It looks like the warm weather is leaving us for a little bit, but it was great while it lasted!
This year the Greenfield FFA group chose our church to visit. This past Sunday we enjoyed the presence of Cody Short, Gordon Campbell, and Jessie Barry, as well as their advisor, Sarah Abbott, and Todd Barry, Jessie’s Dad. Thank you, friends, for worshiping with us. Your presence was a blessing, and I hope you were blessed likewise. I also want to thank Casey Short for being a part of the “worship team” by reading during worship on Sunday. You did a great job!
Join us next Sunday as we ordain and install our newest elder and member of our session, Pat Burns. We are excited for Pat to join our leadership team. Come and celebrate with us at 11 a.m. worship.
I spent part of the weekend at a competition for my son’s Winter Drum Line and my daughter’s Winter Guard programs. It was exciting to see the different groups. Such variety and talent! At the end, when we heard the judge’s scores, there were cheers and jeers, while some celebrated great scores and others thought they had been robbed.
Judges, we all have them, not like the competition, of course. In fact, most of us will never stand before a judge or panel of judges to evaluate our actions or performance, and yet we all are judged on a regular basis. The judges you stand in front of? Could be your neighbor, your coworker or employer, a family member, or maybe just someone on the street judging your clothing, your actions, your words, your possessions, your character. We are all judged on a regular basis, but thankfully, most judgments mean very little to us or to them, just transitory thoughts as we pass by.
While studying the Sermon on the Mount for church this past week, I was reminded again how Jesus’ words relate to not just how we act, but to how we think. We talked about that on Sunday, so I won’t belabor it, but I do want to expand a little on how we deal with being judged.
No one likes to be criticized, although we all LOVE to be congratulated and complimented. And we definitely don’t like to be pushed around by anyone. I suppose the real question I am asking today is, Why is it so hard to hear criticism and even supportive suggestions? Why is it so hurtful to hear what others have to say? It is hard to receive criticism, and often even harder to respond gently to a person’s words, especially when they are meant to be hurtful. How can we hear what others have to say and still stand tall?
A great example of someone who could take criticism well is our Savior himself. As Jesus preached, taught, and traveled, many followed him, but many also criticized and picked at his every word. We might assume that because He was God in flesh He was able to rebuff the comments, but remember, Jesus was as human as each of us. What did He have that enabled Him to stand tall even when He was being attacked?
Jesus knew who He was. Great, you may say, He was God. How does that help me? I am not God, and in fact, I’m just an ordinary person, nothing great. I agree. At first glance none of us is anything special, just one of the billions of people on this planet struggling to get by. So what does make you special?
1. You are created to be like God. “Let us make man [human] in our image . . .” (Genesis 1:26). You don’t technically look like God, walk like God, or sound like God, but you are made in God’s image. David understood this when he said, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:13,14).
My friend, you are created differently than any other, from head to toe. Although you share the same physical characteristics, you are different. God has given us the ability to think, to reason, to develop ideas and plans, and to choose to love. Your body may not reflect this image, but your spirit does, the deep inner part of you that is able to know God.
2. You are created to be friends with God. In the Garden of Eden, God came down and “walked” in the garden with Adam and Eve. They shared time together, as friends, as mentor and mentee, as family. However, after Adam and Eve’s sin and fall from grace, that relationship was broken. They were cast out of the garden to work and fend for themselves, although God did still provide for them. Separated from God’s presence, they knew God through their worship and through God’s creation. But they weren’t left without a road map. God promised a Savior, One who would come and restore the broken relationship. Enter Jesus, who called us “friends” once again (John 15:15). God in flesh, Jesus let us know that we no longer needed to be separated from God, but that we could be God’s friend again, through Him.
3. But I still mess up! You might say. I still am a goofball screw-up who says the wrong things and does the wrong things. Jesus made the sacrifice for EVERY one of us, to pay for the sin and separation from God that we could come again into God’s presence. Paul understood this when he said, “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! [seeing myself for what I have been] Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! [Seeing what I am in Christ!] (Romans 7:21-25).
4. But it still hurts when people talk about me or criticize me, you might say. That is where knowing that Christ is with you is imperative. First of all, Paul says, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? . . . Who then is the one who condemns? No one.” (Romans 8:31, 34). Although someone can judge our actions, our performance, or our looks, no one can judge who we really are, the person behind all of those things if we are in Christ. “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (vv 38,39). It is God’s love in us that makes us strong, the true value.
How can we stand tall in the face of criticism, constructive suggestions, and our own failures? It may not be easy, but the truth is that when we recognize that we were made to be God’s children, and that is what we can be through Christ’s sacrifice, we can stand tall knowing that even when we fall short, we are still loved by the One who created us, the one who will never let us go!
Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church