Dear First Pres Family,
On Sunday I couldn’t resist sharing what I experienced to be a seasonally delightful cartoon. It briefly, and yes, tangentially, kicked off my sermon; and yes, now my Tuesday Notes. It was a four quadrant cartoon: a picture of Humpty Dumpty in a coat walking through fallen leaves on the sidewalk; then sitting reading a book by the fireplace; then carving a pumpkin; then picking apples. The caption put it all together: “Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.” (Laugh track)
Its simplicity and sweet humor worked for me. Apparently it didn’t work for everyone. But not my first trip down that road. If you happened to miss more than that on Sunday, you can listen to it here… It was a holiday and Marathon weekend for many, so a few folks seemed to be out… having a great fall.
We concluded our engaging “Outrageous Love” series. And the love that we considered was that which Jesus, in his final moments, poured generously upon an individual usually associated with Good Friday. We reflected on the thief on the cross from Luke 23. This man was one who recognized that he was getting what he deserved. But he saw without question that Jesus had done nothing to deserve the same punishment. In deeply repentant and gentle words he asks Jesus “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
After what was likely a harsh and dark life, this criminal was on the precipice of eternity. His back was as against the wall as it could be. As he hung there dying, there was no more he could do to right the ship of his life; save one thing. He spoke words of understanding, humility and repentance. He cried out to the one, dying right next to him; the one who was the innocent Lamb of God, who came to take away the sins of the world.
Jesus indeed had the weight of the sin of the world upon him. He endured the profound agony of the cross and was separated from and forsaken by his Father. He was betrayed by a disciple and had another deny him. Insults and mocking were piled on him for hours. In the midst of all that, and more, Jesus responds tenderly and powerfully to this man. “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
This thief, made in the image of God, experienced an incredible outpouring of God’s grace and love. He certainly did not deserve this gift. Yet indeed, to be clear, not a one of us deserve God’s love. That is simply because our sin, in another respect, is most outrageous. But the really really good news is that as offensive as our sin and behavior may be, God’s love is more outrageous still.
What shall our response be to this abounding gift of love, both as Christ followers and as a community of believers? Let’s express our deep gratitude to God again and again and again. And then may we, in turn, go love others outrageously.
Associate Pastor for Congregational Care