Sunday, April 18, 2021

God Forgives the Guilt of Our Tragic Mistakes; Luke 24:36-45


Rev. George Miller

April 18, 2021

Luke 24:36-45


Have you ever sinned?  Have you ever made a tragic mistake so major that you cringe every time you think about it? 


Have you ever broken any of the 10 Commandments?


If you are human, and if you have the privilege to make it into your sunset years, the answer is “yes.”


We all have sinned, from Pope to President, priest to patriot.


To sin is to be human; to be human is to make tragic mistakes, to “oops!”, to Left Shark again and again and again.


…to be human is to also know- we are only human, and that God our Mother, Father, Abba, Mommy fully gets it and fully forgives.


Scripture gives this assurance over and over, even though we have trouble believing it.


God forgives, even when we cannot. 


God forgives us, even as we allow guilt to chip us away.


...Have you ever made a tragic mistake so major that you cringe every time you think about it? 


Have you ever broken any of the 10 Commandments?


And even though you worship each and every week you still have a hard time forgiving yourself?


The guilt is too much.  The inability to undo what’s been done is too great.


So that guilt takes over, spirals into shame, self-hate, feeling frozen in place and eternally undeserving.


God forgives us, but can we?


Thank God there is a scripture that addresses this very topic- Psalm 32. 


Hear the words of someone who was once so tormented by their guilt but has found the joy of forgiving oneself-


“Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Happy are those to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not hide my iniquity;

I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
    and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Therefore let all who are faithful
    offer prayer to you; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters
    shall not reach them.
You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.

I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near you.

10 Many are the torments of the wicked,
    but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord.
11 Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.”


We hope you heard what the singer proclaims- God has not just forgiven their tragic mistake-


God has forgiven the guilt they have been carrying around.


It is not the sin that has made the person ill, it is the psychological warfare they have placed upon themselves, feeling so guilty about what they’ve done that they have become ill.


Eventually they can’t take it anymore.  In great meekness they find the strength to call out to God, to own up to their behavior, to voice what they’ve tried to silence.


As a result, their guilt is removed, erased, and because of their humilty, they rejoice, they shout, and they share their story with others.


Forgiveness.  Grace.  Mercy.




Today we come to the end of our journey through the Gospel of Luke, and what a journey it has been.


Step by step, from the manger to the shores, from treetops and tombs.


Through it all Jesus has been praying, preaching, speaking words of peace. 


He’s gone to where the outsiders are.  He’s been buddies with bold women.  He’s welcomed back the lost.


He’s warmed hearts, ruffled feathers, and he’s eaten more gourmet meals than we can count.


He faced betrayal.  He did not run away from the challenges of the Cross.  As a result, the triumph of God is made known in the resurrection of Emmanuel.


And how does Luke want us to remember Jesus?


On the road heading west where Christ meets us in sadness and breaks bread.


In community where we stand together in wonder as he eats a piece of fish.


If there is any doubt how important food is to Jesus, Luke makes it clear.


Christ eats, Christ utters words of peace, and still there’s something else so key here.


In verses 46-47, he reminds us about the scriptures and that his purpose, his journey was not just a magic show or a way to divide and dessimate.


Christ says “Repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed…to all the nations…”


Repentance- to turn back.


Forgiveness- to let go of debts and to release the guilt of our sins.


Here we have Christ who eats, who speaks words of peace, who uses his final teaching to proclaim a new beginning.


How beautiful.


How amazing.


How simple.


The Resurrection is meant to bring healing and hope into the world.  It is meant to restore and unite.


As the author of Psalm 32 would say, the season of Easter is the season in which we all can-


“11 Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.”


The Easter Season is one in which we can join in with Psalm 32 and say-


“Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Happy are those to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”


Jesus has done the work.


God has raised him from the dead.


The Holy Spirit has inspired.


People like Luke have written it down.


Are we willing to believe?  Are we willing to trust that in Christ we have truly been forgiven?


And if so, how do we respond?  What do we do?


How do we live and how do we do ministry knowing that peace, joy, the forgiveness of guilt, and some really, really good food are all part of what our faith is about?


Amen and amen.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Letter To Editor Re: Anti-Transgender Bill

 Dear Editor,

When one has the honor to represent Highlands County on a state level, they have the chance to speak up for the agricultural industry which employees 33% of our residents, our retired homeowners, our veterans, and the youth of our beloved community. It's disappointing to see that Highlands' own Kaylee Tuck has used her elected position to sponsor a bill banning transgender teens from competing in female sports.  Of all the issues Rep. Tuck could focus on to benefit our county and our state, why this?  Why waste tax-payer time and money to address a bill that only applies to .5% of the population? Why would Rep. Tuck make an anti-trans bill her first foray into national attention, when she could advocate for farmers, citrus growers, improved care for senior citizens, building infrastructure, attracting tourism, watching over our vets, and improving the life of all students? Why is Rep. Tuck targeting transgender teens?  Sincerely, Rev. George Miller

Monday, April 12, 2021

Even in the Sunset Of Our Life We Can Experience the Resurrected Christ; Luke 24:28-35


Rev. George Miller

April 11, 2021

Luke 24:28-35


If you have your money invested, you may have had a nice surprise when you received your latest statement.  Many accounts went up over last month, like way up. 


When asked about it, a financial advisor offered this observation- A lot of the nation’s wealth rests in the hands of women who are retired. 


After spending a year inside, they are ready to spend.


For 12 months much of America’s money has been held onto, but now- now we have people who are done being cooped up, so they’re going out, shopping, treating themselves, planning vacations.


Inflation has gone up, interest rates are at zero, so Dorothy, Blanche, Sophia, and Rose are using their cash to go get those pedicures, haircuts, steak dinners and rack up vacation points.


In other words, just as it was women who were the witnesses to the resurrection, it is women who are resurrecting the American economy!


To which we can all say “Amen!”


Though we are not completely out of the woods, it is good to know we are heading in the right direction.


Speaking of direction, we have today’s marvelous tale about 2 people traveling in the direction of Emmaus.


It is the evening of Resurrection.  The day is coming to a close as Cleopas and his companion go back to their home, a 7-mile trek heading west.


There’s been much confusion in town about what may have happened.


As the sun sets in the western sky, there is a great sadness and heaviness about these two individuals. 


Jesus, who they thought had come to rescue them from Rome’s rule, has been crucified. 


As if that’s not bad enough there is ghoulish gossip that he has come back to life.


Cleopas and his companion have no idea what to make of it.  Heroes are not supposed to die.  Dead is supposed to be dead.


As they talk and walk towards the setting sun, a stranger approaches them, engages them in lively conversation, reminds them about the teachings of the prophets.


As they come to their home, the stranger continues on, but Cleopas and his companion, being proper Israelites, welcome him in.


They invite him to their table, and upon the breaking of bread, they realize that it is indeed Jesus, resurrected.


Their hearts are full of heat; with great joy, they run back east to Jerusalem to share their experience with others.


I don’t know what’s the greater miracle- that Christ appears or that they ran 7 miles in under an hour!


What joy!  What excitement!


He lives!  He lives!

Christ Jesus Lives today!


And look at where Cleopas and his companion met the Lord- outside the city.  And not just outside, but as the sun was setting while heading west.


The symbolism of this story is rich.


In the twilight of their life, 2 journeyers meet the Resurrected Christ and they had the vitality of an Olympic runner!


This story has a lot to say to all of us.


Let’s be honest, now that I’m 51, it’s safe to safe that many of us are living on the other side of noon. 


If life was a 24-hour period, most of us are in our evening hours.  And that ain’t such a bad thing. 


To be in our evening hours means the work we had to do to survive is basically done. 


We may not have the energy of someone at 9 am, but we know who we are, what we want, what we’re willing to put up, not put up with, and what we can do without.


All of us here are heading west. 


But it’s not so bad to experience the setting sun. 


That’s the time to chill.  Kick your feet up.  Have a cocktail. 


Treat yourself to a steak or a cruise.


Life is a journey and we’ve all had our chance to walk in the am and to walk in the sunrise.


Now we get to bask in the cooler breezes and soft glow of the afternoon and early evening.


That does not mean we stop. 

It doesn’t mean we quit. 

It doesn’t mean we are less than. 


It just means we are at a different stage in our life.  And today’s story reminds us of something else-


it is never too late in the day,

it is never too far out of town,

it is never too outside of the gates

to have an experience with the Resurrected Christ.


It is never too late to see Jesus with new eyes. 

It is never too late to hear the story in another way. 

It is never too late and

you are never too far  away

to have Christ walk beside you.


Just like Cleopas and his companion, it is never, ever, ever too late to welcome Christ into your life,

and to welcome Christ into your home.


Just like he was with Zacchaeus,

Jesus is ready, willing, and able

to enter our lives,

enter our houses,

be present at our table

no matter who we are,

no matter where we are,

and no matter how we feel.


So often we think Christ will only come when everything is just right-


we have the right mind, we say the right words, we’re in the right place, we have the right body.


But look at today’s story- two people, one not even given a name, traveling away, heading into the dark, feeling totally sad, alone, and unsure-


And THAT’S when Christ comes to them, listens to them, speaks to them, walks with them.


So often we think we must be happy peppy people to come before the Lord, but today’s scripture reminds us that the Lord comes before us even when we are unhappy,


even when we have no pep in our step, even when nothing makes sense.


Friends- the Miracle of the Resurrection is a testimony that God prevails, we are not alone, and we have not been forsaken.


Regardless if we are in the sunrise or the sunset of our lives, Christ is there.


Regardless if we are happy or sad, Christ is there.


Regardless if we are in or out, Christ is there.


For that our hearts shall continue to burn and our spirits run as young as children in the sun.


Amen and amen.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

God's Big "But"; Sermon on Luke 24:1-12


Rev. George Miller

April 4, 2021

Luke 24:1-12


Hold Up!




Sisters and brothers, brothers and sisters, we are gathered here today to celebrate God’s big “but.”


And not ‘but’ as in behind, but as in-


Hold Up!




Today is the day we celebrate Resurrection.


Today is the day of new beginnings.


Today is the day in which God says “Heck yeah!” even though on Friday the world tried to say “oh no.”




What does that mean?


Well, to understand we go back, back into time.


To Mary, the mom who magnifies God’s mercy and care for the hungry.


To Anna, the elderly survivor, sharing how she’s seen the face of redemption.


To Jesus, the prophet who reminded us of God’s promise of Jubilee, Sabbath rest, and freedom.


He who brought God to the outcasts, moving beyond walls to the shores and tables were folk were at.


The man who welcomed women, healed daughters, who encouraged us to turn back from our tragic mistakes.


Jesus, who served by saying  “Remember who you are”, met us in our depravity, and sweetly said “Welcome me in.”


Jesus- the One who embodied Isaiah 58, Micah 6, the 10 Commandments by showing us how to walk humbly, love kindness, and be just.


Jesus was a light that the world could not handle, with a life force that those in power could not understand.


So they thought they could put him out.  They thought they could simply unplug and silence his ministry. 


So the crooked politicians and hypercritical religious leaders used the tools they had to silence him- armed force, corrupt court, capital punishment.




But you can not silence, you can not stop, you can not prevent the work of God no matter what the world tries.


See- the world belongs to God, not the other way around.


As Luke tells us, after Jesus is betrayed by one of his own, he endures a mock trial, public humiliation, and death.


As chapter 23 comes to a close, Jesus is left for dead.  Just a body.  He is taken down. Wrapped in linen clothe. Laid in a rock-hewn tomb.


The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee, who had been there since the very beginning, follow, see the tomb, see his lifeless body, go home to prepare spices and lotion.






Hold Up!




But when Mary, Mary, Joanna and all the other bold woman came to the tomb in the dawn’s early light…the stone was rolled away and there was no body.






What a powerful word to be used in the context of this narrative. 


Because this is the part of the movie in which the credits are supposed to role, this is the part of the story in which you are supposed to close the book.


But the stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty. Jesus is not there.


Hold Up!




How can this be; what does it mean?


What it means is that God has said “Yes” even though the world tried to say “no.”


The powers that be tried to put a stop to a man whose ministry was to make us remember, yet when God raised Jesus from the dead, it was a “but.”


A heavenly Hold Up. A holy However.


A magnificent “yes” that validated a servant ministry in which Jesus-


-sat with outcasts

-hung out with sex workers

-healed the children of foreigners


-empowered women

-offered water to the thirsty

-ate with so-called non-patriots


-said “come home” to those who had made tragic mistakes.


God’s resurrection of Jesus Christ is a large “but” to a people that thought that all hope was lost…


…think of us, as a nation.


How many “nos” we have encountered over the past century?


No- you can not vote.


No- you can not sit as this counter.


No- you can not work and have a family.


No-you can not age gracefully.


No- you can not marry.


No- you can not hand out water to folks on line vote.


COVID has been one big “no!”


No- you can’t go here. No- you can’t touch. No- can’t gather in 20 or more.


Yet, the resurrection, the resurrection is a reminder that through faith, God will find a way to make a yes.


Through faith, God will find a way to let justice, kindness, and humility prevail.


Through faith, God can take the crosses and tombs and work through them.


Through faith, God finds a way to say “but”, God finds a way to say “Hold up”, God finds a way to say “However.”


And for that, we do not stop, we do not quit, and for that we can say “Hallelujah!”


Hallelujah and Amen!