Sunday, May 01, 2016

ARE THERE PEOPLE WE SHOULD NOT PRAY FOR?: SCS 82

Sky Bridge, Red River Gorge, Near Pine, KY
Sunday, May 1, 2016, Stoney Creek Sermonette: Number 82

PRAYER for Today:
Heavenly Father,
We know we are all broken and in need of your grace. Only You are able to heal the hearts and souls of all of us who are full of sin and bring light to the darkness in our lives. Help us Father to accept your freely given gift of grace that we might be reconciled to You. We ask that Your will be done in our lives and that we may act lovingly towards our fellow sojourners who around the world are hurting so that they might see a little of You in our daily lives.  
It is in Your Resurrected Living Son’s name we pray.
Amen.

SCRIPTURE LESSON for Today:  
1 John 5:13-21 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
14 And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him. 16 If you see your brother or sister[a] committing what is not a mortal sin, you will ask, and God[b] will give life to such a one—to those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin that is mortal; I do not say that you should pray about that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not mortal.
18 We know that those who are born of God do not sin, but the one who was born of God protects them, and the evil one does not touch them.19 We know that we are God’s children, and that the whole world lies under the power of the evil one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true;[c] and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.[d]
Footnotes:
  1. 1 John 5:16 Gk your brother
  2. 1 John 5:20 Other ancient authorities read know the true God
  3. 1 John 5:21 Other ancient authorities add Amen

SERMON for Today:
Raymond Edward Brown, S.S., (May 22, 1928 – August 8, 1998) was an American Roman Catholic priest, a member of the Sulpician Fathers and a prominent Biblical scholar of his era. Brown was a professor at the Protestant Union Theological Seminary (UTS) in New York, where he taught for 29 years and the first Roman Catholic professor to gain tenure there. Brown remains controversial among traditionalist Catholics because of their claim that he denied the inerrancy of the whole of Scripture and cast doubt on the historical accuracy of numerous articles of the Catholic faith. He was regarded as occupying the center ground in the field of biblical studies and opposing the literalism found among many fundamentalist Christians while not carrying his conclusions as far as many other scholars.  He wrote the following about today’s Scripture lesson.

It is not arrogance to recognize evil and those who do it, but Christians should be careful about deciding that such people are radically evil in themselves and cannot be prayed for.  REB, An Introduction To The New Testament

In today’s world it seems we that proclaim the name of our Savior do not have any problem at all condemning our fellow sojourners.  There seem to be more people calling each other sinners than calling each other to kneel at the foot of the cross.

I wonder if we still remember the power of the love God has shown through His Son to all of us.  The only “mortal sin” I know of is denying the Holy Spirit entrance into one’s inner being thus denying the existence of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 12:31-32 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
31 Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.
32 Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

Part of the reason folks think they can be so sure they are right and therefore condemn the “sins” of others is because they take verses that come earlier in 1 John and claim they are perfect.  Perfectionism as a theological proposition is not possible to defend. Here is John Wesley, one of the fathers of the subject, on the subject.
In the year 1764, upon a review of the whole subject, I wrote down the sum of what I had observed in the following short propositions: --
(1.) There is such a thing as perfection; for it is again and again mentioned in Scripture.
(2.) It is not so early as justification; for justified persons are to `go on unto perfection.' (Heb. 6:1.)
(3.) It is not so late as death; for St. Paul speaks of living men that were perfect. (Phil. 3:15.)
(4.) It is not absolute. Absolute perfection belongs not to man, nor to angels, but to God alone.
(5.) It does not make a man infallible: None is infallible, while he remains in the body.
(6.) Is it sinless? It is not worth while to contend for a term. It is `salvation from sin.'
(7.) It is `perfect love.' (1 John 4:18.) This is the essence of it; its properties, or inseparable fruits, are, rejoicing evermore, praying without ceasing, and in everything giving thanks. (1 Thess. 5:16, &c.)
(8.) It is improvable. It is so far from lying in an indivisible point, from being incapable of increase, that one perfected in love may grow in grace far swifter than he did before.
(9.) It is amissible, capable of being lost; of which we have numerous instances. But we were not thoroughly convinced of this, till five or six years ago.
(10.) It is constantly both preceded and followed by a gradual work.  
May The Spirit of God Be With You This Week and For Evermore. Amen.”

If God is going to forgive us of every sin other than speaking against or denying the Holy Spirit and Jesus has instructed us not to judge, is it time to get off our high horses and take to the ground and meet folks where they are with our arms outstretched welcoming them as lost sheep into the fold?  It is a sin not to.

© Ed Cooper, May 1, 2016, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
  All rights reserved
(Ed Cooper is a retired minister and mental health advocate. He lives with his wife Patty in the mountains of East Tennessee.)

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