Words of life

A Thought To Ponder:

 “He that cannot forgive others, breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass if he would ever reach heaven; for every one has need of forgiveness.”  –  George Herbert

Words are powerful beyond measure. They can inspire us to take up the cause of the broken.  They can incite us to violence and unspeakable acts of cruelty. They can calm and soothe or inflame and destroy.  So many words these past few weeks have been spoken in bitterness and anger effectively dividing us as a people. 

James speaks of the creative force of words.  “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”  It was by God’s words that we were birthed into a new reality.  Words have the power to eternally change us. 

That was true for Chiune Sugihara.  During World War II, Sugihara served as Vice-Consul of the Japanese Embassy in Lithuania.  Thousands of Polish Jewish refugees relocated there as the Third Reich expanded across Europe.  With Nazi invasion imminent, thousands of Jews encircled the consulate and requested travel visas to escape.  From July 31st to August 28, 1940, Sugihara spent 18-20 hours a day hand writing what would become the words of life for thousands of Jews.   

On September 4th, the consulate was closed and Sugihara was forced to flee the country.   In an act of desperation, he flung blank sheets of paper with only the consulate seal and his signature from the train.  These were later written as visas and resulted in saving the lives of hundreds more.  As he left Sugihara said,  “please forgive me. I cannot write anymore. I wish you the best.”

It is estimated that his bravery saved the lives of over 6,000 Jews.  There are 40, 000 people alive today that can trace their lineage back to one of the families he rescued.  That is the power of words.  Words on a sheet of paper were the difference between life and death.   And it’s the simple words of Jesus spoken in prayer, offered to the lame, and uttered on the cross that creates life again for us.  The word is “forgiven.”   Forgive us our debts.  Your sins are forgiven.  Father, forgive them.  Powerful words.  Words of hope and rescue.  Words to be cherished.  And, words to be shared with others.

Questions To Discuss:

1.  When Jesus prays that God would forgive our debts, how do you think we are indebted to God?  What do we owe Him?

2.  Have you ever had to ask someone to forgive you for something you did to them?  Has anyone ever asked you for forgiveness?  Which was more difficult to ask for forgiveness or to extend it?

3.  Jesus says we are to forgive others in the same way God forgave us.  What does He mean by that?  Why would God not forgive us if we are unwilling to forgive others?

4.  Consider this quote by Frederich Buechner:  “…God’s forgiveness is not conditional upon our forgiving others. In the first place, forgiveness that’s conditional isn’t really forgiveness at all, just Fair Warning, and in the second place our unforgivingness is among those things about us which we need to have God forgive us most. What Jesus apparently is saying is that the pride which keeps us from forgiving is the same pride which keeps us from accepting forgiveness, and will God please help us do something about it.”(Frederick Buechner; Wishful Thinking, A Theological ABC; Page 29.)

5.  Jeff talked about how the gifts God gives us often become the idols we worship in His place.  Why do you think we are prone to worship the gifts instead of the giver?

6.  If you could walk through your own “Museum of Broken Relationships” what might you see in the exhibits there?  Would you want to see these things?  How do we find healing in the middle of our brokenness?

A Prayer For Change:

Here’s two verses from a wonderful hymn to focus our prayer time this week:

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,

forgive our foolish ways;

reclothe us in our rightful mind,

in purer lives thy service find,

in deeper reverence, praise.

Drop thy still dews of quietness,

till all our strivings cease;

take from our souls the strain and stress,

and let our ordered lives confess

the beauty of thy peace.

-John Greenleaf Whittier

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