Battle Ground United Methodist Church

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Battle Ground United Methodist Church
Battle Ground United Methodist Church is listed in the Churches Methodist category in Battle Ground, Washington. Displayed below is the only current social network for Battle Ground United Methodist Church which at this time includes a Facebook page. The activity and popularity of Battle Ground United Methodist Church on this social network gives it a ZapScore of 60.

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10300 NE 199th St
Battle Ground, WA 98604
(360) 687-2542

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MESSAGE….. Abraham: the Grand Holy Architect of the Koran……..Pastor Susan Before we begin our sermon today, I’m wondering what you might already know about Islam. For example: ? Did you know that Hagar, Sarah’s servant in the Hebrew text, was from Egypt and is considered to be Abraham’s second wife for Muslims? ? Did you know the religion that was born from God’s revelation to Mohammed is called Islam and those who claim Islam as their faith are called Muslims? ? Did you know that Muslims believe that the story of Abraham sacrificing his son did not include Isaac, but was instead Ishmael? ? Did you know that the Koran and the Old Testament share the same Creation stories, Flood stories, and Abraham stories up until Sarah sends Hagar out into the desert? ? Did you know that for Muslims, Muhammad is seen as the final prophet, equal to the prophet Abraham and the prophet Moses and the prophet Jesus? All these prophets professed the word of god; it’s just that Mohammed is simply seen as the final prophet. It is the very small twists in Abraham’s plot that create a whole new way of understanding. Let’s look at this not from a historical perspective, but from a theological perspective. What do these differences mean about how God is involved in our lives? Where do we see God? Whom does God save? Where is God in the midst of conflict and how should we, as people who believe God, obey and live out our lives? These are all questions that the story of Hagar, Abraham and Sarah address for the three Semitic faiths. I am going to focus on Abraham again, this time exploring why this character is THE central figure for Muslims. Muhammad, an illiterate Arab living in Mecca the 5th century, received a revelation from God. His regional and cultural environment was identical to the environment of Abraham 2500 years earlier. The dessert in which Islam was born was filled with nomadic Bedouin tribes who all worshipped different deities. The Jewish community did not make the attempt to teach these desert Bedouins about monotheism because Jewish tradition stayed with Jewish tradition. The Christians had not yet made it out to the desert to do their converting, or maybe they did but they failed. Never-the-less, at the time Mohammed arrived on the scene, the region was filled with primitiveness as old as Abraham himself. It is in this world of conflict and unrest that Mohammed brought the good news that there is only one God and Allah is that God. Allah, in fact translates as THE God, not a God, but THE God. Mohammed never believed nor intended to create a new religion, (as we pointed out last week that that was not Paul’s intent either), but Mohammed was interested in a Reformation of Monotheism. There was a small sect of believers of a God called Yahweh who lived in Mecca and it was this God who revealed Godself to Mohammed in a cave near Mecca. This reformation was meant to restore the primordial faith in one God and Mohammed believed that by bringing this true faith to Arabs, peace would and could be lived out among the people of the desert. Abraham, known as Ibrahim in the Koran, is central to Mohammed’s message. So, what is it about Abraham that was so central to Mohammed? Abraham obeyed the one and only God. The term “Muslim,” translates to “one who obeys.” Therefore, to be a Muslim, one must obey Allah, THE one and only God. A Muslim’s purpose is to serve God in all things, and it is the belief that through this devotion to serving God we are freed from other forms of slavery, such as greed, anxiety, desire for personal status. Really, Mohammed is quite Pauline in his theology. Like Paul, Mohammed teaches that TOTAL commitment is needed and this is why the protagonist Abraham is so central. For Muslims, it is Ibrahim who first commits his life entirely to the one true God, hence it is Ibrahim, not Mohammad, who initiates the beginning of Islam. But let’s move away from Abraham and talk about Hagar. She was Egyptian, and although our text calls her a slave, Muslims understand her to be Ibrahim’s second wife. She is a HUGE figure in both the Hebrew Text as well as the Koran, and is one of the most overlooked characters in Scripture. As an abused servant girl, Hagar runs to the desert and receives her own revelation from God. Several chapters later in Genesis, Sarah kicks her out of the Family community all together, both her and her son Ishmael are banished to the desert and left to die. So how did God look after Hagar? She certainly wasn’t protected from Sarah, in fact, God encouraged her to go back to Abraham’s tent and birth a child who would be named Ishmael, meaning “God Hears”. Not only that, but after Sarah kicks Hagar out of the community all together, that is the last we hear of her in the Hebrew Text. But, that is where the Koran continues her story…and it’s a good one. You see, when Hagar ran away in Chapter 16 of Genesis, she is weeping and distraught. But a messenger of God comes to her, comforts her and sends her back to Abraham, but not without a gift. This messenger was Gabriel, the same Messenger who came to Mary, Jesus’ mother. And the angel of the Lord said to Hagar, “I will so greatly multiply your offspring that they cannot be counted for multitude.” This is in effect an equal blessing to the blessing Abraham received. No longer is she fighting for an equal status with Sarah, all of a sudden, Hagar is on equal playing ground to Abraham! While Sarah laugh’s at God’s promises, Hagar embraces them, chooses to obey God and returns to the camp of Abraham. Carol Newsome, a leading interpreter of women in the Bible, points out that Hagar is the only woman to receive personally the divine blessing of descendants, making her in effect a female patriarch. What’s even more astonishing is that Hagar is the ONLY person, male or female, to name God. “You are El-roi” meaning God of my vision. She saw God when Moses could not. She is the only human to see God in the Old Testament and live to tell about it! How is it that we continue to look past this monumental detail? When I read this story, I’m caught up in the morality of these people who “follow God.” How can one who claims to obey God be so cruel? Surely, Sarah’s behavior is not of God. For most of us, our moral sympathy is with Hagar and Ishmael, even though the author knows that our primary identification has to be with Abraham, Sarah and Isaac. One of the things I was repeatedly told in my Preaching course is “where is god’s grace in the text?” So with every sermon I write, I look for God’s grace. In this story, it is not with those individual’s whom my faith depends. For me, God’s grace is ever present in the ones who are outcast, in the ones who are rejected, unloved, uncared for. God’s grace is ever present in the lives of Hagar and Ishmael. It is Hagar, a lowly servant girl and her bastard son who become the ones who God comforts. Hagar, in fact has been used repeatedly in the arts as the character that best represents the under-dog. She has become the symbol of the black woman’s struggle for justice. She has been the matriarch that promises that those who are oppressed by other humans are loved by God and will be the recipient of many blessings. Hagar, not Sarah, is my hero. Mohammed claimed it was Hagar who represented a forgotten people left in the desert to wander and make their own way. Mohammed reminded his followers that it is Hagar who is the matriarch of a nation, a nation under one God. The story in the Koran refers to Hagar’s destitution and anxiety as she and her child are left to die in the desert. Hopelessly and helplessly, the story explains that Hagar ran seven times through a valley looking for water. When she returned to her son, without a drop, the angel Gabriel visits once again, scores the earth with a stick and a well of fresh clean water emerges. Her thirst is quenched and her son’s life is saved. That well still exists today in Mecca and is one of the most holy places for Muslims. It is Hagar whose faith leads her to settle in Mecca, raise Ishmael, find him an Egyptian wife to continue the faith of one true God she calls Ell-roi – or God of my vision. The Abraham of Islam is a man who was a nomadic Bedouin, a man who had many lives, a man who loved his sons, both Ishmael as well as Isaac. He was a man who built the Kabul in Mecca with his eldest son Ishmael, and this temple was meant to symbolize the empty human heart, reminding his descendents that with an empty heart, free from serving the ideas of this world, we might be able to serve God. It is the empty heart that Allah enters, transforms, and brings peace to the world. You know what Muslim translates to? “one who submits”. Do you know what Islam translates to? “The peace that comes when one’s life is surrendered to God.” A quote from The Koran describes this one and only God as “the Holy, the peaceful, the Faithful, the Guardian over His servants, the Shelterer of the orphan, the Guide of the erring, the Deliver from every affliction, the friend of the bereaved, the consoler of the afflicted; in His hand is good, and He is the generous Lord, the gracious, the Hearer, the Near-at-Hand, the compassionate, the Merciful, the Very-forgiving, whose love for mankind is more tender than that of the mother-bird for her young.” This is the God of Islam. This is also the God of Christianity. And to be sure, this is the God of Judaism. Legend has it that Abraham’s tent was open on all four sides. It was meant to be open to all strangers from whatever direction they came. The open tent symbolized a welcoming spirit, inviting all people into relationship with one another. It’s a lovely symbol: a symbol of universalism, hospitality, and compassion. A symbol of what it is to be human.

MESSAGE……... Abraham: The Spiritual father of the New Testament…..…..Pastor Susan I am the youngest of four children and I got raked over the coals on a regular basis, if not from one sibling, then from another. Any way that I could find retribution was a win in my book. Most of the time retribution came from tattling. But every once in a while, I found a button that would cause pain for one of my siblings and I would find justice in pushing that button until it worked no more. My sister Dianne, is three years older than I. She is closest to me in age and was often a great source of sibling rivalry. Dianne had one difference between me in my elder two siblings. She had blondish hair. Everyone in my family had jet dark hair except Dianne. With that subtle difference I found her button. In the midst of a fiery fight, I antagonized, “Well, you were adopted!” Somehow, for some reason, that stopped Dianne in her tracks. She wondered why she didn’t have dark hair like all of us and that would explain it. I noticed that I hit a nerve and went on fabricating a story. I insisted that mom told me not to tell her but the reason why she looks different is because mom and dad adopted her. Dianne, rushed to my mom for verification. I vaguely remember her even needing to see her birth certificate to be sure. So why was this such a big button? What is it about being adopted that could possibly be so bad? Not a thing as long as there are no secrets. The problem of adoption comes to play if we’ve been lead to believe one thing that is not true. Finding out “the truth” calls into question who do we belong to? What is our heritage, our past, and our history? If we don’t belong to the parents who we thought birthed us, then whom do we belong? The question of identity is a fragile one. Many of us, especially in our teens or early 20’s, sometimes even 40’s or 50’s find a need to “go find ourselves.” We need to explore who we want to claim to be. Let me ask you all a question. If I were to ask you about your identity, how would you describe yourself? Think about it for a moment. Are you using your profession, and beginning the description with your job? Are you using your nationality and beginning your description with your politics or geographical location? What about your race, is that part of who you claim to be? If you were to write an ad in the newspaper, looking for a significant other, how would you describe yourself? These are all questions of identity. Religions, all religions, help us name that identity. Who do you identify with? The characters, historical or mythological, are infinite. From Krishna to Buddha, Abraham to Jesus, Mohammed to who knows who else, these are all figures that we come to identify with and thus define for ourselves who we are and how we will live our lives. As I explored last week, Abraham is a central figure for the Jewish faith. He is seen as the father of Jews, the patriarch of the Jewish tradition. We know well the story of Abraham nearly sacrificing his son Issac, because that story is central to the identity of the Jewish faith. You see, for Abraham to be the father of a chosen nation, his biological son had to live. It is because Isaac was spared that the Israelite people came to be and the concept of monotheism was able to take root. It is because Isaac lived that there is what Jews refer to as a “chosen people,” blood related to Abraham himself. Now let’s take a look at the Christian perspective of Abraham. Paul, known as Saul prior to his conversion, was and continued to be a devout Jew. He was a leader among the Pharisees, and a talented debator and theologian. Paul was a religious man, dedicated to God, but always a Jew. He was born in Tarsus, a Hellenistic hub of culture and thinking. He came from a socially prominent family and although a Jew, he was also a Roman Citizen. As a Pharisee, he believed whole-heartedly that studying the Torah was the way to wisdom. What Paul did in his letter to the Galatians is something many Jewish scholars did at the time. Midrash is interpreting Hebrew scripture by scholars and priests? This letter we read from Galatians is an example of rabbinic-midrash writing. Paul is taking a very ancient text and making it relevant to the world he lives in. Much like pastor’s do with sermons each Sunday. His agenda is clear, to emphasize the message that Abraham is the father of all nations and we are to make disciples of all people. He started out sharing Jesus’s wisdom with the Jews, but had little success, so he moved on to the Gentiles, those who were not chosen by God. Those who had no claim to the heirs of Abraham. But Paul cleverly did something very new, very much outside the box and very threatening to many. He redefined family. Using Abraham to prove that God wants to have a relationship with us all, he emphasized not the story of Isaac and the near sacrifice, but he emphasized a different part of the story: the promise that all nations will be blessed through the faith of Abraham. By emphasizing this part of Abraham’s story, Paul creates a new protagonist. Abraham becomes a new father, not one who is linked to his children through blood relations, but a father that is linked to his descendents through faith. As I was studying for this sermon, I found a scholar make the point that Galatians 3: 6-9 should not be read apart from Galatians 3:26-29. Let me read these two passages to you again: Galations 3:6-9 reads: Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.” For this reason those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed. Galations 3:26-29 reads: for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. Do you hear it? Paul’s theological vision is that if you are rooted in faith, if you are rooted in your higher-power, you are “in Christ.” These two things are synonymous! The early church had a ritual that helped people make that transition from one that was not faithful to God into one that was “in Christ” or in obedience with God. That ritual is called baptism. As you’ve seen over and over again, we Methodists sprinkle a little water on babies as a symbol of invitation into the Christian family, but Pauline theology and early church practices were much more dramatic. If you wanted to be baptized during the first century in the Mediterranean region, you would make the choice to re-enact the life of Jesus so that you might take on a new identity. The first thing you would do is disrobe – that’s right – all the way down to your birthday suit. This symbolized the letting go of your old ways. You were then immersed in the water, held under the water, representing the death and burial of your old self. As you rose out of the water, you were considered clean, a resurrected self, clothing yourself with the spirit of God with a new white robe. There’s a reason why we call our selves born again, we are dead to the old ways and born into a Spirit filled life. This then, becomes our identity. This is the character of our faith and our identity. And it is through this “life in Christ” that we have our being. So as a person who identifies herself by her faith, I love my biological mother, but I realize I have many mothers, as do you. I love my biological father, but there are many paternal figures in my life who offer me fatherly guidance, as do you. My family no longer ends with my bloodline, but continues on to all of you. Often I will refer to you as my church family, and quite frankly, I am not using that term lightly… for me, you are my family with all the care we have for one another as well as the dysfunction. I could end on a light and fluffy feel good statement like that, but I need to explore one other side to this new perspective of Abraham, a perspective that has warped Paul’s efforts into something malicious. You see, in Paul’s plan to include everyone, a possible wedge is created. I say possible, because it really wasn’t used as a wedge until 100 years later after Paul, when Justin Martyr, or Iraneas or even Augustine used this perspective to create an elite religion. It was not Paul, but the theologians centuries later, who wrote anti-Semitical doctrines. The claim was that Jews were an enemy of Christ. The promise of Abraham being the father of ALL nations evolved into a promise that Christians will inherit the promise by God, not Jews. And so what happens to the Jews? They become orphans, no longer connected to God? For Jews, Abraham may have stopped short of killing off his flesh and blood on Moriah, but this Christian perspective finished Issaac off. The story of Isaac’s survival is irrelevant for Christians yet central for Jews. During the first 4 centuries of the CE, the Christian faith evolved into a faith that taught and at times still teaches hatred rather than love. It evolved into a faith that was and sometimes can still be elite rather than egalitarian. And the grace that Paul insisted on being available to ALL nations becomes available to only those who claim Jesus as their Lord and savior. That’s a huge mistake. What theologians, leaders and politicians did to the gospel of Christ must be undone. Much of the doctrine touted as Christian does not come from scripture itself but from later interpretations of scripture - hundred’s and even thousands of years later. One of John Wesley’s main points was to rely on tradition. He looked to the traditions of the early church to find guidance in his theology. Through scripture and the tradition of the early church, Wesley found a more comprehensive view of who we are and how we might identify ourselves to this Christ. I want to end with two perspectives of Christianity. One coming from a local pastor in Lawrenceville Georgia and one coming from an Eastern Orthodox Bishop in Jerusalem. One of my pastor’s in my old church sent out an e-mail. I don’t think she intended it to get to me, yet, as you are all well aware of the ripple affect of the Internet, I did inadvertently get the memo. She told a story of how she had been told of an imam in prison that all Muslims were willing to kill anyone who did not worship Allah and this was a fundamental lesson in the Koran that all Muslims lived by. She went on to write that Muslims cannot know God or heaven because they refused Jesus as the one who died for our sins. The letter was filled with hatred and fear of our brothers and sisters but cradled in language pertaining to God’s love and promises to those who believe as she does. The other perspective of Christianity is from Bishop Theophane. He makes the point that Abraham lives in us all, the body of Christ is simply a body of faithful people seeking to know and obey God, searching for a way to identify with God. This lunge for the divine, this desire for connection, allows Abraham to live in us all. The bishop claims that what the early church theologians did with Abraham was cruel. But a hundred years from now, the serious people of faith will be considered ecumenical. They will understand that Abraham belongs to all of humanity. I see this as clear as day in my AA groups. The members of AA seek to imagine for themselves what their higher power is like. The thing that unites me with them is not simply that we all live with the disease of alcoholism and addiction, the thing that unites us most spectacularly is that we are all simply a body of faithful people seeking to know and obey God, searching for a way to identify with God. In my mind, that is the body of Christ. I can belong to a mega church filled with people who call themselves Christians but do not seek to know or obey their God. Even though that’s a church, it may be a lesser illustration of the body of Christ than a bunch of drunks coming together regularly to genuinely seek God’s will with every ounce of their ability, living out that Divine will as best as they can. What we here have in common is not only that we seek that connection with God and seek to to His will, but also that Jesus Christ helps us imagine God and what God is like and how God is at work. Jesus helps us define that Higher Power. The body of Christ is everywhere. We are united as brothers and sisters not by our doctrines and ways we imagine God, but by our sincere, authentic and passionate attempts to connect with a loving God and live out God’s will. There are many different ways to imagine Abraham. Many stories and many ways different cultures have used his character to emphasize a point important to that society. Jews focus on Isaac, Christians focus on adoption; next week we will learn what part of Abraham is most important to our Muslim brothers and sisters. For as Romans Chapter 10:12 says: “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him.”

Abraham: the Patriarch Genesis 15:1-6 For the next three weeks, we will be seeking how Abraham is a patriarch to all nations. He has the honor of being named the father of the three faiths in the world: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. We all share the same source, the same roots, and the same ideology: an idea born from the faith of Abraham. We will explore how each faith draws from Abraham’s experience with God to shape their own understanding of God. There’s a book by Bruce Feiler called “Abraham: A journey to the heart of three faiths,” and I credit much of the scholarship I use in these three sermons to that book. So why is Abraham so central in the teaching of these three religions? Elie Wiesel, a Nobel Peace prize winning author, a professor at Boston University, a survivor of the Holocaust, writes in his book Messengers of God, “the story of Abraham … is about fear and faith, fear and defiance, fear and laughter. It is a story that illustrates man’s anguish when he finds himself face to face with God, his quest for purity and purpose, the conflict of having to choose between dreams of the past and dreams of the future, between absolute faith and absolute justice, between the need to obey God’s will and to rebel against it. It is all there in the story of Abraham.” As you can see, he is a complex figure whose life touches upon the human condition that we all share. So let’s see now, what we can learn from this ancient man. We begin today with the Jewish perspective of this man who lived so many thousands of years ago. Our first inclination when we look at Abraham is to view him as a historical figure. No doubt he once was a man who lived in the Middle East and was extraordinarily faithful to God. But why did this simple man who lived sometime around 1900 BCE make his mark on the world at large. Why Abraham? After all he was far from a model human being. According to the Hebrew text, he lied and tried to pass his wife off as his sister… twice. He argued with God. He tried to kill his son! Not a model citizen in my book. So how is it that Abraham came to be known as the Patriarch of the Israelites? The one concept that Abraham emulates, that Judaism, Christianity and Islam rely upon, is that there is one God and only one God, and in Abraham’s imagination, he calls that one God Yahweh. Abraham was steeped in a culture that was polytheistic, people who believed in many many different gods. There was a god for everything. A god for fertility, a god for the rain, a god for war and a god for love, to name a few. Everything that this culture could not understand, they blamed on one of the gods at work. Abraham introduced a whole new radical idea. This is the first place we see this idea emerge – the idea is that there is only one God and that God is the God of everything and everyone. That alone is a pretty big deal, but how else has Abraham shaped our beliefs today? Abraham was a man who had an incredibly intimate relationship with God that is like no other. Interpreters have gone all over the map with their hero (and sometimes villain) Abraham. He is complex and he epitomizes the complexity of our own lives. But as I read more and more about Abraham and reflect on his obedience, a trait that I most admire, one thing strikes me above all things: Abraham does not believe IN God, (as if to say whether or not God was a reality) rather he believes God, knowing that God exists and knowing that what God communicates is capital T True. Can you hear the difference there? He doesn’t believe in God, he believes God. Abraham cannot even conceive of the statement “believe in God.” That would make no sense to him. For Abraham, the reality of God was as tangible as the reality that he had five fingers on each hand. God as a reality is obvious, beyond even questioning. How he lives his life is a direct response to the directions given to him by this God. He travels to a far off land because he’s told to. He believes God will come through with the promises of being a father of nations even though his wife is barren. He circumcises all the men in his camp because it is a symbol of his faithfulness and finally he is willing to sacrifice his son because God tells him to. Abraham doesn’t ever question whether God exists. He never questioned the existence of this un-namable, un-seeable, un-provable God. He simply believed God. Abraham never asked for proof, rather Abraham provides the proof that God is trustworthy and will indeed fulfill his promises to us. We are promised in Scripture that God is good, that God will provide, that God will take care of his children, that God loves us. But I think we continually get caught up in believing IN God rather than believing God. If we believed God, we would trust God. We would go forth and live our lives with assurance that all will be well, maybe not in the way that we want it to be well, but in the end it will all be well. This is the Jewish Abraham: the man who obeyed God because he trusted God. Do you obey God? I do sometimes but if I’m honest with you I can think of many times that am not in line with what God expects of me. Often I find myself relying more on my own worldly thinking and decision making when it feels too unrealistic to do otherwise. In other words, sometimes I don’t trust that all will be well if I don’t take things into my own hands. The virtue of trust comes when we are in relationship. Think of someone you trust. Why do you trust them? Have they ever disappointed you? Do you believe that those you trust have your best interest in mind? In the same way, God seeks our trust. God always has our best interests at heart and all though we may not see why or how or when we’ll be “blessed,” if we trust God we will inevitably reap some blessings when we are obedient children to our Divine Parent. Blessings are not the things we want like fortune and health, blessings are those times when we are connected to God even within the storms of life. What would it look like if we didn’t take things into our own hands, but simply trusted God. We may still get sick, we may still not be rich, we may still have bad things happen to us, but if we trust God, if we anchor ourselves into the Divine, then no matter what storms come our way, we know that God’s presence remains with us. You see, I believe that it is through this trust in God that we obey God and it is through obedience to God that we become participants in God’s creation. The God of Abraham, the chosen man who fathered a chosen people, is a God of Love, a God who can be trusted, a God who will care for us because we are God’s creation and God made the promise that “all the people on earth will be blessed through you (Abraham).” Why? Because Abraham teaches us that there is one God and we should trust that God and then obey that God. From that point, we are blessed. And so we celebrate this Abraham from the Jewish tradition, take with us that it is much nobler to believe God than to believe in God, and instead of asking for proof of God, let us provide the proof ourselves, through having an Abrahamic faith. Let us trust our one Lord, obey our one Lord, and love our one Lord just as father Abraham did. Let us pray… Lord of All, we come to you this morning with a knowing that you are real, that you are alive in our lives and that you promise us many wonderful things. We ask you to help us remember that what you communicate to us is True, that you desire for us to live our best lives. In order to do that we recognize that we must trust you. We must give our whole selves to you. We ask you to help us let go of our doubts and trust that you love us and want the best for us. We also pray that we are given the courage to obey you. And in that obedience, may we live the lives that you created for us – blessed lives filled with promise and fulfillment. We pray this in the name of father Abraham. Amen.

Stay Cool at the Battle Ground Community Center, Battle Ground Parks & Recreation will be opening the Battle Ground Community Center extended hours to offer a respite from the heat. The center, located at 912 East Main Street, will be open from 8am to 9pm each day from Tuesday, August 1 through Friday, August 4th and 3-9pm Saturday Aug 5th Patrons are encouraged to bring books, board games, puzzles, electronic devices and even a picnic meal as they enjoy the air conditioning. Public wifi is available for those who desire to play or work on remote devices. For more information, contact the Parks & Recreation Department at 360-342-5380 Battle Ground Baptist Church Aug 1st – Aug 3rd 12 pm – 6 pm

Pastor Susan's sermon 7.30.17 Perfect Forgiveness Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. ‘For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 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. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow-slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, “Pay what you owe.” Then his fellow-slave fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt. 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. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?” And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’ Who here is perfect? Raise your hand. Ah, OK, so none of us are perfect. Who here is without sin? And by that I mean who here has no barriers whatsoever to God’s loving presence? Sin is not some specific immoral act, it is what we do that separates us from God’s holy and perfect presence. There are lots and lots of things that separate us from God. The seven deadly sins starts off the list with pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth. Another sin that separates us from God is a lack of forgiveness. (that may fall under the pride category). So today, I’d like to spend some time on God’s forgiveness and on our forgiveness of others. If we get this forgiveness thing right, we will grow that much closer to the heart of God. And isn’t that what every one of us wants? Our scripture opens with a question from Peter, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Now, seven was considered a holy number, so what Peter is asking, thinking he is beginning to understand Jesus’ radical message, is ‘should we practice perfect forgiveness?’ But Jesus, who still can’t seem to get through to his numbskull disciples replies, “no you ninny, Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times!” In other words, we should forgive infinitely, beyond counting. And then he tells us this parable of the King who forgives. Part 1 God forgives us So, we have a slave, come to his Lord, owing 10,000 talents. Now that’s more money than was even circulating at the time. That number is so high that it is absolutely unattainable to owe that much or spend that much. Jesus is using imaginative hyperbole to make his point. He is exaggerating beyond comprehension so that his audience is sure they get the message. The Lord’s reaction to the debt is that the slave must be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and on top of that, the payment is still to be made. Which I’ve already said, would be impossible. So the slave humbled himself before the Lord and pleaded on his knees, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” The Lord then, took pity on the slave. And notice here what the Lord did. He didn’t give him more time to find the money to repay him, because he knew that there would be no earthly way the slave could ever come up with that kind of money. So, what did the Lord do? He forgave him the entire debt. The slave was totally and completely free from the bondage of his debt. Not owing a darn nickel! Boy, I’d love the Lord to come along and free me from all my credit card debt! What a freedom I would have if I wasn’t sunk in a hole of owing and owing and owing. But that’s the kind of grace God has for each and every one of us. But first, before God grants us that kind of forgiveness, we must first acknowledge that we owe God. We must first realize that we are in need of forgiveness. We must do some belly button gazing and realize that we are far from perfect and we continue to put barriers between ourselves and God. God forgives us when we humble ourselves and acknowledge we owe God an apology. If we don’t do that, we remain trapped and imprisoned in our own transgressions. But Jesus promises us, not only in this parable but throughout his ministry, that God is a forgiving, gracious, merciful God and deeply desires us to be free from that which binds us. All we have to do is seek that forgiveness by humbling ourselves and acknowledging that we mess up every now and then. Have any of you experienced that kind of divine forgiveness? We practice humbling ourselves and seeking forgiveness every time we enter into a time of confession each Sunday. Let’s try this now. What do you need to be forgiven for? Do you pray regularly and keep a connection with the divine? No? Well, God wants to have a relationship with you. How do you expect that to happen if you don’t pray and meditate? Do you depend on yourself instead of God? Well, maybe you’re playing God by thinking your will is superior to His will. The question is, what barriers do you build in your life that keep God out? How and when do you turn from God’s love and take your life in your own hands? If you can’t think of anything immediately, I encourage you to think about it over this week. None of us are perfect. All of us are broken. The question is, How do our lives NOT glorify God? Now, close your eyes. Lay before God that transgression, and ask for His forgiveness. If you sincerely, from the heart, humbly asked God to forgive you, you can be assured, that you are forgiven. Jesus tells us so. Praise God, we’re free! Part 2 We forgive others Now, once the slave was freed from his enormous un-payable debt, he left the Lord and ran into another slave that owed him 100 denarii. Again, Jesus uses imaginative hyperbole to make a point. 100 denarii was a very very miniscule amount of money. Unlike 10,000 talents, which is an obscene amount of money, this slave owed the first slave maybe a few dollars. But the first slave became violent, seizing him by the throat and demanding to be paid. Now remember, the first slave is entirely free from debt, it’s not like he needed the money. Never the less, he demanded this other slave pay him those few dollars immediately. The second slave uses the same exact words as the first slave. He humbly pleads from his knees, ‘“Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” But the first slave had no mercy and threw the man who owed just a few dollars into jail until he paid him what he owed. Remember, this is a parable having nothing to do with money, but everything to do with forgiveness. Do you have someone in your life who owes you? Owes you an apology? Owes you restitution? Owes you an amends? Have you forgiven that person? One thing I know for sure – we can’t hold onto any of God’s gifts unless we also give them away. Forgiveness is not ours to keep, we must forgive others. Every Sunday we all pray together: Forgive us our trespasses as we have forgiven those who trespass against us. This is not a one-way street! It goes both ways. We’re given the gift of freedom through God’s forgiveness and then we must respond to that gift. There is only ONE way we can respond, it is to pass it on and forgive those who trespass against us. That is the only way we can experience freedom. The torture that Jesus is talking about is the torture we experience when we do not forgive. I have a sister who has harmed me and my parents. I have a lot of work to do in that relationship. She has never asked for forgiveness, nor do I expect she ever will, but I continue to be tortured by that unresolved relationship. I bring that torture upon myself by not offering her mercy and grace. By not recognizing that she too is broken and needs my compassion. I have a lot of work to do around my sister and I know that forgiveness is the key. Do you have someone in your life that you can’t or won’t forgive for his or her transgressions? Let me warn you, while all the world’s major religions teach the necessity of forgiveness, it has only been recently that the medical and scientific world also began to delve into its importance for health and well being as forgiveness or lack thereof, deeply affects our emotional, spiritual and physical health. It’s torturous. Well, now I’m going to give you some tips as to how to release yourself from your self-imposed torture. Part 3 How we forgive First of all, forgiveness means to release, to let go of. Forgiveness is not denying our hurt. When we minimize what has happened to us, when we gloss over it, when we tell ourselves that it was not really that bad, we cannot really truly forgive. So the first thing we must do is acknowledge the truth. We must admit, yes, I have been hurt and it affects my life in this way (fill in the blank). We cannot offer forgiveness until we first acknowledge the hurt. Second, we cannot give away what we do not have. We cannot offer forgiveness to another unless we first receive forgiveness from the Divine. And we cannot receive forgiveness from the Divine until we first acknowledge humbly how we may have caused harm in our lives in some way. You all admitted you weren’t perfect 15 minutes ago, therefore, you have something to ask God to forgive. To know God is to know thyself. We must continue to look inward and be courageously honest with ourselves. Radically honest. We must be people who concern ourselves with the specks in our own eye rather than the planks in our neighbor’s eye. Without honesty, we fall into self-imposed torture. And finally, forgiveness is infinite. We forgive not seven times, but 77 times. We are to forgive and receive forgiveness without counting. We take in God’s forgiveness, then we pass on God’s forgiveness. We take it in, we pass it on, we take it in, we pass it on. It’s like breathing. Inhale Divine forgiveness, exhale divine forgiveness. Inhale forgiveness, exhale forgiveness. Inhale. Exhale. Not seven times, but over and over again until you stop breathing. That is the way of God. God is a God who forgives completely, and the body of Christ is called to do likewise. It’s not easy. But it’s pretty simple. If we want to be free, if we want to avoid our own personal hell, then the key is to forgive and be forgiven. Let it be so with each and every one of us here today. Amen.