The Words of the Swearson Family
1. Glad you came here an hour early. It feels like 9 but it's actually 10.
2. I would like to first say, I'm really grateful to be here and I want to really give thanks to our Senior Pastor for giving me this opportunity to be here. By the way I consider her to be the Babe Ruth of the Sunday sermon – you know what I mean.
3. I want to give a shout out to my family, to my brothers and sisters in District 8. District 8 is a big area. It's seven states; Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas.
4. I would like to also say happy birthday to Yass who is out there in Omaha. It's a big district. About 1000 miles from north to south and 600 miles from east to west. You could actually fit in England, France, and Spain and still have some room left over. That's how big it is.
5. I wanted to share with you to start with – about my family. About three years ago one of my brother-in-laws was diagnosed with renal cancer and the doctors were very concerned. They thought, "Well, it might even be terminal." They weren't sure. And so the calls went out to start praying for Uncle Frank. Two of the nephews, they were brothers – one was seven and one was about five at the time, they were sitting at the breakfast table and their mother asked them, "before we start breakfast can you say a prayer for uncle Frank." So Jacob, the seven-year-old, said, "Yeah I'll pray." And he says, "Dear Heavenly Father, please give Uncle Frank one more chance!" And then the five-year-old, Luke, says, "Can I pray to?" "Sure honey you can pray."… "Dear Heavenly Father please give Uncle Frank two more chances." And I think Uncle Frank was very glad that he prayed that prayer because he came through the surgery very good. They took out a kidney and they also took out 20 lymph nodes, I guess to detect if there is any cancer around the body. He started feeling better and about 11 months later he's out on a motorcycle with some of his buddies and they're at an intersection and a car runs the red light and broadsides him on his motorcycle. And so he ends up in the hospital, but actually with just a broken collar bone. It was not so bad. He used up both chances in less than a year.
6. This morning I wanted to talk to you a little bit about forgiveness. When you think about forgiveness, it's really about cleansing, and it's also about a second chance as well.
7. The amazing thing about Father is that you could see that Father really understood this, even at a very early age. In his poem, talks about, in the Crown of Glory, Father really understood at the time the value of forgiveness. I'll just read the center part of that poem.
Even though we are deceived still
Even though we arbitrate still forgive.
Love completely even those who hate you.
Wipe your tears away and welcome with a smile those who know nothing but deceit and those who betray without regret.
8. You know, Father was sent to prison by America in 1984, and yet still Father gave America so much. He gave America another chance. I guess, for that matter, he gave the world another chance. And to this day Father continues to love America, even after America officially rejected him and even put him in prison, Father has truly forgiven this nation.
9. I'm sure you noticed Father really has this fascination with cranes. Often he speaks about cranes, how magnificent they are, and how we should be able also to fly like a crane. I have a part of a talk he gave. You know the flight of a crane can probably resemble our life of faith.
Can the crane fly well? No, it can't fly very well to start with. Once, however, it starts to fly no bird can follow it. This is what is so great about the crane. When the crane starts to fly with its big strides it doesn't look as though it is going to be able to fly. However, no one can follow the crane once it has started flying. It has that kind of authority. So you must be like cranes. What is the bird that can fly the longest distance without moving its wings? It's the crane, it is not the eagle.
Are you going to become like a baby goose or baby Crane. Now geese are quite nice birds. When they walk around with their feathers spread out on their behinds, they look quite nice. They would make good disco dancers. Would you like to become a champion disco dancer, or would you like to become like a crane? If you want to become like a crane you have to learn how to align yourself to the vertical line of the universe. In other words, you need to have the right kind of attitude. People have to have an upright conscience. For this to be achieved the vertical line already needs to be drawn in your life. And you have to know this.
The crane flies really high, but we at this time can't fly so high. Even if you can't really fly that high, you should at least try to fly at the middle level. In order to follow father and mother you have to look high. You should not have your eyes fixed on the ground. Even if you start flying at the middle level, the more you fly the higher you will go. Your whole body needs to go up. Now, I haven't reached the conclusion, but you look as though you are wondering whether I am going to ask you to make some more sacrifices. (Sounds like him doesn't?) You're right, I am. Because that is your destiny. So, for us to fly spiritually, like the crane, we need to let go of the excess baggage that we have, we need to learn about forgiveness.
10. What I did was, I did some research and I found some great things about forgiveness. Paul Mosey, he writes, "Forgiveness does not change the past, but it enlarges the future." In a couple of days, I guess on Friday, it's going to be St. Patrick's Day. Any Irish out there? Would you be surprised to know that St. Patrick was actually English? That's true. He was born about 1600 years ago. When he was about 16 he was captured by some Irish raiders and he was taken back to Ireland. And there he was a captive, a slave for about six years. Patrick worked as a herdsman, and in that time, when he writes about (those days) he said, "I don't remember a day going by where I wasn't cold or I wasn't hungry." But while he was in captivity he prayed every day and his faith grew stronger. After six years he heard a voice that was telling him that soon the day would come when he would go home – and that his ship was ready to sail. So, fleeing his master he traveled to a port about 200 miles away. He walked for days and there he found the ship, and after various adventures he returned home safely to his family. But now he is no longer a teenager he is in his mid-20s. Patrick recounts, a few years after returning home, that he had a vision that really changed his life. He said, "I saw a man coming, as it were, from Ireland. His name was Victoricus and he carried many letters and he gave me one of them for me to read. I read the heading, "The Voice of the Irish." As I read the letter I imagined at that moment that I heard the voice of these very people, they were from the western area of Ireland. And they all cried out to me as in one voice, "We appeal to you, holy servant boy. Come, come, and walk among us."" So, what did Patrick do? He went back to the nation that had caused him all that suffering. Then he became a blessing to a nation that had cursed him. Then Patrick actually lived out the rest of his days in Ireland. It is said that he lived to be the ripe old age of 100. And so he converted thousands, tens of thousands, and maybe even hundreds of thousands to Christianity – all because he was able to forgive.
11. There is another quote I have. It goes like this, from Catherine Ponder, and think about this one deeply. "When you hold resentment toward another person you are bound to that person by a strong emotional link that is stronger than steel. And forgiveness is the only way to absolve that link and to be free."
When I read that, I thought about the book from Rev Sang Hun Lee, the book "Life in the Spirit World." I want to read a little bit. This is a time when he wants to find all the war criminals and interview them. Now he is looking for Hitler.
"Hitler killed Jews with great cruelty. Of all the murderers of history, Hitler inflicted the greatest slaughter. I thought that he would be living among an evil group of people. I was very busy finding people who I wanted to meet. In the course of my efforts I happened to hear a group of Jews shouting, "Let's kill him!" When I turned my head and looked I witnessed a tremendous mass of people, all of whom were bound in chains, and they were shouting, "Kill him! Kill him!" The crowd was so vast that I could not see the end of the crowd. Further, I could not readily find out who it was the crowd wanted to kill. The shouting of the crowd continued. There were many people covered with blood. Some of them fell down and they were dragged by others. It was a tragic scene, reminiscent of a battlefield. Still I could not discover the object of their murderous wrath. Searching here and there I tried to find that unfortunate person. In my heart I felt as if I was digging up mines in a minefield. "Oh my! What's wrong here? Then came into my view someone hanging on a tree."
12. Of course that person was Hitler. He said he couldn't even get close to him because there were so many thousands of people surrounding him. And Dr. Lee also said, I wanted to talk to some of the people and say to them, "do you see where you are. You are at the rock bottom of Hell. There is no place lower than this. You don't really belong here. You are not that evil person. You don't really belong here. But the reason they were there in the rock bottom of Hell is because they were chained, chained by their resentment and they couldn't break free. And so he was praying to God, "What can I do to help?" God would say, "Well there's nothing they can do until they come to a point where they can change themselves."
13. That's the power of resentment. And, another author I like, is Lewis Smedes who writes a book on forgiveness. It's called "Forgive and Forget, Healing the Hurts that We Don't Deserve." He says,
"Gandhi was right, if we all live by an eye for an eye, then the whole world will become blind. The only way out is through forgiveness. And to forgive is to set a prisoner free, and then discover that the prisoner was you. We attach our feelings to the moment when we were hurt, endowing it with immortality. Then we let it assault us every time it comes to mind. It travels with us. It sleeps with us. It hovers over us. It broods over us while we even die. Our hate does not even have the decency to die when those we hate die. Because, hate is a parasite that is sucking our blood, not theirs. And there is only one remedy for that, and that is forgiveness. You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and you feel the power to wish them well."
Isn't that great.
14. One of my favorite quotes is this – from Norman Cousins – "life is an adventure in forgiveness. So you might as well get used to it."
15. Dr. Ted Morter is a teacher who says that, we can all learn the four steps of forgiveness. And he says that, "Forgiveness itself is a virtue that is actually necessary for our own health, or physical health and our spiritual health. The motto of Dr. Morter is this, "Forgive the past and save your life." Forgive the past and save your life. So, the process of forgiveness, he says, has four parts. First, of course you have to forgive the person who caused you pain. And second, is that you have to give that person permission to forgive you for anything you have done that may have caused problems. And three, you have to forgive yourself for all the pain and all the suffering that you caused, yourself, by your reaction. And the fourth one is probably the most difficult, and that is this – learn a positive lesson. Learn something positive from your own experience. What happens there is, you take that negative memory and you replace it with something positive. Then he concludes with this, "Remember, you're forgiving that person for your own sake, not for that person's site. So remember that forgiveness improves your life and also improves your health." Isn't that great.
16. We've got St. Patrick's Day coming up and we also have Easter coming up. Another master of forgiveness is who? Jesus. Here he is, on the cross, he's ready to die and he has almost no breath left in him and he says, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
17. When people go to funerals, what's the book in Psalms they read most often? Psalms 23, right? It starts with, "the Lord is my shepherd I shall not want." Do you know about the one that comes before that. The one that comes before that, Psalms 22, starts like this: "Oh my God why have you forsaken me?" Does that sound familiar? At that point in his life Jesus is ready to die. He has no breath left in him. But I think he's allowing us to have a glimpse into his mind and into his heart in the final moments of his physical life on this earth. Bear with me as I read to you Psalms 22.
a. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? 2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest. 3 Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. 4 In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. 5 To you they cried, and were saved; in you they trusted, and were not put to shame. 6 But I am a worm, and not human; scorned by others, and despised by the people. 7 All who see me mock at me; they make mouths at me, they shake their heads; 8 "Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver -- let him rescue the one in whom he delights!" 9 Yet it was you who took me from the womb; you kept me safe on my mother's breast. 10 On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me you have been my God. 11 Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. 12 Many bulls encircle me, strong bulls of Bashan surround me; 13 they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. 14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; 15 my mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. 16 For dogs are all around me; a company of evildoers encircles me. My hands and feet have shriveled; 17 I can count all my bones. They stare and gloat over me; 18 they divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots. 19 But you, O Lord, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid! 20 Deliver my soul from the sword, my life from the power of the dog! 21 Save me from the mouth of the lion! From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me. 22 I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: 23 You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! 24 For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him.
18. So this Jesus, at the cost of his life, gave us a second chance, he gave us a second chance. And he continued to love humanity even after he had been mocked and tortured and crucified. So, we think about us holding onto our resentment and holding back our forgiveness, and we really have no reason, do we? To hold back at life.
19. I would like to close here with a psalm, written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of my favorites.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
In the world's broad field of
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, -- act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
20) (I am sorry, I missed the last closing words)