1960 Dedication Stone

•March 19, 2017 • Leave a Comment

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God and Early 20th-century Presbyterians

•March 19, 2017 • Leave a Comment

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We are in the third Sunday in our journey through this Lenten season, which ends on Easter Sunday. The past two Sundays, we concluded worship with special ceremonies surrounding the 1870, 1884, and 1923 dedication stones. Today, we conclude late worship with a ceremony outside near the 1960 dedication stone for the Christian education wing, which was the fourth major building project of the congregation.  Our amateur archaeologists have done enough work to know that those in attendance will not be disappointed: a time capsule will be revealed.

This period of remembrance and celebration is giving us opportunity to reflect upon the meaning of our journey from building to building, and its place in a much larger and longer journey of faith.  The story God is telling through us is one with chapters to be written after you and I pass from this life. It’s a story that we joined midstream, with themes that we are revisiting in limited and imperfect ways.

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Last week we briefly considered the work of God among 19th-century Presbyterians, and the legacy we inherited from those pioneering Presbyterians who formed our congregation. Elizabeth Smith (it’s a shame we don’t have a portrait of Elizabeth!) and Salmon Giddings represented Presbyterian Christians with a heart for evangelism on the new frontier.  Elijah Parish Lovejoy and Thomas Lippincott represented Presbyterian Christians with a concern for freedom and social justice.

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As I described the historical context in which our spiritual ancestors were nurtured and shaped, I introduced a graphic depiction of the theological tension of that age between “New School and Old School Presbyterians,” and the debt we owe to the theological flexibility and inter-denominational cooperation of New School Presbyterians, which created the conditions for the birth of this congregation.

As the post-Civil-War period gave way to the early 20th Century, American society changed in profound ways, with consequences for this church and its ministries. In the realm of theology, this was a time of new advances in archaeology, understanding of ancient civilizations and languages, and application of this new knowledge to the field of biblical interpretation. Fundamentalism arose as a new movement, and was defined in significant ways by the theological dialogue that took place at Princeton Seminary.

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In Presbyterian churches, the tensions that earlier had manifested themselves in the conflict between the “Old School” and the “New School” re-emerged in controversy between “Fundamentalists” and so-called “Modernists” (visit slide, “Westminster Standards 1643-49, “Higher Criticism” study of literary sources and methods, the “world behind the text).

During the 1920s, this tension lead to splits in the church. The Modernist group kept Princeton Seminary, while Fundamentalists professors left to form a new seminary in Philadelphia. In New York, Harry Emerson Fosdick was forced by the presbytery to leave the pulpit of First Presbyterian Church. Fundamentalists saw him as unorthodox. He saw them as intolerant.  Like the Jewish leaders that Jesus criticized in our gospel text, Fosdick believed the Fundamentalist leaders of the time knew more about the letter of the law than its spirit.  The presbytery’s loss was the larger Church’s gain, as Fosdick helped to found Riverside Church in New York, with thousands waiting in line on Sunday mornings waiting for admittance to hear him preach.

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A popular new hymnal was used in Riverside Church, published the year the cornerstone was laid for this building in which we worship.  It was called “Hymns for the Living Age.” Two of its selections are included in worship today, as well as Fosdick’s “God of Grace, and God of Glory,” which he wrote for the dedication of Riverside Church in 1930.

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The time between this congregation’s second building in 1884, and its third in 1924 was characterized by growing industrialization and urbanization. Even in our smaller-sized community, we can find evidence of these changes. The growing use of industrial machinery and the development of the railroad led to the 1890 relocation to LeClaire of the N.O. Nelson Company, which employed about 300 men in the manufacture of plumbing fixtures and supplies. (upper-left panel) About the same time, Benjamin Richards bought the old Spring and Tunnell Press brickworks, and began to develop the Richards Brick Co. that would eventually make more than 100,000 bricks per day. We see evidence of change in things as simple as the description in our church history of pioneering Presbyterian Lucy Medora Gilham Krome driving an electric car around the streets of Edwardsville. (not actually her in the photo).

Former scenes of village churches surrounded by country fields and forests gave way to the challenges of life and ministry in cities, and churches adopted their architecture accordingly.

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As Jack Ades says in his 1993 history of our church, it was an age of stability and growth for this church. The plan for the future embraced a new style of church building, emphasizing a large auditorium, with smaller “break-out” rooms. The smaller rooms allowed Sunday school to move from the “one-room schoolhouse” approach to a Sunday school in which classes could be grouped according to age. It was the logical next step for a leading church in a growing neighborhood, next to the chief public school of its day.

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The dedication to the education of children and youth, and the commitment that the congregation tried to instill its people, is reflected in this attendance medal.  It was presented to me, I believe, by the family of Evelyn B., after her death in 2006. Evelyn could remember this building being built, and she recalled temporary worship down the street in the First Christian building.  As you can see from the photo, Evelyn’s attendance was rewarded not once but seven times, each additional award hung by fine chain links from the former.

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In the plan to enhance worship ministries, this comparatively large auditorium incorporated elements that made the worship a more theater-like experience, with a set of elements, some of which we experience here or see in this composite photo from the mortgage burning on January 1, 1938:

  • a raised platform, pipe organ and choir behind (upper left, lower right)
  • multi-level seating, like our main floor plus balcony, and
  • curved pews (such as those in our balcony) to draw the congregation’s attention to
  • a central pulpit (upper right panel) and Lord’s Table.

(By the way, these photos were delivered to me in 2002 by the daughter of a revered elder from these days, Oscar Bardelmeier).

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According to our history, when the cornerstone ceremony took place May 5, 1923, a time capsule containing a number of items were placed therein. (read slide). The time capsule resides beneath the cornerstone, we believe, and later in the deconstruction process, we will be able to access it, finally.

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Today, this 1923 building, and mementos from Presbyterians who ministered here during its early years, are our reminder of seasonal Lenten themes of change, mortality, fragility.

Their spiritual pilgrimage included courageous sacrifice

  • to worship God, and proclaim God’s amazing grace,
  • to educate children and youth,
  • to create a new facility to more effectively implement mission for a larger population in an age of new challenges and new opportunities.

As we engage in our own pilgrimage of courageous and sacrificial faith, may Christ bless our journey, as we continue to reflect upon “the story that God is telling through us.”

God and 19th-century Presbyterians

•March 12, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Slide01We are in the second Sunday of a seven-Sunday journey through the Lenten season, which ends on Easter Sunday. This past Sunday, we concluded worship with special ceremonies surrounding the 1870 and 1884 cornerstones, which are displayed today, with our church’s communion flagon from that era (“flagon” rhymes with “wagon”) and an ink drawing from the T. household of the second church 1884-1923. Today, we conclude late worship with a ceremony outside near the 1923 cornerstone for this, the congregation’s third building. Next Sunday, our service will feature items from  that early 20th-century era, and will conclude with a ceremony related to the 1960 CE Wing cornerstone.

This period of remembrance and celebration is giving us opportunity to reflect upon the meaning of our journey, and its place in a much larger and longer journey of faith.  The story God is telling through us is one with chapters to be written after you and I pass from this life. It’s a story that we joined midstream, with themes that we will revisit in limited and imperfect ways.

Slide02

Last week we briefly considered the work of God  among Colonial Presbyterians, and the Presbyterian Christian tradition that was carried by them from Europe to America. As contrasted to their Scottish or Swiss ancestors, American Presbyterian Christians developed the church from the bottom up – from the local level – rather than from the top down – from the regional or national level.  For a long time, there was great local autonomy, and the colonial Presbyterian Church was a loose confederation of congregations. This context of greater decentralization contributed to the way  in which the first General Assembly, held in 1789, modified Presbyterian standards to fit the American context.  The concept of “adiaphora” was important to the developing denomination; it recognized matters about which Christians can disagree but cooperate with those who differ in theological understanding of our faith.

Slide03Adiaphora is a strange, jargon-like word. But its meaning isn’t all that different from what many of you have heard me say about “faith” and “theology” in new member classes and officer training. “Faith,” you’ve heard me say, is a “primary phenomenon.” God reveals Godself to us, and faith is born. “Theology,” I say, is “secondary reflection” on faith: it’s how  we try to make sense of God at work in our lives.[i] We can share one common faith, but have two  ways of understanding of how God works.

To recognize adiaphora is to say something similar. Two theological understandings may be in friendly competition about adiaphora, because underneath the competing theologies there is a common, shared faith.

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In retrospect, this new theological flexibility was a very important pre-condition for the birth in 1819 of First Presbyterian Church, Edwardsville. Let me explain as briefly as I know how.

In the early days of this community, Elizabeth Smith was among the Presbyterians who had migrated to this region from Virginia, and this note from our archives reminds us of some facts about her life. Her father was among those within George Washington’s circle of influence. Her husband’s brother succeeded John Witherspoon as president of Princeton University. Her husband John Blair Smith was the 1773 valedictorian at  Princeton University, became a Presbyterian minister, and president of two colleges. He was serving a church in Philadelphia, when he died of Yellow Fever in 1799. By some path I have yet to determine, Mrs. Smith was in Edwardsville no more than 18 years later. It was she who petitioned the Presbyterian General Assembly to send an evangelist pastor to Edwardsville.

But there was a problem: the Presbyterian Church faced a severe shortage of ministers. By one estimate, there was approximately one minister for every five congregations in existence. Fortunately, in 1801, Presbyterians had created with the Congregationalists an agreement known as the Plan of Union, which opened to them the ministerial resources of another denomination.

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Young Salmon Giddings, a Congregationalist, was extended the call  to establish new Presbyterian congregations in our area. Jesus’ call “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations …” was not just a scripture verse to Giddings, but a call that he embraced in a courageous and sacrificial way. By virtue of accepting that call, and traveling west to St. Louis, then to Edwardsville, the congregation he helped establish here was not the First Congregational Church, but rather the First Presbyterian Church.

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As the 19th-century developed, conflict deepened between Presbyterians who valued a new spirit of theological flexibility and those who valued older boundaries of theological purity. The conflict was related to regional cultural differences, and intertwined with the question of slavery. For Elijah Parish Lovejoy, Presbyterian minister serving this region, the good news of Jesus Christ was not just about spiritual freedom,  but also about freedom for those in physical bondage. When he opposed slavery, even when his printing press was destroyed, once, twice, three times, when he died defending his fourth press, he was living out the gospel principle Paul wrote about to the Galatians: “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” It wasn’t just a Bible verse, but the call of Christ that Lovejoy embraced in a courageous and sacrificial way.

Slide07

Our congregation’s direct tie to Lovejoy is through Thomas Lippincott. My predecessor the Rev. Richard Neil once said that among the many saints associated with this congregation, Lippincott is the one figure who stands out among the rest.[ii] In the slide, you get a sense of some of the remarkable facts of his life.

If we try to describe the tension of these tumultuous times that included the martyrdom of Lovejoy and the horror of the Civil War, on the one side of the conflict were Presbyterians we identify as the “New School,” and on the other side, those we identify as the “Old School.”   My slide attempts to summarize the tensions.

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Today’s relics were born in the wake of this dangerous time.

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The 1870 stone from the building on 2nd St.. is an enduring reminder of the Edwardsville Presbyterians who had lived through the Civil War.  For the most part, they reflected the influence of  the northern stream of the Presbyterian tradition.

According to our history, the first building was dedicated on October 16, 1870, and cost $4,000. But shortly the location proved unsatisfactory because a.) it was considered to be in the wrong part of town for further growth,  and b.) it was near a livery stable, which, as Jack Ades put it in his 1993 history, “cultivated flies and produced an ammoniacal atmosphere a little too mellow for meditation.”[iii] After considering the feasibility of alternative plans, the congregation sold the first building, recovering $900 cash, and furnishings for reuse.

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The new second building was dedicated on July 5, 1885. Today we display a 1993 ink drawing by Dirk T. of this older photograph.  Lucy Medora Gilham Krome described the result.  She was grandmother of Dr. William Delicate, a local doctor who delivered some of our present members.  Mrs Krome said, “We  used the chandelier until .. electricity was installed.  The same old bell called us to worship.” The same “old bell” is still in our tower.  Interesting to our officers may be Mrs. Krome’s account that as the new building was nearing completion, money had to be borrowed to complete the project. A Ladies Aid Society took out “building-society stock” to pay the workmen. The construction debt finally was eliminated finally in 1896.

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Today, relics that were purchased and dedicated by Presbyterians who had survived the Civil War are our reminder of seasonal Lenten themes of change, mortality, fragility. Their spiritual pilgrimage included courageous sacrifice

  • to preach the good news of Christ,
  • to further freedom for peoples long oppressed, and
  • to create not one but two new homes for the advancement of Christian mission and ministry.

As we engage in our own pilgrimage of courageous and sacrificial faith, may Christ bless our journey, as we continue to reflect upon  “the story that God is telling through us.”

NOTES

[i] This is the sort of distinction made by Paul Tillich in his Systematic Theology.

[ii] The Rev. Dr. Richard Neil, FPCE Newsletter article, circa 1990s.

[iii] John Irvine Ades, The Church on North Kansas Street: being a familiar history of The First Presbyterian Church of Edwardsville on the occasion of the 175th anniversary of its founding in 1819, St. Louis, MO: Mills Graphic Productions, Inc., 1993, p. 16

1923 Cornerstone

•March 12, 2017 • Leave a Comment

02 insert cornerstone web

19th-Century Cornerstones

•March 5, 2017 • Leave a Comment

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God and Colonial Presbyterians

•March 5, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Slide2Visitors today are not likely to immediately notice anything extraordinary about our worship service. But those of you who have been part of this congregation for a while know different. Today, First Presbyterian Church Edwardsville celebrates the First Sunday in Lent for the 133rd and final time at the corner of Kansas and College streets.

We are on a journey of remembrance and celebration that includes special themes and events as outlined on the purple-colored schedule we’ve been distributing (ushers have copies if you need them).

Slide1

Today, we conclude worship with a cornerstone ceremony (early service 1870, late service 1884). Next Sunday, these cornerstones will be displayed, and we will conclude worship with the removal of the 1923 cornerstone, and revealing of the time capsule we believe still is there.

Our remembrance and celebration will give us opportunity to reflect upon the meaning of our journey, and its place in a much larger and longer journey of faith.  The story God is telling through us is one with chapters to be written after you and I pass from this life. It’s a story that we joined midstream, with chapters and themes that we will revisit in limited and imperfect ways.

I’ve labeled today’s sermon with the title “God and Colonial Presbyterians.” The colonial period is one steeped in a theology  that shaped the pioneering missionaries and evangelists who would eventually travel to our region. It’s populated by figures like John Witherspoon, pictured in the title slide, the Presbyterian pastor who signed the Declaration of Independence, who served as the Moderator of the first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church held in 1789.  It’s a chapter in God’s story that can be better understood  with some reference to our spiritual ancestors of the Protestant Reformation.

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Most of us know at least a few basic facts about John Calvin, often thought of as the Father of our Reformed Protestant tradition.  Calvin was a younger contemporary of Martin Luther. He was trained as a lawyer in France, eventually served as a pastor in Switzerland. His theology is organized into something we call “Institutes of the Christian Religion” (1536, 1539). Calvin’s contributions to Protestant theology are many, and expound at length major themes such as God’s sovereignty, human sinfulness, and God’s grace revealed in Jesus Christ. It’s these themes, and Calvinistic theology’s fascination with theme that prompted my choice of today’s scripture readings, simple passages around which Reformed theologians have spent years of dialogue and debate. Calvin’s contributions to Church discipline provide important background for understanding today’s Presbyterian governance and discipline.  He believed that without careful attention to discipline, the church could not survive.

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John Knox was an ardent disciple of Calvin. He is the primary author of “The Scots Confession” (1560), and the “Book of Common Order” (1564), sometimes called “Knox’s Liturgy.” One of the more memorable facts about his life is that he served for a time as the sword-wielding bodyguard for the early Scottish reformer George Wishart, who eventually was arrested, tried, hung, and burned. Knox’s ardent preaching against the established Church must be understood in light of such atrocities.

As Calvin extended the theology of Martin Luther,  so Knox expanded the church discipline and polity of Calvin.

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Presented to the Scottish Parliament, Knox’s Book of Discipline applied Calvin’s system to the entire kingdom. In each parish, a minister and elders were to hold office with the consent of the congregation, constituting the disciplinary board (later “session”) with power of excommunication.  Ministers meeting together for discussion grew into presbyteries, over groups of ministers and congregations were synods, and over all was the “General Assembly.”

Today, we live in a time during which it is possible to appreciate with fresh eyes the contributions of Calvin and Knox. They lived in a dangerous world of conflicting political ideologies often rooted or connected to competing interpretations of scripture and competing theologies. When personal safety or the survival of your church  or community is at stake, a system of proper checks and balances on power is important. Spending time together to gain common theological understanding is important.

The larger Reformed tradition spent significant energy trying to get its theology right during a gathering we know as the “Synod of Dort,” which took place in the Netherlands during 1618-19. The theological issue that energized this gathering was a proper understanding of human salvation, with the Calvinistic party of the Netherlands on one side, and followers of pastor and theologian Jacob Arminius  on the other side. The Calvinistic party prevailed, and its affirmations have been summarized in what is known as the “Five Points” of Dutch Calvinism, appropriately remembered with the acronym T.U.L.I.P.

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The five points are

  • Total Depravity, or the total inability of a human to contribute to his or her own salvation; (not only can humans not choose the good, sometimes they can’t even know the good when it is presented to them).
  • Unconditional Election, that is, election apart from any foreseen faith;
  • Limited or Definite Atonement;
  • Irresistible or Effectual Grace; and
  • Perseverance of the Saints.

The Synod of Dort isn’t the only Church gathering of this era I might have highlighted. But it is a gathering out of which came theological polarities that are relatively easy to remember, and had a long-lasting influence on relationships between colonial Presbyterians and other Christian groups. It’s a gathering that highlights the dangerous political circumstances of the age, in which holding a minority opinion could get you excommunicated from the Church and banished from the country, or even martyred.

Today’s relic (on stand) was a witness to this dangerous time. It is small wooden bowl crafted from the remains of Cross Church, Dundee, Scotland, just 13 miles from St. Andrews, where the Scottish Reformation began. Cross Church was built in 1189, and taken down in 1829. This small relic certainly was one of many made to commemorate the decommissioning of the building as it concluded 640 years of ministry at that site.

To the bottom of the bowl has been affixed a paper with a lovely border, and on the paper has been printed  a thoughtful reflection, from the perspective of the tree that gave its wood for the church and for the bowl:

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What a lovely thought, a lovely project, a lovely relic. It’s on loan to us this morning from Dot K., and comes from her grandfather, who was a Presbyterian minister. It seems fitting that Dot is an active elder on session at just this time. Her relic is an early Lenten reminder of the fragility and finite nature of all things, a reminder that ours is not the first building that Christians have erected and taken down, that God’s people always have been on the move.

Slide9Today, a relic that began as a Scottish tree one-thousand years ago is our reminder of seasonal Lenten themes of change, mortality, fragility. It’s a witness to the theological and cultural cradle in which our spiritual ancestors were nourished.

Their spiritual pilgrimage became a physical journey that uprooted them and brought them to this continent. As we engage in our own pilgrimage, may Christ bless our journey, as we reflect upon “the story that God is telling through us.”

 

Revenge & Reconciliation

•February 19, 2017 • Leave a Comment

lincoln-portrait 

Portrait of Abraham Lincoln …. sermon for Presidents’ Day weekend, 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time …. Matthew 5:38-48 ….

Mark Bao is a software engineer who’s been a computer whiz since elementary school. In the fifth grade, he created an application to help his fellow classmates manage homework and sold it on floppy disks for $5 each. You can imagine his laptop computer is a form of personal treasure holding notes, designs, and applications in various phases of development.  The day his laptop was stolen during an unguarded moment was a day of pain and grief.

Days later, the story took an unexpected turn. Bao was able to remotely hack into his stolen laptop’s hard drive while it was connected to the Internet.  There he found something that turned his frown to a smile. It was a video file of the laptop thief.  He wasn’t doing anything vulgar or disturbing. He was simply dancing, perhaps mimicking a favorite music video.  It was bad dancing.

What did Mark Bao do? He uploaded the video to Youtube, letting viewers know this was the guy who had stolen his computer. It quickly became a very popular video.  You could say it went viral. The dancing thief returned the laptop to police. In the conversations that followed, he begged Mark Bao to remove the video. The post in which I read about these events says there’s a moral to the story: “Don’t steal computers belonging to people who know how to use computers.”[i]

There is a certain emotional satisfaction that humans take in revenge. Simple acts of revenge are the most primitive forms of justice. Since ancient times, they’ve given people who are wronged a sense that evil can be countered, stopped, even sometimes its effects reversed.

In the centuries during which the books of the Old Testament were written, the dominant ethic was known as the “lex tallionis.”  It was taken over from the Babylonian code of Hammurabi and we know it in such parts of the Bible as “If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”[ii]

But revenge is a complicated thing. A vengeful plan that tastes sweet can quickly turn bitter. Each of us can recall from the news or somewhere in our past  a series of events in which a victim turns the tables and becomes the aggressor, sometimes inflicting more harm than ever received. And, in turn, our sympathy changes to disgust.

Jesus had opportunity to observe many instances of the hurtful, hateful cycle of revenge.  In response, he built upon the foundation of Old Testament theologians, and offered a new personal ethic for his disciples.  In our gospel text for today, he gives three examples of this ethic in operation.

First he says “If anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also.”  One commentator points out the mechanics of a right-handed person offering a slap to the right cheek of an opponent.  Unless that person goes through the most complicated contortions, or uses very little force, the attacker can hit the other’s cheek in only one way – with the back of his or her hand.

According to a rabbinic saying, to hit a person with the back of the hand is twice as insulting as to hit him with the front, or flat, of the hand.  This adds a little bit of understanding to what Jesus says, — even if a person should direct at you the most profane and hurtful insult, it is best not to retaliate.

Second, Jesus says, “If anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak also.”  In Jesus’ time, many men would have had a change of shirts.  But the cloak was the big blanket-like outer garment that a man wore as a robe by day and used as a blanket by night.  Most people had only one cloak. It was Jewish law that a man’s shirt could be taken as collateral for a loan, but not his cloak.[iii]   Jesus challenges his disciples to consider that their witness to Christ’s love is more important than an insistence upon personal rights.  In the best of circumstances, a spirit-filled person thinks less of rights, and more of duties, less of privileges and more of responsibilities.

Third, Jesus talked about the enemy who forces you to go one mile, and instead of resisting, going with him two.  Jesus says this in the context of Israel’s occupation by Roman forces.  At that time, the Jews could be drafted into service in the army.  That service might involve supplying food and shelter, or carrying baggage and weapons. Jesus says that his disciples should not be bitter, but gladly engage in this duty as service done for God.

Jesus’ new ethic is difficult to imagine practicing on a consistent basis. Hurting those who hurt us sometimes seems the logical thing to do.  In international diplomacy and warfare between nations, it is sometimes a necessary evil, the lesser evil among alternative courses. When the safety of vulnerable people or the peace of nations is in jeopardy, sometimes the most loving thing to do may be to fight the enemy. When fascism or terrorism raises its head, and millions of people may suffer as a result, the best response may be to fight the enemy.  Throughout the centuries, Christian theologians have observed circumstances in which it seemed the most appropriate response was a “just war” against the enemy.

But, Jesus understood, revenge never is a preferred strategy. When we observe people giving to their enemies the same treatment they received, often we see them become just as consumed with melodrama, just as hate-filled. It brings no lasting satisfaction; it often makes the quality of our lives worse.

Abraham Lincoln believed this to be true. On this Presidents’ Day weekend, we have opportunity to remember and celebrate the contributions of this great leader. The biography on my bookshelf at home is titled with words from his second inaugural address, delivered near the bloody end of the Civil War, when many in the north were planning and plotting their own particular expressions of revenge. Lincoln called them to a different path: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” It was the path of slowly, painstakingly, replacing hate with love. It was the course with the most possibility for redeeming what was bad, and making it good again.

It’s like the story about a piece of iron that was very strong.  There had been many attempts to break it but all had failed.  The ax said, “I’ll master it.”  And his blows fell heavily upon the iron, but every blow made his edge more blunt until it ceased to strike.  The saw said, “Leave it to me.” And it worked backward and forward on the iron surface until its teeth were all worn and broken.  Then it fell aside.  The hammer said, “Ah, I knew you wouldn’t succeed.  I’ll show you the way.” But at the first fierce blow, off flew its head and the iron remained as before.  “Shall I try?” asked the small, soft flame.  “Forget it,” everyone else said.  But the flame curled around the iron, embraced it, and never left the iron until it melted under its irresistible influence.  We turn the other cheek because Christian mission is not about breaking hearts but melting hearts with the slow but steady flame of God’s love.

[i] “15 Of The Craziest, Most Hilarious Revenge Tales Ever,” The Webtrovert, http://www.thewebtrovert.com/15-of-the-craziest-most-hilarious-revenge-tales-ever/4/ accessed 15 Feb. 2017.

[ii] Exodus 21, Leviticus 24, Deuteronomy 19.

[iii] Exodus 22 tells us, “If you ever take your neighbor’s cloak in pledge, you shall restore it to him before the sun goes down, for that is his only covering.  It is his mantle for his body.  In what else shall he sleep?”