“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, provided it is received with thanksgiving;”

-1 Timothy 4:4

THE GOODNESS OF HUMANKIND

On a distant trip away from home, we went to church on a rainy Sunday. A new church we had never been to before. When we walked in it was wonderfully decorated, similar to other new age churches we had visited. The music was riveting and inspiring. The people friendly and open. It portrayed a community that cared for others and their neighbors. I was hopeful for a wonderful sermon that would provide insight and new thoughts.

It wasn’t to be. The sermon was about the total depravity of humankind. The pastor at one point to prove his case used his children as examples of this depravity. He said, “If you don’t believe me, take my three kids for the weekend and you will see.” A few giggles were heard, but my wife and myself raised our eyebrows. This wasn’t our experience raising four wonderful young women. We saw something different. We saw them grow into caring people desiring to be good. We saw them struggle at times with responsibility. We saw them at times do things they weren’t proud of. But always returning to the inner goodness that existed in their hearts.

The sermon was a stark contrast to what the people of the church demonstrated. The minister propelled by a common theological view had missed what surrounded him. The goodness of his flock.

I have heard this Augustinian view of the total depravity of humankind many times during my seven years at theological school. A predominate theory about humankind. One I never fully accepted. My classmates would at times declare I was a universalist. Many times, I would swim upstream against this strongly rooted current.  While I do believe there is at times a sinful nature in humankind, I do not believe it is the predominate attribute. I have seen too much to fully accept the total depravity of humankind.

I see in my neighbors, family and quiet acquaintances the image of God. In the first book and first chapter of the Bible a wonderful statement exists:

 

So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

 

I have seen this many times in life. I have seen neighbors helping neighbors. I have seen homeless people give away their last dollar to help out a friend. I have seen the loving look of a mother at the birth of a child. I have seen parents trudge off to work every day to support their families. I have seen first responders drop everything to answer a call for help. I have seen people respond to calls for help during natural disasters. I have seen so much more.

Surely, I know evil exists. Surely I know we all can act depraved at times. I cannot explain why this happens. But I do know evil only has momentary gains. God and humankind will always rise up. Depravity exists, but it isn’t total. There is an ember of goodness that burns in all people. Some have been born into bad circumstances. Some have been pushed the wrong way in life. Some have never been heard. The essence of humanity is good, born with the inheritance of being made in the image of God.

In today’s verse, Timothy reminds us that what God creates is good. We all have the choice of what we see. We can live in darkness or thrive amongst the goodness that abounds. It is our choice.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Ian Baldwin

“But let the righteous be joyful;
let them exult before God;
let them be jubilant with joy.”

Psalm 68:3

JOY, A PERMANENT POSSESSION

As we were walking the final mile of our ten-mile hike, my hiking companion looked up and saw the ridge we had just been walking, and exclaimed, “Wow, we were just up there.” In turn, I looked up; and saw the ridge many miles away in the distance. Much higher than we were walking this last mile. My companion was filled with joy at what had been accomplished. A joy that was expressed silently, revealed in a knowing look of satisfaction.

The journey and the day had been long. The journey contained the vital first steps of starting out. Later replaced with steep climbs over stairs of logs and along cutbacks. There were times that the climbs seemed longer than possible, requiring a heads down one foot at a time effort to cope. These climbs exhausted us and seemingly when  we thought we could go no further, we found the energy to do just a little more. A steep and steady climb that tested our abilities.

Our reward at the top was an expansive view of the countryside’s deep valleys and rivers. We also knew that going down was easier and would give us time to immerse ourselves in the beauty of nature. There would be streams to cross and long winding paths through a canopy of green.

When the hike is over we are filled with joy. Joy in what we accomplished. Joy in being alone in God’s majestic canvas of nature. Joy that we finished and took no shortcuts, just slow and wonderful steps.

In all, there are twenty thousand steps in a ten-mile hike. On some hikes you can climb over twenty-five hundred feet or a half mile in the air. A long but joyful walk.

Joy is different than happiness. Happiness is fleeting and a temporary state. Joy is permanent. The effort we put in isn’t always easy, but always rewarding. The effort will always be remembered. Happiness will melt away as quickly as it arrived. Accomplishments create joy and will never disappear.

So, it is with our faith. There are many steps to march. There are many times where faithful patience is required. Faith that is practiced with a rhythmic consistency becomes a permanent companion.

Life approached looking for happiness will always leave us thirsty for purpose. Life led to create joy will lead us to a life of permanent purpose.

We pray for a jubilant life filled with joy.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Matt Lamers

“When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder” 

Luke 11:21–22

BE SAFE

As we were evacuating from coastal Carolina in front of hurricane Florence, we began to get calls and text messages. They all contained a simple message, “be safe.” In turn we sent the same message to our neighbors as they made their plans. What did “be safe” mean to us? It was a remarkable outpouring of human kindness from our friends and relatives. In an age where we are bombarded by the media of human frailties, these small two words spoke about the greatness of human compassion. An empathetic response from close friends, parents and relatives that they were with us. It also told us what was important.

In these two words I see the greatness of humankind. These two words spoken over and over again won’t be the focus of the news, it will be about the plundering caused by a wildly vicious storm. But these two words will be remembered by all that heard them. These words buoyed my wife and myself. They became more important than our house or possessions. They spoke to us through our hearts.

We have been told by the civil authorities we won’t be able to return home for at least a week, maybe even weeks or months. We were told that our house will be damaged. Surely these are concerns, but our house is replaceable and the money we lose can be earned again. What was important to us, was the pictures in our truck that contained a life of joy. What was important to us was that we remained safe for our children, grandchildren and parents. What was also important were that our neighbors were out of harm’s way.

In the Bible verse for today, Jesus asks that we stay safe. This verse is from the famous Parable of the Strongman. Like all of the parables of Jesus, there are many messages. In this parable, Jesus is telling us to protect what is important and be fully armed. Fully armed in our faith. Fully armed in protecting what is important. But also, to be wary of those things bigger than us. To not fear them, but be wise. To know they exist and be fully prepared. Sometimes that means walking away when our foe, like a hurricane, that is bigger and stronger.

The hurricane will reap its havoc. We will all have to band together to resurrect our community. There will be months of turmoil to fix what is broken. Our job today, as it is with any of life’s setbacks, is to respond faithfully. Our job today is to help our neighbor, protect what is most important and mostly be safe.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Shayne House

“Forgive as the Lord forgave you”

(Colossians 3:13)

WHAT ARE WE MAD AT?

In a counseling session, my client was very angry. Angry that no one would hire him because of his age. He was mad and confused. He still felt very young and was a top sales person in his previous career. He had stayed fit, ate well and read often. He couldn’t reconcile the bias against him versus who he was. He was mad and it was starting to surround his being.

I asked him to tell me why he was mad and was it helping. What had he been telling himself in the quiet moments by himself? He replied, “It is so unfair, I can help and just want to be productive.” He was right it was unfair and not only that it was illegal. I knew this wasn’t what he was mad about. What he was mad about was something very different. It was the reality that he had grown older. It was about the loss that comes with age. It was a the loss of being able to provide for himself and his family. He was grieving all these losses.

But he had told himself  something different. He had told himself it was unfair and employers were wrong. This truth he told himself soothed him and allowed him to cope. It allowed him to justify his anger, but his truth wouldn’t help. He still wanted to work and remain productive. Dealing with the reality of being older was his task, not his anger. To move forward required two critical steps. First to accept where he was in life and most importantly forgive those who denied him.

Being truthful with the situation would help him create a plan. Forgiving others would allow him to move beyond his anger. He knew he was a good salesman, but life had caught him by surprise. He had aged in a society where aging is considered a disability. In truth aging isn’t a disability, it is an asset. He had to learn how to use this asset to move forward. He had seen a lot in his life that helped him be a good salesperson. He knew how to help customers and provide what they needed. He didn’t waste time trying to sell something his customers didn’t want or need. He knew the key to be a great salesperson was solving the customers problem. He learned all this as he aged. This was his truth, not his anger.

This meant he had to change his approach. He wasn’t old, he was experienced. He had a great reputation. He was known to be positive, trustworthy and competent. This was his truth not that he was old. In his frustration he had forgotten all of this and told himself something different. In doing this he had not relied on those whom he had helped in the past. His network was his answer, not filling out applications and waiting for rejection. He was still wanted, just not by an intangible community that viewed age as a liability. So he turned to his network for help.

Soon after, an up and coming company in his industry called and asked him in for an interview. They told him that his name kept coming up when they were trying to find the right person for their opening. His past and age had come back to help him. They asked him to come to work for them. Why, not because he was old, but he was the right person for the job. His reputation had trumped his age. His network spoke for him.

Sure there are those that will hold us back because of some intangible reason that doesn’t make sense. Sure we will be wronged. But what is our response. To be careful in what we tell ourselves and not become defined but what others from faraway say.  But defined by ourselves and friends. We should also remember, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Lina Trochez

HURRICANE FLORENCE AND RECOVERING WITH FAITH

My wife and I were evacuated from coastal Carolina in front of hurricane Florence. We were now refugees caused by a ferocious storm. Then we began to get calls and text messages. They all contained a simple message, “be safe.” In turn we sent the same message to our neighbors as they made their plans.

What did phrase “be safe” mean to us?  For us it was remarkable outpouring of a response and a symbol of human kindness that we both believe is the predominate nature of humanity. In an age where we are bombarded by images of human frailties, these two small words replaced those images with a powerful statement about the greatness of human compassion.

The hurricane has reaped its havoc. We will all have to band together to resurrect our community. There will be months of turmoil to fix what is broken. But our job today, as it is with any of life’s setback, is to respond faithfully. Our job today is to help our neighbor, and respond with our faith. “Be Safe” will be replaced by another statement that reveals the essence of goodness in humankind,  “Can I Help?”

As the Chairperson and President of a non-profit called, A Future With Hope, that was created to help with Super Storm Sandy’s recovery in New Jersey, I know what lies ahead. I know that these next days will require patience and calm. I know those recovering will be exposed to scams and scam artists. I know there will be days when all seems lost. I know that at times our civil authorities will seem indifferent. But these are only the transitory weeds of life that we will see.

We will see something much bigger and grander. Like in prior disasters, we will see American’s rise up once again and ask if they can help. The same people who told us when we were leaving, “be safe,” will arrive with their tools. Corporations will donate money, material and labor. The American Red Cross will assume their position on the front lines of another recovery, as they have for the past 137 years.

We will see the church respond as it always does. The United Methodist church and its relief arm UMCOR will collect donations and hands to help. Catholic charities will provide clothing and shelter. The Mennonites will show up with tools and their masses to help rebuild. The institutional church and the their massive support systems will be among the first to arrive. In our local communities scores of faithful Christians will give us acts of kindness.

I have seen this before, as one of the leaders of a non-profit designed to help in relief recoveries. Now I will be both, one of those being helped and one of those helping. I have no fear and amongst the storm I am calm. I know two things exist that fight back against the evil of disasters and those who desire harm. I know God is with us and so are our American neighbors.

We will see God in the charitable work of many. We will see God in the quiet conversations of consoling. We will see God in the children who come to help. I saw this powerful response with the people of the New Jersey shore. This organization named using words from Jeremiah 29:11; “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

As I sit the morning after, more than three hundred miles away, I know what lies ahead. I have learned it is mostly how we respond that is important. Do we cry out in despair or trust God and humanity to help. These will be difficult days ahead, perhaps months or even years. But we will still have to answer this question that stands before us, “how do we respond?”

Certainly evil abounds with both the effects of the disaster and the few who will take advantage of the weak. But evil never prevails despite its momentary gains. God and humanity combined will push back and rise up once again to win this never ending cycle of calamity.

In this struggle, we will have to be patient and resolved. We will have to avoid giving into despair. We will have to remember that we have a God of promises, who never fails. A God that promises we have; “A future With hope and plans for our welfare.”

We will rise up and rebuild this future with a hope.  

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by ål nik

“Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat.”

CALMING THE STORM

On Tuesday September 11th, 2018, I was sitting on my front porch in the early morning waiting for Hurricane Florence to hit the coast of North Carolina, where I live. The day before we completed all the suggested preparation steps. We had our evacuation route planned and found a place to stay many miles away. My two friends Rusty and Bill, who had been through hurricanes before, approved all of our preparations. We were ready.

The morning was calm and the sun started to peek over the horizon. It was a normal early morning, like so many that happened before. There was stillness and the sounds of the crickets and frogs. But in two days, according to the weather forecasters, normalcy would disappear, replaced by catastrophic winds, flooding and many inches of rain.

We were leaving and were prepared according to the instructions from our civil authorities and the best advice from our neighbors. We had packed up in our truck all that was important to our family, pictures of our daughters when they were young. These memories were what was most important to us in our preparation.

But debate surrounded my neighbors, should they stay or go. This question surrounded our community during these days of preparation. What to do? A diificult question to answer for some and for others a firm resolution of what to do. Staying meant enduring catastrophic winds and the potential to be isolated for many days. Leaving meant safety, but what would we come back to find?

Naturally, I turned my thoughts to God’s purpose and will. What could I do and what could I expect? What did God want me to do? I turned to prayer. Praying for my neighbors and their houses. Praying that all would be well. Praying for a miracle to spare our community. Praying for the safety of those who chose to ride it out. Praying for those who chose to go to higher ground. In this moment on my porch it was all I could do and all I had left to do.

Sitting on my porch I was left looking at another crossroad of life, deciding which way to turn. Do I trust that God will calm the storm or panic? Many times I had seen in the past that panic only created extraordinary emotions that accomplished little. But prayer and being prepared was calming. I knew that my house may be lost or my neighbors may suffer greatly. But this was not mine to control. All I could do was be prepared and believe in God.

In today’s verse the disciples are beset with a furious storm. A storm that threatened their lives. They panicked and  woke Jesus up, who had been sleeping in the bottom of the boat. Jesus said to them,  “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

I reflected on this verse and what it meant. I was calm like this early morning, knowing that I would see the presence of God over the next few days. Surely there would be those who will take advantage of those of us in distress. Surely there would be difficult days ahead caused by the weather. Surely there would be those that questioned our course of preparation. But surely,  the greatness of God and most of humanity would soar above these distractions.

Later, on this day I had one final thing to do before we headed to higher ground, I had to do a presentation at a book club. As we were discussing where was God in this disaster, unexpectedly a woman voiced a calming sentiment. She said, “It is not the forth coming disaster we should be focused on, by how we respond. We can choose to panic or stay calm and help.” It is all we can do, stay calm and help others. God is with us.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Quino Al

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

— Matthew 5:4

HOPE IN GRIEF

Loss is a part of life, and sadly, the older we get, the more loss we must endure. Whether through the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or the loss of a job, the process of grieving and recovering is difficult and very personal. Psychologists have identified that mourning individuals experience grief in five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. A person must pass through each stage in his or her own time on the road to recovery.

These five stages should not be avoided. They will occur, and no amount of resistance will prevent them. Resistance will only bury the feelings that will someday arise again. There is no prescribed timing on how long each phase will last. There is no schedule of events. The only things that will help are listening and caring. This is a race that must be run with no prescribed time limit. Avoiding resolving our grief, only adds to the time we are in grief.

Jesus wants us to remember his promise that all who grieve will be comforted. Through both our physical and spiritual baptisms we become part of this blessing. He walks beside us in our grief and through his promise, he gives us reason to hope that we will recover.

In addition to loss due to death, many of us also feel a profound sense of loss when faced with disability or severe illness. An elderly woman in the early stages of Alzheimer’s may grieve the loss of her fading memory, and her spouse may later mourn the loss of the woman he married, even when she’s still physically present.

Loss can have far-reaching repercussions. Individuals facing illness, disability, or even the loss of a job may also suffer from intense anxiety and fear about whether they will continue to be able to provide for themselves and their families. Many who have lost a spouse may likewise struggle with how to provide for their families and parent their grieving children while they mourn. No matter the type of loss, the experience is intensely painful, complicated, and difficult to navigate.

I have counseled many individuals who have lost a job, and as I guide them through their loss, I can see the process of grief at work. During the journey to recovery, individuals work through anxiety and fear, as well as, feelings of inadequacy and defeat. My assurances that there is a light at the end of the tunnel are no more than a temporary salve. Each person simply must work through the emotional process of mourning. It cannot be hurried or prescribed—it is a very personal process. During therapy, those in mourning will come upon roads they have to walk down in order to continue their journeys. They will make discoveries and connections that are important and sometimes very surprising.

“The journey with grief can be incredibly difficult, and for those who are in grief, time grinds on slowly.”

As we engage with those who have endured loss or are dealing with the process of grief, it is important to be empathetic. We should avoid offering platitudes, such as “It will be okay,” or “Just keep a stiff upper lip,” or “Have more faith,” as these can feel dismissive and may not be correct. Acknowledging and validating the feelings of those in mourning and allowing them to share their thoughts and express their emotions, is our best way to help. They are traveling difficult and unfamiliar roads, and their emotions will fluctuate often throughout each day and week. As they proceed through the five stages, we can become their biggest allies simply by loving them and listening to them. The journey with grief can be incredibly difficult, and for those who are in grief, time grinds on slowly.

In Matthew 5:4, Jesus says that mourners will be comforted. The word “will” gives us hope for the future. Through our baptism, we belong to a faith that gives us the assurance that the valleys of life are temporary. While our losses will never be recovered, we never lose the love of God. The gift of God’s love does not just occur because of our physical baptism; it occurs through our spiritual acceptance of God’s promises. The promise in Matthew 5:4 encourages us to keep our faith, even during the darkest moments in our lives. Jesus promises us we will be comforted.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by ryan park

“And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them.

(Luke 18:7–8)

LESSONS FROM THE PERSISTENT WIDOW

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells the story of a persistent widow. He starts the story by telling those around him, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’” (Luke 18:2–3)

Widows in the first century had few rights or resources. Losing your husband and not having family to support you, was a sentence of poverty and helplessness. There was no Social Security or other societal safety net. Widows were essentially helpless. To survive, they had to be persistent and tough. Jesus picks the widow, one of the lowest of society, to demonstrate that a persistent faith will prevail against even the toughest of circumstances.

The widow in the story Jesus tells us about in Luke has been wronged by an unnamed opponent. In her town, the judge was corrupt and only cared about his position of power. He had little interest in God or his neighbors and this was the only place of recourse for the widow; a corrupt judge who showed little interest in her or in doing right. Day after day, she showed up in his court to ask for justice. Day after day, this justice was denied. Finally, after many days of this, the judge said to himself, “I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.” (Luke 18:5)

Jesus talks about this woman in the Parable of the Persistent Widow. He uses the figure of a widow to highlight the value of being persistent, even when we feel powerless. The judge in the story is the symbol of a society that moved along its daily course, considering nothing but its daily route. Lost are people like the widows because they were not part of that route.

Jesus’ point in telling this story is that our persistent faith in achieving an honorable outcome, even in the face of the evil, will produce results. He asks at the end of the story, “And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. (Luke 18:7–8)

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Katie Burkhart on Unsplash

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

— John 4:10

THE GIFT OF LIVING WATER

One of the most insightful stories in the Gospel about how Jesus helps broken people occurs in chapter four in the Gospel of John. It is the story of a slow but patient evangelism by Jesus that lifts up the lowest of the low to become the first mass evangelist for Christ in the Bible.

Jesus is sitting alone at a well in Samaria, Jacob’s well. It is noontime and a woman approaches the well. Jesus asks her for a drink. To us in the twenty-first century, this could be a story about a man in his thirties who is tired from walking long miles. He meets a woman who has a bucket that can give him water. Seems simple enough, but it is not. It is a story with many twists and turns. It is a story of Jesus’ approach to humankind. It is a story that resembles Jesus’ internal conversation with us. A story that must be pulled apart. A story with a surprising ending.

The woman Jesus meets at the well is from Samaria and has had a very hard life. We know this from three clues that we are given at the beginning of the story. First, she is a Samaritan. The Samaritans were considered social outcasts by the dominant Jewish population. Second, she is a woman. In the first century, women had very few rights and society was heavily tilted toward men. In fact, women were in some corners considered the property of their husbands. Finally, this woman is drawing water at noontime, the hottest part of the day in the Middle East. Most women would draw their family’s water in the cool of the morning. It was also a community gathering time. This woman came alone, potentially because the other women of her community had rejected her. She lived a lonely and lowly life, an outcast for being a Samaritan and a woman, and then rejected also by her own people. Yet here she was, the lowest of society, unknowingly meeting with Jesus.

Jesus begins their dialogue with an innocent request: “Give me a drink.” Stunned, because a Jew is asking a Samaritan woman to do him a favor, she asks, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” Jesus ignores this question and proceeds to invite her into a conversation that is both revealing and designed to draw her deeper. He brings up “living water.” His purpose is not to discuss the socioeconomic status in the Judean world. He has a mission for this woman. A mission that he could not spring on her immediately. He has a simple path of getting her to be accepting. A path that will lead to marvelous things. But Jesus is patient and knows to move slowly.

Imagine that we are this woman. We are used to people shutting us down, because of gender, social status, and our past. It has been a hot climb to the well to get water for the day. Here sits a single man of the dominant culture asking for water. Would we think, what does he really want? Would we be suspicious? Would we be afraid? Would we bow our heads and humbly hand him water? Instead, this woman asks a simple question, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?”. A question of amazement. With this question, she reveals herself to be forthright and curious.

Jesus in turn tells her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who this is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink’, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)

She replies, “Sir you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well, and with his sons and his flock drank from it?” (John 4:11–12) By saying this, the woman proves she is steeped in the history of the Bible and fully aware that Jacob was the great ancestor of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Jesus continues telling her about the “living water,” by saying, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water I will give them will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” (John 4:13–14)

In this brief interchange, Jesus uses the woman’s daily task of drawing water to tell her about a different way of living. A connection she will understand later. Jesus is not talking just about water, but of faith in God. A way to change her life of being an outcast to being a faith-driven woman. A way to become accepted by God and her neighbor.

The woman asks for the water Jesus is offering, but still does not know this is God talking to her through Jesus. Jesus tells her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” (John 4:16)

She replies, “I have no husband.”

Jesus knew this when he asked her this question to allow for a prophetic statement that would reveal himself to be more than a great prophet. Jesus says, “You are right in saying ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband.” (John 4:17–18) Stunned that this random man would know all this about her past, the woman now knows that this conversation is bigger than just about water. She replies to Jesus, “I know that Messiah is coming (who is called Christ). When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” (John 4: 25) Jesus replies to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.” (John 4:26) A clear statement from Jesus that he is the great “I Am” that visited Moses many centuries earlier.

The woman from the well leaves to tell her people that she might have found the Messiah, and she asks the leaders of her community to go back with her to see if this is true. Many from her community believe her because of the story she told and how Jesus knew everything about her. They head back to the well and invite Jesus to spend a few days with them. After a few days of being with Jesus, they proclaim to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard ourselves, and we know this is truly the Savior of the world.” (John 4:42)

“Like many that have been broken, the woman at the well was healed because she believed and because Jesus saw greatness in her.”

Jesus had made a simple request, “Give me a drink,” which led to the acceptance by an entire community of his message. Jesus did not condemn the woman because of her past life; instead he looked past what she had done, to who she was as a person. A curious person with a forthright attitude. A person trusting in God, who wanted to know him better. Jesus put aside the judgment of her life and went straight at her value to humankind. She had been a broken woman, outcast by her people because of her past, gender, and an unforgiving society, but Jesus knew her differently. He knew that through her, an entire community would come to faith. Like many that have been broken, the woman at the well was healed because she believed and because Jesus saw greatness in her.

Brokenness is a place where many start their journey of faith. A point where we have led a life away from God. At our lowest point, we begin the long march upward to regain the inheritance promised to us all. Our own action of wanting a different life, combined with the forgiving grace of Jesus, heals us and moves us along on the journey of faith. We discover that Jesus does not care about our past but wants to guide our future. When we accept this future through our faith in the unseen, we are healed.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Jeffrey Hamilton on Unsplash

“Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.”

– (Luke 15: 31–32)

CHEERING FOR THE FORGIVEN

Perhaps no story in the Gospel tells the story of redemption from a broken life better than the Parable of the Prodigal Son. In this story, one of the two sons of a wealthy man wandered off to a life opposite of what God and his father would have wanted for him.

The story starts with the youngest son requesting his inheritance early. His father then divided up his wealth and gave the younger son his part. The son traveled to a distant land and for a while, lived a life of luxury and sin. As we could guess, eventually he ran out of money; and unfortunately, his funds ran out at time of great famine in this distant land.

Finding no other work than feeding the pigs on a farm, he took that job, wondering many times why the pigs were fed better than himself. He had hit rock bottom and was alone and destitute in a faraway place. He had no future, no support system; the friends he’d had when he had money were a distant memory.

With what little he had he set off for his father’s house, thinking that if nothing else he could get a job as a hired hand. Then at least, he could be fed and sheltered and would have family close by. He prepared himself for his meeting with his father. He knew he would have to admit that he had sinned and squandered all he had been given. His thoughts were riveted on working hard to re-earn his father’s trust. Over and over in his mind, he reviewed his past and was deeply regretful. He was finally at a place to admit his sinful past, and ready to do whatever he could to regain a better life, even as his father’s hired hand.

As he approached the farm, he is stunned by the reception from his father, who greeted him with open arms and accepted him back fully. A very different reception than he had expected. Out of joy, his father held a lavish party for all to attend to celebrate the return of his son.

His older brother was upset at the extravagant acceptance his father showed to the younger son. Complaining, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” (Luke 15:29–30) All this was true.

His father replied, Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” (Luke 15: 31–32)

“We will all get lost at some point.”

The son who had been lost was found, like us. We will all get lost at some point. We will all want a second chance. We all will want to try again. Whether we are rich or poor, we will all fall. Falling is not the end of the story; it is about forgiveness and a heart that wants to change, the story of our faith helping us recover from our own brokenness.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Jeff King on Unsplash