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Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Spring (in the Southern hemisphere) Pastoral Letter from Cedric, DentalMethodist

September 2014
Dear AMC and JohnWesleyProject Family,

I am aware that the majority of followers of my blog live in the Northern hemisphere, while I live in the Southern hemisphere in sunny, almost all of the year round, South Africa. This picture entitled Autumn vs Spring by Kopczynski-Adam (sourced here) best sums my dilemma as I write for my local congregation here at AMC and my worldwide JohnWesleyProject.com family.
Our Gospel text from the Revised Common Lectionary (followed by churches worldwide) for the first (Southern hemisphere) Sunday in Spring/September is Matthew 18:15-20 and includes the following command of Jesus:

 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

Next Sunday, the second Sunday of Spring, our text includes these words from Peter:

 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

The deepest wounds feel like they'll last a lifetime: The absent mother who robbed you of the mother-daughter bond you craved and deserved. The eighth-grade bully who turned the classroom into a living nightmare. The boyfriend who broke his promises and chose her instead....we each have folk who have hurt us. You feel bitter. You still hold a grudge. But clinging to those betrayals and disappointments, that hurt, is bad for the body and mind. I read an article by a clinical psychologist recently in which he states a truth I think we all know: "It's inevitable that we'll all be hurt by others, and that it will happen often. People have accidents, make mistakes, behave selfishly and even intentionally try to hurt one another. We can't escape it. Forgiveness is a vulnerable act that can feel like it opens us up to more pain. But we need to have a way to process and let go of the effects of injury, or we risk serious physical and emotional consequences."

Indeed, experts say that forgiving those who have wronged us helps lower blood pressure, cholesterol and heart rate. One study found that forgiveness is associated with improved sleep quality, which has a strong effect on health. And Duke University researchers report a strong correlation between forgiveness and strengthened immunity among HIV-positive patients. The benefits aren't just limited to the physical, either: Letting go of old grudges reduces levels of depression, anxiety and anger. People who forgive tend to have better relationships, feel happier and more optimistic and overall, enjoy better psychological well-being.

It is no wonder that Jesus speaks so often and so authoritatively on the subject of forgiveness, but my experience is that this is one area where we as disciples of Christ often choose to not let His word have authority over us. The result of this sin leads to much conflict in families, workplaces and of course, in the church. I often find that for most of us it hurts more when we are hurt in the church, because we believe that this is meant to be a safe place. I have seen in the lectionary readings for the next two weeks a God-given opportunity for us to submit to the authority of the Word and, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, ask Him who we need to forgive, who we need to ask forgiveness from, and then ask for His grace to do these in a way that helps His Kingdom to come and His will to be done in our homes, workplaces and church. To help us in this I've included a series of devotions, which while aimed at leaders, speak to each of us as individuals as well. Please consider using them over a five day period soon. I look forward to testimonies of how extending and asking forgiveness changes anger, bitterness and resentment into the beautiful (Spring) fruit of the Spirit.

Much love and grace and peace to us all in the LORD Jesus Christ, 
                       Cedric

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