the pastor's story file
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THEME: Forgiveness — II Number 18 — April / 1986
WORDS ON AN EPITAPH As Copernicus, the great astronomer, was dying, a copy of his great book, The Revolution of the Heavenly Bodies, was placed in his hands. But it was not his brilliant work that was on his mind. Instead he directed that the following epitaph be placed on his grave at Frauenburg: "0 Lord, the faith thou didst give to St. Paul, I cannot ask; the mercy thou didst show to St. Peter, I dare not ask; but, Lord, the grace thou didst show unto the dying robber, that, Lord, show to me." There is no one who cannot come to God under those terms.
From Preaching Without Notes, by Clarence E. Macartney.
Submitted by Lee Eclov, Chippewa Evangelical Free Church, Beaver Falls,
THE SCANDAL OF THE CROSS On the evening of April 25th, 1958, a young Korean exchange student, a leader in student Christian affairs in the University of Pennsylvania, left his flat and went to the corner to post a letter to his parents in Pusan. Turning from the mailbox he stepped into the path of eleven leather-jacketed teenage boys. Without a word they attacked him, beating him with a black-jack, a lead pipe and with their shoes and fists. Later, when the police found him in the gutter, he was dead. All Philadelphia cried out for vengeance. The District Attorney secured legal authority to try the boys as adults so that those found guilty could be given the death penalty. Then a letter arrived from Korea that made everyone stop and think. It was signed by the parents and by twenty other relatives of the murdered boy. It read in part:
"Our family has met together and we have decided to petition that the most generous treatment possible within the laws of your government be given to those who have committed this criminal action ... In order to give evidence of our sincere hope contained in this petition, we have decided to save money to start a fund to be used for the religious, educational, vocational and social guidance of the boys when they are released ... We have dared to express our hope with a spirit received from the Gospel of our Saviour Jesus Christ who died for our sins."
From Beneath The Cross of Jesus, A. Leonard Griffith (Abingdon, 1961).
Submitted by Frank Barker, Mount Vernon, Washington.
TIME FOR FORGIVENESS Some years ago, after a vigorous brotherly and sisterly disagreement, our three children retired only to be aroused at two o'clock in the morning by a terrific thunderstorm. Hearing an unusual noise upstairs I called in to find out what was going on. A little voice answered, "We are all in the closet forgiving each other."
Robert C. Tuttle, Christian Advocate.
FORGIVING AND FORGETTING Several years ago, Coach Joe Paterno and his Penn State football team were playing for the national championship against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. They probably would have won, but they had a touchdown called back because there was a twelfth man on the field. After the game, Paterno was asked to identify the man:
"It's only a game," he said. "I have no intention of ever identifying the boy. He just made a mistake."
Submitted by Bill Ehlers, Minnetonka Community Church, Minnetonka, Minnesota.
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OBJECTIVITY General Robert E. Lee was asked what he thought of a fellow officer in the Confederate Army who had made some derogatory remarks about him. Lee rated him as being very satisfactory. The person who asked the question seemed perplexed. "General," he said, "I guess you don't know what he's been saying about you." "I know," answered Lee. "But I was asked my opinion of him, not his opinion of me!"
Submitted by Wayne Hollaway, First Baptist Church, Pine Mountain, Georgia.
WISE MAN & FOOL The story is told of a rich man in Springfield, Illinois, who insisted that a certain poor man owed him $2.50. When the claim was denied, the rich man decided to sue him. He contacted a young lawyer named Lincoln, who at first hesitated to take the case. On second thought he agreed — if he'd be paid a fee of $10 cash in advance. The client readily produced the money, whereupon Lincoln went to the poor man and offered him $5 if he would immediately settle the alleged debt. Thus Lincoln received $5 for himself, the poor man got $2.50, and the claim was satisfied. The rich man foolishly paid three times the original debt, just to gain his rights.
Submitted by Wayne Hollaway, First Baptist Church, Pine Mountain, Georgia.
A SMILE WILL DO The following story is from an article entitled, "Your Daffodils are Pretty," (Christianity Today, March 2, 1979, p. 18), in which Josephine Ligon tells of a family in the town where she grew up who preached and practiced forgiveness. Their name was Parsons.
On one occasion, Mr. Parsons watched young Josephine get swatted by the broom of a mean old lady in town who didn't like the neighborhood children getting too close to her property. He stopped Josephine and told her, "Go back and tell Mrs. Brink that you forgive her for hitting you."
"Say, 'I forgive you' to Mrs. Brink?"
Mr. Parsons smiled. "Forgiveness comes in many forms," he said. "You don't actually have to say, 'I forgive you.' A simple smile will do. You might just tell her that her daffodils are pretty."
It seemed dumb to young Josephine, but in those days children did what their elders told them to do. So, she went back and mumbled something to Mrs. Brink about her daffodils being pretty. Mrs. Brink looked shocked, but it was the last time Josephine ever felt her broom.
On another occasion Josephine and several of her third grade friends put a handful of pencil shavings into the Parsons girl's sandwich, just to be mean and to make her mad. But she didn't get mad. Instead, the next day, without any sign of repentance from her persecutors, the Parsons girl brought everyone in the class a large, beautiful, delicious, hand-decorated cookie which said, "Jesus loves you." Years later Josephine Ligon still remembers that demonstration of forgiveness more than any sermon. Forgiveness is more than words; it's action!
Submitted by Rev. Steven J. Cole, Cedarpines Community Church, Crestline,
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PLACING BLAME The man who blames others for his problems hasn't begun his education. The man who blames himself has begun his education. And the man who blames no one has finished his education.
Submitted by Rev. Bill Wilson, Unity of the Valley, Eugene, Oregon.
WHAT PRICE REVENGE? Some years ago, during a visit to Yellowstone Park, one writer observed that the only animal that the grizzly bear would share his food with was a skunk. It wasn't that the grizzly wanted to share his food but rather that he chose to. With one swing of his powerful paw he could have crushed the skunk. So why did he allow the skunk to eat with him?
Because he knew the high cost of getting even.
Submitted by Dick Innes, Claremont, California.
LIMITED FORGIVENESS I was assisting another pastor in a revival meeting when we visited a man who had been active in the church, but, due to a dispute with a fellow member, he had quit attending church. We reasoned with him at length about the need for forgiveness and returning to church. Reluctantly, he agreed, and we had prayer together. When we were leaving, he followed us to the car and said, "Now, I 11 forgive him, but all I want is for him to stay on his side of the road, and I'll stay
Submitted by M. B. Webb, Monetta, South Carolina.
BUYING FORGIVENESS The mother of two young boys was having difficulty disciplining the younger son. Because he was bigger than his older brother he had developed the bad habit of using his superior size to attain his way. The mother made a desperate speech to the younger bully and shared how much it hurt her to see him strike his brother. For a few days her talk produced the desired results, but then one day she walked into the room where the boys were playing just in time to see the youngest son resort to his old habit of striking his smaller brother. The son's eyes caught the disappointed eyes of his mother while his hand still felt the impact of his blow.
The mother left the room without a word, but the tear in her eye struck a damaging blow to her son's heart. Before long he ran into the kitchen and pleaded, "Mom, do you want me to help you do the dishes?" With a firmness he was unaccustomed to, she replied, "No." Later in the day he ran to her and anxiously announced, "I'll take the garbage out for you mom." But the mother responded, "No, thank you," without even glancing in his direction.
We all know that a young child cannot exist very long when his relationship with his mother has been strained. When he had reached his breaking point the disobedient child ran to his mother threw his arms around her waist and sobbed, "Oh, mom, I'm sorry I hit him. I'll never, never do it again. Please forgive me."
So many of us treat our Heavenly Father that way. When we know we have sinned against Him and broken our fellowship with Him we try to buy His forgiveness by doing some good deed, or giving an extra effort, but that isn't good enough. God wants us to respond to Him as the son did to his mother and throw ourselves upon His mercy, repenting of our sin and begging our Father to restore our fellowship with Him. Then the warmth of forgiveness will bring the miracle of healing to a broken relationship. Submitted by Dr. Ronald E. Stewart, Northside Baptist Church, Lebanon, Ohio.
DIVINE DEFIANCE Here is the true story of Edith Taylor. It appeared in the March issue of Guideposts, movingly written by Bob Considine, a noted author and newspaper columnist. Edith and her husband Karl lived until 1950 in Waltham, Massachusetts. They had been happily married for twenty-three years. Karl was a devoted husband. On his frequent business trips he never failed to write daily to his wife, but when the government sent him to Okinawa for a few months, and the months dragged into a year,
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with letters coining at longer and longer intervals, Edith began to worry.
Then, after weeks of silence, came a letter: "Dear Edith, I wish there were a kinder way to tell you that we are no longer married ..." Karl had written to Mexico for a divorce in order to be free to marry his young Japanese servant-girl Aiko. At this point Bob Considine says that if he had been making up the story, the rejected wife would have fought the paper-divorce; she would have hated her husband and the woman and wanted vengeance for her own shattered life. Instead, the writer tells us what actually did happen. For so long Edith Taylor had loved her husband that she was unable to stop loving him. She knew that what he had done must have been a matter of honor, so she wrote to him, begging him not to lose touch with her, but to write occasionally, telling her of the small day-to-day things in his life. In this way she learned of the two daughters born to Karl and Aiko. Edith sent presents to them.
One day she received the dreadful news that Karl was dying of lung cancer. He feared not so much for himself as for the little girls and what might happen to them. If only he could have afforded to send them to school in America. At once Edith knew that her last gift to Karl would be peace of mind for these final weeks. Let him send the children to America; she would give them a home, send them to school, be a mother to them. After Karl's death the girls came, but it wasn't easy for Edith, being a wage-earner. It meant hiring a housekeeper which she could ill afford; and one day as she lay sick in hospital, wondering what would happen to the children as she herself grew older, a decision was born in her mind: she must send for the girl's real mother and bring her to America too. It seemed unthinkable at first. Surely she had already done far more than her love for Karl demanded; yet her duty seemed inescapably clear.
When the plane bringing Aiko Taylor landed at New York's International Airport, Edith had a moment of fear, but fear turned to compassion when she saw the girl, for she was little more than a girl, so thin and frightened, clutching the hand-rail. Edith embraced her, and as she took her into her arms, she asked God, "Help me to love this girl as if she were a part of Karl come home. I prayed for him to come back. Now he has — in his two little daughters and in this gentle girl whom he loved. Help me, God, to know that." Today this strange family lives together in Waltham, and they are happy. The children are doing well in school. Aiko is studying to be a nurse. Edith Taylor tells her friends that she is "the luckiest woman on the block."
From The Roman Letter For Today, A Leonard Griffith (Abingdon, 1960). Submitted
by Frank Barker, Mount Vernon, Washington.
THE CRUCIAL WORD Dwight Moody's father died when Dwight was only four. A month later Mrs. Moody gave birth to twins; she now had nine mouths to feed and no income. Merciless creditors dogged the widow, claiming everything they could get their hands on.
As if Mrs. Moody didn't have enough troubles, her eldest boy later ran away from home. Certain that her son would return, Mrs. Moody placed a light for him in the window each night. Young Dwight was inspired by her faith and prayers. He wrote: "I can remember how eagerly she used to look for tidings of that boy; how she used to send us to the post office to see if there was a letter from him . . . some night when the wind was very high, and the house would tremble at every gust, the voice of my mother was raised in prayer for that wanderer."
Her prayers were answered. Her prodigal son did eventually return. Dwight remembered: "While my mother was sitting at the door, a stranger was seen coming toward the house, and when he came to the door he stopped. My mother didn't know her boy. He stood there with folded arms and a great beard flowing down his breast, his tears trickling down his face. When my mother saw those tears she cried, 'Oh it's my lost son!' and entreated him to come in. But he stood still! 'No mother,' he answered, 'I will not come in until I hear first that you have forgiven me.'"
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Mrs. Moody was only too willing to forgive. She rushed to the door, threw her arms around him, and there the prodigal found forgiveness.
Submitted by Ken Davisdon, First Christian Church, Stockbridge, Georgia.
THE CROSS SHOWS HOW HARD IT WAS FOR GOD TO FORGIVE
Hard it is, very hard,
To travel up the slow and stony road
To Calvary, to redeem mankind; far better
To make but one resplendent miracle,
Lean through the cloud, lift the right hand of power
And with a sudden lightning smite the world perfect.
Yet this was not God's way, Who had the power, But set it by, choosing the cross, the thorn, The sorrowful wounds. Something there is, perhaps, That power destroys in passing, something supreme, To whose great value in the eyes of God
That cross, that thorn, and those five wounds bear witness. Dorothy Sayers
Submitted by Robert Strand, Assembly of God, Grand Junction, Colorado.
THE MARK OF FORGIVENESS In my second year of seminary I worked as a dorm supervisor for the New Jersey School for the Deaf. On Sunday a worship service was held for the children remaining for the weekend. I remember the first time I saw the sign for "Jesus" — the right hand used the little finger to draw the letter "J", then ending in the palm of the other hand to signify Jesus' nail imprint. The very name of Jesus tells us of Jesus' suffering and forgiveness of our sins!
Submitted by Dick Underdahl-Peirce, Woodbury, Minnesota.
EVEN BETTER THAN MOTHER A little boy disobeyed his mother. But his conscience began to hurt him, and he was sneaking up to his room when his mother saw him. "Where are you going, Frank?" she asked. "To my room to talk to God."
"Is it something you can't tell me?"
Frank explained, "Yes, it is. You'll just scold and punish me while God will forgive and forget all about it." Out of the mouths of babes.
Submitted by Dick Underdahl-Peirce, Woodbury, Minnesota.
ENEMIES AND FRIENDS In the days of the American Revolution, a Baptist minister, Peter Miller, enjoyed the friendship of General Washington. In the same town in which Miller lived was a man named Michael Wittman, an evil man who did all in his power to abuse and oppose the minister — but Wittman was involved in treason and was arrested, and sentenced to death. The old preacher walked 70 miles to Philadelphia to plead for the man's life. But Washington said, "No, Peter, I cannot grant you the life of your friend."
Miller exclaimed, "My friend? He is the bitterest enemy I have!"
Washington inquired, "You've walked 70 miles to save the life of an enemy? That puts the matter in a different light. I will grant the pardon."
Maxwell Droke, The Speaker's Book of Illustrative Stories.
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A FATHER'S PRAYER Upon the Murder of His Son
We remember not only Bahrain, But also his murderers.
Not because they killed him in the prime of his youth
and made our hearts bleed and our tears flow; Not because with this savage act they have brought further
disgrace on the name of our country among the civilized nations of
the world; But because through their crime we now follow Thy footsteps
more closely in the way of sacrifice.
The terrible fire of this calamity burns up all
selfishness and possessiveness in us; Its flame reveals the depth of depravity and meanness and suspicion,
the dimension of hatred and the measure of sinfulness in human
nature; It makes obvious as never before our need to trust in God's love
as shown in the Cross of Jesus and His Resurrection; Love which makes us free from hate toward our persecutors; Love which brings patience, forbearance, courage, loyalty,
humility, generosity, greatness of heart.
Love which more than ever deepens our trust in God's final victory and His eternal designs for the Church and for the world;
Love which teaches us how to prepare ourselves to face our own day of death.
Bahrain's blood has multiplied, the fruit of the Spirit
in the soil of our souls; So when the murderers stand before Thee
on the day of Judgment Remember the fruit of the Spirit by which
they have enriched our lives,
The above was written in May, 1980 in Cyprus by Hassan B. Dehqani-Tafti, President-Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East and Bishop in Iran. Submitted by Dick Underdahl-Peirce, Woodbury, Minnesota.
I NEEDED TO FORGIVE This past summer the Columbus Dispatch carried a story about a couple from Hopkinsville, Kentucky whose son was killed by a drunk driver:
For more than two years, Frank and Elizabeth Morris dedicated their lives to punishing the drunken driver who had killed their only child. Driven by hatred, they monitored his every court appearance, followed him to the county jail to make sure he was serving his weekend sentence and watched his apartment to try to catch his violating his probation.
"We wanted him in prison," Mrs. Morris said. "We wanted him dead."
Tommy Pigage, the young man who caused the fatal crash still gets a lot of attention
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from the Morrises. They drive him to church twice a week and often set a place for him at their dinner table. Unable to find satisfaction through revenge, the couple recently decided to forgive Pigage and try to rebuild his life along with their own.
"The hate and bitterness I was feeling was destroying me," Mrs. Morris said, "I needed to forgive Tommy to save myself."
Since the Morrises made their decision to befriend him, Pigage, 26, has joined their church, quit drinking and become an active lecturer for Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. Submitted by Robert Marino, Baptist Church, Green Camp, Ohio.
TRAVEL LIGHT For nearly an hour the woman and I dueled over a place in the line inching toward the check-in counter at the Denver airport. I nudged my suitcase ahead with my foot, while her son, at her urgings, tried to push his suitcase ahead of mine. I wouldn't let him in. Yesterday a man had cut in ahead of me at a gas station, and today I would yield to no one.
The victory, however, was the woman's, for just as she reached the counter she seemed to pop up from nowhere with the family luggage already on the scales and tickets spread out before the clerk. As I watched her enter the electronic surveillance unit, I was burning with rage.
Suddenly I heard someone call my name, and Marion Peters, the nurse who'd once cared so lovingly for my mother, appeared out of the crowd.
"What on earth are you thinking about?" she asked with a laugh. "You look furious!" As I told her about the battle of the suitcases, she took my flight bag out of my hand, and said, "Come on. I'll walk you to your gate. My, this is heavy. What's in it?"
"Everything," I replied. "I'm going to visit six European countries."
"With all that luggage? How much does your suitcase weigh — the one you checked through?"
"Twenty-three pounds." "And your other suitcase?" "What other?"
"The one carrying your grudge. Yes, my dear. If you land in Europe with this anger in your heart, you might as well carry a suitcase full of lead. It will ruin your trip. I'd get rid of it now. Travel light."
I thought about this when I saw The Woman sitting in the boarding area. She looked tired. "Look," I said to her with a smile, "I felt silly pushing my suitcase ahead of yours. I don't know who was right, and it doesn't matter. I'm sorry if I made you uncomfortable."
"Oh, thank you," she said. "I've felt so silly, too — and wrong." In that moment, I knew that her luggage, too, had been lightened.
The Lord said, "If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar ..." Then Jesus added, "First be reconciled to thy brother ..." (Matthew 5:23,24) Life itself is a journey, I've learned, and it's a lot easier if you "travel light." Lorraine Boschi, Guideposts.
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ON ONE CONDITION Michael Christopher's play "The Black Angel" tells the story of Herman Engel, a German general during World War II. He was sentenced by the Nuremberg Court to thirty years in prison for the atrocities committed by his army. The play tells the story of a French journalist, Morrieaux, whose whole family had been massacred by Engel?s army. For years Morrieaux had nurtured his hatred and hungered for vengance. Upon Engel's release, he had stoked up the fanatics who had also lost family and friends at Engel's hand. They established a plot to burn down the cabin that he was living in and shoot Engel and his wife. Morrieaux, however, wanted to get to Engel beforehand. He wanted to hear the whole story, he wanted Engel to confess to the wrong he had done. He spent the afternoon grilling Engel, trying to fill the gaps. But Engelfs feeble humanity confused Morrieaux, for he seemed less like a monster and more like a tired old man. So it was that doubt began to blurr his vengeance and the purity of his hatred was contaminated. But the wheels had already been put into motion. In a short time they would be coming to burn the cabin. Finally, driven by his doubts, Morrieaux blurts out the plan and offered to lead Engel out of the woods and save his life. Engel slowly replies: "111 go with you, on one condition . . . "For having his own life saved?" Morrieaux began to wonder. Finally Engel continued, "... that you forgive me."
Submitted by Janet Macgregor, Sanford Heights United Presbyterian Church,
Irvington, New Jersey.
YES, IT'S HARD TO TRULY FORGIVE A man lay on his death bed, harassed by fear because he had harbored hatred against another. He sent for the individual with whom he had had a disagreement years before; he then made overtures of peace. The two of them shook hands in friendship. But as the visitor left the room, the sick man roused himself and said, "Remember, if I get over this, the old quarrel stands." G. Ray Jordan, Pulpit Preaching
Apology ... An apology is a good way to have the last word."
Submitted by Janet Macgregor, Sanford Heights United Presbyterian Church, Irvington, New Jersey.
The Degree of Forgiveness ... We pardon in the degree that we love. Francois del la Rochefoucauld