We understand that this is a huge disappointment with one of the church’s most spiritual celebrations. This Christmas the Church will need, in the words of St Paul in Romans 12:15, to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep”. We will aim to celebrate where we can together in one place – but also embrace a wider community that wants to join in the celebration. We hope that Comfort and Joy will enable us to offer God’s consoling love in the wherever we may celebrate this season.?
Christmas Sharing time is upon us and this year the need is even greater. With our church not opening until the new year, we have had to find a new way to help this worthwhile organization. The Christmas Sharing organization has requested financial donations to allow them to provide gift cards instead of the traditional grocery baskets. St. Andrew’s will be donating $1000.00 from our Christmas Sharing Fund to this cause. To help us continue this tradition next year, we are asking that you send your usual yearly donation for this cause to the church to help replenish this fund for 2021.
Stay safe and faithful in your daily life.
We are all missing each other, the worshiping and socializing together, and we are sending blessings and prayers to you all.
1 Peter 5:10 - And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

Blessings from the
St. Andrew's Family

We would like to extend our blessings and comfort to the community.
Stay safe and healthy and know that God is with you.

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St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church
67 Victoria Ave. Belleville
613-968-8998

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St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Belleville, will share the gospel of Jesus Christ with all people through worship, teaching, and service.

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