A Christmas meditation

Stylized star of Bethlehem

Interim Pastor David Mueller shared a four-part meditation on Christmas Eve. We include the text here and a link (below) to the archived service on our YouTube channel. Our worship, led by John Lasher, director of music and worship arts, included a chime choir and guest violinist Maria Rusu.

Christmas Eve 2020

Interim Pastor David Mueller

PART I: JOSEPH

In Matthew’s report, I would like to focus on Joseph. The predicament he was in was hardly simple and easily dealt with. Especially back then, the appearance of an unmarried young woman carrying a child would have been more than a disaster. The shame and shunning would have been severe.

Mary came to Joseph and reported that she was pregnant and the Father was God. She claimed that the Holy Spirit impregnated her. We cannot be sure that Joseph would have understood that because the Holy Spirit’s advent would not come until Pentecost over three decades later. Perhaps this was a special appearance. Joseph’s first impression had to be “Yeah, right!”

We are told, however, that he was a “righteous man.” We learn here he was also a sensitive and compassionate man, for he had no designs on embarrassing or disgracing her or himself. His design was to resolve his dilemma privately. We can call Joseph not only righteous but honorable.

Enter a messenger from God, which is what the word “angelos” means. The angel shared past prophesy and present purpose in a dream leading Joseph to do what was righteous and honorable in the extreme by sticking with Mary.

It is important to be righteous and honorable, which does not presume perfection and without sin. It is equally important to believe in angels, one of whom you could experience one day.

PART II: MARY

“In those days Mary set out ….” (Luke 1:39). “In those days, a decree went out ….” Joseph went with the pregnant Mary. Their political pilgrimage took them over 100 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem. We are not offered a time frame here, knowing only that they made it just in time, for upon arrival her baby was born. Please understand that there were no hotels, motels, or Air B&Bs in those days. Many houses had a niche in the back on the ground floor with a roof over it as a place for animals at night. Bethlehem is over 2,800 feet above sea level and got quite cool — even cold — at night.

A great deal, all of it positive, was to be said about Mary, this early teenager, now married to a man most likely in his late 20s or early 30s, which was typical back then. None of these accolades means she was perfect. What stands out to me, having made the same trip any number of times in a car, is how tough and resilient this young woman must have been. The pregnancy was difficult in a contextual way. The trip was grueling to say the least. At the end of the journey, she was not rushed to delivery and then given a comfortable bed in maternity with the nursery right next door.

When Mary began this saga, she was visited by an angel, this time named “Gabriel.” “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you … Do not be afraid.” Gabriel went on to share the holiest of Holy Spirit activity, being told that “The power of the Most High” would overshadow her and she would give birth to the “Son of God.”

It is a very good thing that God was with her to empower her because she would need every ounce of God-given strength, courage and, yes, resilience.

To be favored by God is often not easy. It is a very good thing that this favored one came quickly to believe in angels.

PART III: SHEPHERDS

Speaking of angels, A WHOLE HOST appeared to some number of shepherds — of all people — making all kinds of heavenly racket with heavenly light shining bright enough to make it seem like day. These guys in this humble duty might typically get to see a wolf or two or some other beast of prey from which they needed to protect the sheep. It was usually a quiet and possibly boring a task. Not on this night! Boom! Heaven opened up to be witnessed not by the upper crust but to shepherds. We should not be surprised by this for, indeed, the One born would grow up to proclaim himself among other things as “The Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep.”

It was a good thing that prior to the throng of angels making themselves seen, heard and known, just one appeared first to soften the shock. The Angel spoke those incredibly inviting words, spoken previously also to Joseph and Mary: “Do not be afraid!” The angel then shared: “I have GOOD NEWS of great joy not only for you and all people; you are getting not just any savior but the Messiah!”

It is a very good thing that these shepherds came to believe in angels. It was an even better thing that immediately following their encounter with the majestic they said to one another “let us go … and see.” And after seeing they were given to “glorifying and praising God.”Going to praise and share the news is our privilege as well.

Take the angels out of the carols we usually sing — but cannot this year — and we get musical Swiss cheese, with holes one could drive a herd of sheep through. That said, heavenly racket is one thing and blasting out the carols is another, but especially now what we long for is a little light and a quiet night. Nothing else we traditionally do on Christ’s Mass is more precious than to dim the artificial, light the candles and quietly sing “Silent Night.” We will do our best with that in a few. If even in an unusual way, we failed to give this a try, something quite essential would be missing. At a time in history where heavenly racket seems strangely absent but the volume of hellish racket has been turned up, do enjoy, indeed, rejoice in the relative quiet and peace!

PART IV: THE WORLD

The Gospel of John is absent the characters of Matthew and Luke. There is this cosmic beam of light that invades darkness, along with love that invades hate, and life that invades death.

Those then and now who see and welcome the light are “given power to become children of God, born not of blood, the will of flesh, or the will of humanity, but of God.”

Jesus here is not “the babe” but the “Word” (logos in Greek, THE word), who “became flesh and lived among us … full of grace and truth.”

On this Christ’s Mass Eve, I pray for each and all of you to be full of gratia and alaethea, grace and truth. Beware, however, for in Matthew 24:23/24 we read:

“Then if anyone says to you, ’Look! Here is the Messiah’ or ‘There he is!’ — do not believe it for false messiahs and false prophets will appear …  to lead astray even the elect.”

In faith and with joy, we need to avoid the “pseudochristoi” (false Christs) and celebrate the aleatheachristoi (true Christ). May it be so with all of you!

May you know the peace and the power of God in the presence of His Son, God’s personal Word.

Amen.

Link to the service:

 

UPDATE: Christmas at St. Mark’s

Peace on Earth

Yes, Virginia, there is a Christmas Day coming — even in the year 2020! We don’t want you to miss any of the opportunities St. Mark’s has as we commemorate the birth of our Lord in that humble stable setting in Bethlehem.

Of course, 2020’s indelible mark comes with these holidays. Most of us will not be gathering in person, because of the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to ravage our world. But we can still gather in both real and virtual ways, thanks to the faithful, multifaceted efforts of our St. Mark’s family, led by Interim Pastor David Mueller and John Lasher, our director of music and worship arts.

Here’s what’s coming:

  • Christmas Eve. We will have ONE in-person service at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 24, with a chime choir and violinist Maria Rusu. Attendance is limited to 45 people in order to maintain social distance requirements. Those with reservations should arrive 15-30 minutes early to allow for registration and seating. The service will also be available by livestream on our YouTube channel. The link is embedded below..

  • Join us for worship at 10 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 27 for a service of  Lessons & Carols. Join us in person or enjoy our livestream broadcast on our YouTube channel at the link below:

  • At noon on Sunday, December 27, we will rebroadcast the Delaware-Maryland Synod’s service of Lessons & Carols, featuring musical offerings and readings from churches throughout the Synod. Two selections from our Virtual Choir will be included. Join in at the link below. If you’d like  a copy of the Synod’s bulletin, you may view and download it by clicking here.

  • Catch up on our pre-recorded Advent Devotions if you missed any of them. They also are available on our YouTube channel.

 

Bishop William Gohl to visit St. Mark’s

Bishop William Gohl

St. Mark’s welcomes Bishop William “Bill” Gohl Jr. to our worship service on Sunday, December 13!

The 10 a.m. Sunday service will be livestreamed on our YouTube channel. The link is below. (Have you subscribed yet?) And Bishop Gohl also will be featured on Interim Pastor David Mueller’s “Midweek Extra” later this week.

Here’s a bit about him, according to his profile on the website of our synod, the Delaware-Maryland Synod of the ELCA:

Bishop Gohl was elected bishop at the 2016 Synod Assembly. At the time of his election, he was pastor of Epiphany Lutheran Church and intern supervisor/vice pastor of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, both in Baltimore. Before that, he served at Peace Lutheran Church in Glen Burnie, Maryland, in vice pastorates at Our Saviour, Lansdowne, Maryland; Zion, City Hall Plaza; Faith, North Avenue and assisted at All Saints, Loch Raven, and Peoples Community in Baltimore.

He attended Gettysburg College, earning his bachelor’s degree in 1996, and earned his master’s at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2000. He is now between a master of sacred theology (STM) and doctor of ministry (DMin) at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.

Bill is married to the Rev. Arwyn Pierce Gohl and they have four children, Saliese, David, Andrew and Joyanne.

The Gohls make their home in the northeast corner of Baltimore City and enjoy time with their families; the Gohl side in Shrewsbury, Pennsylvania (by way of Long Island, where the bishop grew up) and the Pierce side in Fairhaven, Massachusetts.

Join us for worship in the sanctuary or by way of our YouTube channel, where the service will be livestreamed and available for viewing later, too. Here’s the link:

Keep holding on! A message from our Council President

Photo of Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes, taken by Liza Agsalud. Used under CC2.0

Hold on! That was the sage advice from cool rocker Brittany Howard that I shared back in March when the impact of the pandemic was just getting started. I never thought it would last this long. I’m still listening to the music, changing it up sometimes but the theme remains the same.

St Mark’s has accomplished a lot in the past nine months, despite the difficulties we’ve encountered.

  • I can’t say enough good things about our Worship and Music Team. With music led by John Lasher, they have provided a weekly service for us, seemingly without major effort — and I know it’s harder and more time consuming than it looks. Pre-recorded, onsite and online — they have switched it up as needed and done a tremendous job.
  • Our Interim Pastor David Mueller has gone above and beyond, providing pastoral care, calling  congregation members and talking to anyone that answers their phone. He has been chatting weekly on YouTube with local experts and friends. They are all online so if you missed any you can still watch them. He has led our Transition Team to sharing our St Mark’s Covenant Journey and asked the Council to form a Call Committee.
  • The Congregation met and approved the Call Committee members who have now started meeting. They recently sent out a survey to the congregation asking for feedback. The survey is a mandatory step in the Call Process so please get your response to the office ASAP. Yes, I know we’ve filled out multiple surveys over the past couple years.  It’s frustrating, but part of the Call Process and they can’t move forward without it. To steal a phrase from Nike — Just Do It. We want the Call Process to move forward smoothly.
  • Cheryl in the office has kept us moving along as if nothing has changed. She keeps me on task 😊.
  • We’ve started working on the Annual Meeting (scheduled for Sunday, January 31). The business of the Church is moving forward.
  • Many thanks to everyone who contributed to the Hilltop Thanksgiving Baskets and Children’s Christmas gifts. I am amazed at your continued generosity. We have an awesome congregation!
  • The pandemic is moving into what may be a scary phase of community spread. We’ve cancelled the Bazaar. That was a difficult decision. Many of St Mark’s members have worked hard all year on the Bazaar and the crafts are available. Please contact Ann Boeker-Wilson to schedule an appointment.

We may be moving back to pre-recorded online worship in the coming weeks. We’ll be communicating with you as quickly as possible.

Please stay safe and be good to each other and the world.

HOLD ON — we will get through this!

Kitty Dombroski

President, St. Mark’s Leadership Council

Photo of Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard by Liza Agsalud of Los Angeles, Calif. / CC BY 2.0

Midweek Extra: With the Very Rev. Bill Lane

Interim Pastor David Mueller and the Very Rev. Bill Lane

In this segment of the Midweek Extra, Interim Pastor David Mueller is joined by the Very Rev. Bill Lane, rector priest at St. Nicholas Episcopal Church in Newark and pastoral associate at Christ Church Christiana Hundred.

Rev. Lane has been a priest for more than 50 years. He came to Delaware in 1975, assuming responsibilities as vicar of St. Nicholas Church in Newark and coordinator of Christian Education for the Episcopal Church in Delaware. Eleven years later, he joined the clergy staff of Christ Church and remained there until 1997 when he became dean of the Cathedral Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

After retiring in 2006, he and his wife, Beverly, returned to Delaware, where he has served at Ascension Church in Claymont, the Cathedral Church of St. John, Sts. Andrew & Matthew, St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Middletown and Christ Church.

The two pastors discuss the Palestinian/Israeli conflict from a political and religious perspective.

Here are two links related to this conversation: A book recommended during the discussion — “The Other Side of the Wall” by Munther Isaac — and Pastor Mueller’s chat with Rabbi Peter Grumbacher.

Here’s a link to this conversation on our YouTube channel is below.

Midweek Extra: With PCOC’s Kathryn Morgan

Interim pastors Kathryn Morgan and David Mueller
In the Midweek Extra for November 11, Interim Pastor David Mueller was joined by the Rev. Kathryn Morgan, interim pastor at Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, our next-door neighbor.
Rev. Morgan grew up in Pitman, N.J., and attended First Presbyterian Church of Pitman. She and her husband, David Wible, live there now.
She and Pastor Mueller discuss how church has changed — for better and for worse — this year, plans for Advent season activities and opportunities for continued church collaboration, even with churches many miles away discovered because of the lockdowns.
Here’s a link to the video on our YouTube channel:

The votes are in! We have a Call Committee!

Leadership Council President Kitty Dombroski

We have a Call Committee! Praise God!

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Congregational Meeting on Sunday, Oct. 4. Using remote technology ensured that everyone had an opportunity to vote.

It was great to see all the members in person and also those who drove to St Mark’s and placed their paper ballot in the plastic bowl attached to the paint roller extension.  I am sure it was quite a sight and it definitely added some levity to the inconvenience of not being able to all meet in person!

We needed 36 for a quorum and had 81 ballots. The Committee was elected with 75 votes.

Our Call Committee will start meeting with the Delaware-Maryland Synod Representative this month.

Please continue to pray for St Mark’s, the Call Committee and our new Pastor.

The Holy Spirit is at work!

Kitty Dombroski
President, St. Mark’s Leadership Council

Council update: St. Mark’s ready to elect a Call Committee

Cross and stained glass window

Dear St. Mark’s Congregation,

What a long strange trip it has been. 2020 is not the year we thought it would be. In spite of significant obstacles and through the power of the Holy Spirit, St. Mark’s has continued to thrive and grow. Our Transition Team has created our Covenant Journey and has indicated that St. Mark’s is ready to start the call process for our new pastor.

Praise God!

St. Mark’s Council met with The Rev. Robin Litton from the Delaware-Maryland Synod to discuss how to move forward. We have been assured that there is a way. There has been movement of pastors within the Synod during the pandemic and it is vitally important that we move forward.

On September 13, Council approved a slate of eight candidates (see the full list below) to be on the Call Committee. This group of members must be elected by the Congregation to be on the Call Committee as per our Constitution (C13.04).

Council has scheduled a Special Congregational Meeting for Sunday, October 4, immediately following the 10 a.m. worship service, to elect the Call Committee members. You may participate in the meeting in person in the sanctuary or watch it electronically as an extended part of our live-stream coverage on YouTube.

St. Mark’s constitution also requires that election of Call Committee members must be done in person. No proxy or absentee ballots are permitted.

Ballots have been mailed to members and will also be available onsite. They will be collected in the parking lot until 1 p.m. on Oct. 4. If you participate in the congregational meeting remotely (via YouTube), you must still come in person to St. Mark’s by 1 p.m. to submit your ballot. You will not need to leave your car, but you must deliver your own ballot.

Thank you all for your prayers!

Kitty Dombroski

St. Mark’s Council President

Call Committee Nominees

These are the nominees for St. Mark’s Call Committee:

Amy Lane

A lifelong Lutheran, Amy and her husband, Kevin, live in Wilmington, Delaware. They have two adult children. Amy and Kevin have been members of St. Mark’s since moving to Delaware from Nashville, Tennessee, in 2001.

Amy’s professional background includes significantAmy Lane human resources and business experience. She was St. Mark’s first Director of Education & Outreach, then worked as the office manager and, eventually, as an HR specialist for the non-profit Delaware Association for the Education of Young Children. She then became a fiscal management analyst for the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services. She now is the administrative specialist and a member of the management team at the University of Delaware’s Center for Disabilities Studies.

“I’m honored to be considered for the St. Mark’s Search Committee and I look forward to participating in the process as God guides us to the spiritual leader that will be the best fit for our congregation.”

Cheryl Powell

Cheryl is a relatively new member of St. Mark’s, having arrived in early 2015 by way of Philadelphia. Cheryl Powell She is a physician’s assistant, currently employed at the Philadelphia Veterans Administration Medical Center. She is also a retired Navy yeoman.

An avid reader, she also enjoys sewing, cooking and singing, and is a member of the St. Mark’s choir, along with her brother, David McClure.

She has a grown son, Duncan, who is a graduate engineer, working in civil engineering at a firm in Missouri. His girlfriend, Corrine, is completing her veterinary degree. Cheryl and David reside in Claymont.

Elise Mitchell

Elise has lived in Wilmington since 2001 and became a member of St. Mark’s in 2003. Elise MitchellShe has been married to Tom for 17 years and they have two boys, Graham, 13, and Clayton, 11.

Elise has worked for Enterprise Car Sales for 16 years.

She is a member of St. Mark’s altar guild and enjoys crafting and restoring their home.

Francine Passerini

Francine has been been a member of St. Mark’s for 14 years. During that time, she has served as a Steven Minister and has been part of the Wednesday Bible study group, the craft group, Francine PasseriniCaring Hearts, co-chair of the Lutheran Community Services breakfast and (prior to COVID-19) was a tutor at Presbyterian Church of the Covenant’s after-school program called “Edge.” She has participated in many women’s and charitable activities.

Francine is a wife, mother of three and “Nonni” to 12 grandchildren. She is a native of Wilmington and a retired elementary and middle school teacher.

“I look forward to working with the Call Committee, the Church Council and the congregation with the guidance of the Holy Spirit to jointly select our next pastor.”

Jerry Schrack

Jerry has been a member of St. Mark’s since 2004. He is happily married to Cecilia and the Jerry Schrackproud father of Dana, Solomon and Holly.

Jerry has served St. Mark’s as a Sunday school teacher for the preschool and elementary age classes and most recently served as the “Zero Gravity” youth leader with Cecilia.

The Schracks live in North Wilmington. Jerry works at Swarthmore College as assistant Director of Horticulture and Grounds.

Michael K. Patterson

Mike has been a member of St. Mark’s since 2006. He is married to Faith, who serves on St. Mark’s Leadership Council, and has a son, a stepdaughter, two stepsons and six grandchildren. He Mike Patterson earned a B.S. degree from the University of Delaware in Operations Management Business and an MBA from Wilmington University.

He is a retired field grade Army officer with approximately 25 years of military service and a retired senior department head director of hospital in Pennsylvania, with more than 25 years of experience in facilities management.

Mike worked as a quality engineer with Thiokol Corporation, which manufactured rocket motors for satellites. He now teaches military science Army ROTC at the University of Delaware. His previous teaching experience included Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore and a public high school in Philadelphia.

Vicki McDowell

Vicki is an active member of St. Mark’s, teaching confirmation classes, serving as co-leader of the Wednesday Bible Study and participating in Sunday afternoon and Wednesday evening Vicki McDowellBible studies. She is also a member of the Delmarva Emmaus community, actively sponsoring and supporting church members on their “Walk to Emmaus” experience and an active member in their “Fourth Day” community of alumni.

She is a member of the Kairos Prison Ministry Program in Delaware and served on six teams with the Maryland Women’s Team at Jessup (MCI-W).

Currently retired, she served in the United States Air Force for 20 years, attaining the rank of master sergeant. She has also done a lot of farm work and has worked as a groom with show horses, as a ranch manager and as the caregiver for her mother, the late Roberta Dukes.

Wayne Smiley

Wayne has attended St. Mark’s since 2009 and says he enjoyed the worship experience so much that he attended a new member class and joined the church.Wayne Smiley

Wayne was elected to the St. Mark’s Leadership Council in 2011 and was elected president of the Council at the beginning of his second term. He served two years as president.

He has played guitar with the contemporary worship band “Souls on Fire” for the last three years.

Midweek Extra: Chaplain Mindy Holland of Lutheran Campus Ministries

Chaplain Mindy Holland and Interim Pastor David Mueller

In today’s edition of the Midweek Extra, Interim Pastor David Mueller talks with special guest Mindy Holland, chaplain of Lutheran Campus Ministries at the University of Delaware, one of St. Mark’s ministry partners.

Chaplain Holland talks about her background in the ministry, how campus ministry connects with students’ lives and how things have changed in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Students want to engage deeply with Scripture and to engage deeply with complex questions,” she said. “… They want to look at the hard stuff and say how does this relate to me and how do I then turn it around so it can bless others? It’s a rich gift to be with them as they engage these new questions.”

If you have questions you’d like Pastor Mueller to address in future weeks, feel free to call the church office or send an email.

Today’s message: ‘Justice Deserved’

Hands with a few coins

A link to our live-stream service (via our YouTube Channel) is below, along with the text of Interim Pastor David Mueller’s sermon. For more information on this new online option, please read the guide provided by John Lasher, director of music and worship arts.

 

“Justice Deserved” (Matthew 18:21-35)

Interim Pastor David E. Mueller

You are getting a double dose of the Joseph story in that I referred to it last Sunday and here it is as the Hebrew lesson for today. It is an incredibly beautiful story about why forgiveness is far better than bitterness.

By typical human standards, Joseph had every right and reason to come down hard on his brothers. This was the equivalent of human trafficking today. It must have been pure agony and loneliness for years for Joseph to have been ripped out of his family and by his own brothers to boot. On a practical level, however, now that they all had been re-united in Egypt for 17 years, not knowing that their progeny would be there for over 400 more years, it made sense to get along and not be estranged.

By contrast, in the Gospel we are confronted with one of the worst cases of utterly base violations of the “Golden Rule” anywhere in the Christian Scriptures.

Right away, I want to emphasize that this parable is first and foremost about God’s forgiving grace and mercy. This can easily be lost in what must be ravenous rage in most of us about the awful turn of events and treatment of the second debtor by the first. Keep thinking thankfully about how gracious and merciful God is. Refuse to get lost in the inhumanity and ungratefulness of the first servant.

PRAYER:

Lord God of Heaven and Earth, we rejoice in You and Your promises made to us. Help us never to be guilty of abusing You and Your grace and mercy and Your eternal love of us, shown especially in Jesus Christ, Your Son and our Savior. Amen.

This begins with the disciple we can count on as being mildly cantankerous in his questioning and commenting on the words of Jesus. OK, Jesus, you shared about going personally to someone who has offended us — that is, keeping the matter contained and only later bringing in others if necessary. So then, how often do we need to do this forgiveness thing? We need to give Peter a little credit here because he probably knew full well how hard forgiving others really is.

The answer that Jesus gives here may as well be “Infinitely!” In former translations, we heard 70 times 7. Now it is 77 times. In either instance, it is “don’t ever stop forgiving.” The number 7 in Biblical numerology always means complete. Forgiveness is never one and done.

There is more math herein. Scottish preacher William Barclay, in his “Handbook of Parables of Jesus” published in 1970, concludes that 10,000 talents is at least 10 times as much as the taxes paid by the total number of provinces in Judea. In 1970, it would have been 2.4 million British pounds or nearly 4 million U.S. dollars. Many of us might recall back then and now realize how much inflation there has been since 1970. The point is that it was utterly impossible to be paid back. One cannot help but wonder how on earth the steward could have accumulated such debt. Talk about things sneaking up on you.Empty wallet

The debt the steward wanted repaid in full was 500,000 times less. I am happy that Barclay did this math because otherwise we would not grasp the enormity of what the first man owed in comparison to the pittance owed him. A denarius was a day’s wage.

In the first place, Jesus told this parable to show how infinitely large and vast is God’s grace and mercy. In the second place, by implication, we are to consider the sins committed against us. As much as we may have hurt, as disappointed in a friend or family member as we may have been left, by human standards — as much as you have a right to expect justice — none of it is but a pittance compared to what any of us owe God.

We may not be murderers, thieves or gossips, and we may give generously of our time and treasures. We may not be America’s most wanted. When one looks at the comparison between crooks and people like us, the distance from God’s perspective might not be that much. We each and all owe God infinitely more than anyone else owes us!

“Have patience with me and I will pay you everything!” That is the biggest joke here. But how many bargains have we made with God? “Lord, if You forgive me, I promise never to do it again!” And those of us who are parents, how often did your children at various ages make similar promises? Did you believe them?

OK, so neither the math nor our methods work out very well for any of us! Perhaps it is because of the value we tend to place on our hurts.

Gigi and I were driving to upstate New York on Easter Sunday afternoon, 2019. Back in 1983, we were run into from the rear at a stop light by a woman driving 50-60 mph. There were no skid marks, just boom! I would love to share more about that some other time. Suffice it to say, I have lived in my rear view mirror ever since.

On that Easter afternoon there was this large white vehicle five cars back weaving in and off the road on both sides. I asked Gigi to get out paper and pen because if the vehicle got past us, I wanted it reported. Next thing we know at between 70-80 mph this Chevy Tahoe smacked us, pushed us off the road barely inches from the guard rail, and 500 feet later came to a stop.

I do not believe this was an accident but a criminal act. She admitted fault and the State Trooper gave her four tickets.

We were physically uninjured, but you should ride with Gigi and experience the lingering effect of this hit. I forgive her, but so that she harms no one else, I want her license suspended. Her insurance, All State, advertises 40% discounts for good drivers. I want her to pay at least 40% more. Am I an ogre? Possibly, but it is the reality of how I feel. Yet I can still forgive her, lest I (we) be the one(s) who are losing sleep over this incident.

Just as important, and really inescapable, as are our feelings about this woman’s crime against us — we must be honest and authentic — so also forgiveness, as Jesus states, must be authentic, that is, “from the heart.” There is no faking forgiveness! God sees through it even if no one else does.

In Luke 7:36, Jesus has a woman of questionable character anointing his feet and drying them with her hair. Obviously this freaked out his Pharisee host. Jesus then told another story about two debtors, one owing 10 times what the other owed. Which one, asked Jesus, will love the creditor more for forgiving the debt?

The one forgiven the most!

The insurmountable debt forgiven by the king of the first debtor here should have brought him so much joy and gratitude that he couldn’t wait to forgive the debt of the fellow who owed him so little. He chose instead his own fate — and, oh, how just was his deserved reward!

Abusing God’s grace is a dangerous matter. Accepting God’s grace gratefully is a genuine delight. Thank you, Jesus!

Amen.