Aloha Friday Message – March 17, 2017 – Third Friday of Lent

1711AFC031717 – Who will testify?

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By Liz Lemon Swindle

By Liz Lemon Swindle

John 4:41-42 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.” This was the result of the testimony of the Woman of Sychar at the well of Jacob.

Aloha nui loa, ʻŌmea! May grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. Once again, we are going to have a guest author today. I am led to give you the Testimony of the Word. My comments will be interspersed here and there, but mostly you will feed on The Word of the LORD. In this season of Lent, we call to mind the wonderful gift of repentance. The most amazing thing about repentance of sin is that it is always, always, always coupled with remission of sin. Let’s get into the Word and – one after the other – let’s see with our eye, hear with our hearts, and learn with our mind what God has prepared for those who love him.

Psalm 51:17 17 The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Contrite: sorry; remorseful; repentant; regretful; apologetic; penitent; ashamed. Contrition is the a priori condition for repentance. If we only recognize our sin, we are aware we are sinful, but if we recognize and regret our sin – when we feel remorse for what we have done – we have achieved contrition. You may recall The 7 R’s. The first 3 are Recognition, Remorse, and Repentance. Contrition leads to repentance – or at least it should. This leads to extraordinary graces. You can read about those here: Psalm 103:1-5.

We offer our contrition because it opens our hearts and lives to God’s forgiving and forgetfulness:

Isaiah 43:25 25 I, I am He
who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,
and I will not remember your sins.

Paul reminds us that this is God’s plan instituted the day Adam and Eve turned against him.

Acts 3:19-21 19 Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, 20 so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah appointed for you, that is, Jesus, 21 who must remain in heaven until the time of universal restoration that God announced long ago through his holy prophets.

Recognition, Remorse, and Repentance are gifts from God. We achieve them in, through, and for God. If we accept these gifts, they are permanently part of us and of our past. See Romans 11:29 29 … the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. We are called to love and serve God and when we do, we receive his gifts. Even if we sin or relapse into sin, he is always there with forgiveness for the humble and contrite of heart.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

We’ve presented the idea that repentance is a turning-around, a metanoia, in which we resolved to stop sinning and to live a life more in tune with God. Sometimes this means we must abandon those who tempt us or direct us into temptation. Jude 1:20-23 20 But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; 21 keep yourselves in the love of God; look forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on some who are wavering; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; and have mercy on still others with fear, hating even the tunic defiled by their bodies.

It is our faith, bolstered by the Holy Spirit, which gives us the strength to turn away from sin and the circumstances that make sin attractive – the near occasion of sin or the desire to be tempted.

Because we know in our hearts what sin is, we know when we have sinned. That old malarkey about “what’s true for you may not be true for me,” is the Original Lie that led to the Original Sin. We’re not ignorant of the difference between right and wrong. It’s right there in front of us even if we deny there is such a thing. Acts 17:30-31 30 While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.

There is a Day of Reward coming. Every living soul will receive her/his reward. For some, the reward is Eternal Life in the Presence of God. For others it is Eternal Life in the Absence of God. I’ve said this many times recently – YOLO and it’s forever. So how do we make sure we spend that forever with God? Here’s what the Apostle Peter said:

Acts 2:38 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Why does God even care if we repent? Because he is CRAZY in LOVE with us! He doesn’t want the sinner to die. Look what Ezekiel repeatedly tells Israel (and therefore us):

Ezekiel 18:23 23 Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that they should turn from their ways and live?

Ezekiel 18:32 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.

Ezekiel 33:11 11 Say to them, As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?

Jesus himself told us that repentance brings rejoicing to God and all the angels.

Luke 15:7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Can you imagine that? When we repent, HEAVEN REJOICES?!? Luke 15:10 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

And what is the outcome of that repentance? Eternal life with God. How do we get there? Belovéd, you know that answer! It’s in John 1:1-17  (see especially John 1:12) and John 3:16-17. (Go ahead and read those passages. Jesus is telling you The Truth.) How and why were Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection  which brought salvation and eternal life made known to us? It came through his Apostles.

Luke 24:46-47 46 … and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

How can this be? How can God forgive me, forgive you, forgive us who have sinned and will doubtless continue to sin? Romans 5:5b-8 5b … because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

How often will he do that? Let’s look for an answer. Do you ever pray The Lord’s Prayer? When you do, are you certain you are praying it and not reciting it? We hear it, say it, pray it, and display it so often it sort of gets camouflaged in our sense of the passage of time. Now, it doesn’t matter much if you say “trespasses,” or “debts,” or “sins.” We all understand what that means, and of course we understand the meanings of the corresponding terms – those who trespass, debtors, those who sin – as the persons outside of us who may have wronged us in some way. Not a problem. The problem is in the “forgive.”

Do we recite The Lord’s Prayer, or do we pray it? What do we mean, what is our intention, when we say, as in Matthew 6:12-1412 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. 14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. That little word “as” is so powerful! Do we want God to forgive us precisely the way we forgive others? How often do we have to forgive? The Pharisees in Jesus’ day said three times was enough. Peter was showing off in front of the others and tried to show that he would be more generous than the Pharisees in his forgiveness: Matthew 18:21-22 21 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?” 22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven [or seventy times seven] times.”

That term in Greek is ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά (hebdomēkontakis hepta’) { heb-dom-ay-kon-tak-is hep-tah’} and it means 70 X 7. Four-hundred-ninety times. I’ve heard some scholars say it means 77 X 7; that’s 539 times! Seriously, who among us is going to keep track that long? And if so, how could keeping track for that long possibly be forgiveness as God intends? Jesus shows Peter – and us – that God never runs out of forgiveness. Remember, even if a mother could forget the child in her womb, God will not forget us; but he does forget our sins!

What about those who are not members of the Church? How often do we forgive them? They are our neighbors, and we are to love them as we love ourselves and each other, so 490 sounds about right for them, too. We need to stop revolting against God. How can he forgive our treason if we continue to fight against him? We need to repent and believe the Gospel. Do not think of you repentance as the cause of your forgiveness, but rather understand that forgiveness is the companion of repentance.

Having done so, you will be like the woman of Sychar who testified to the presence of the Messiah and you will truly know joy like this:

Joyous Testimony

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Belovéd!

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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