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Our retreats

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Our retreats are held at Camp Willow Springs on the shores of Lake Gaston.  For more information on the camp go to http://campwillowsprings.org/

Secretariat

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Lay Director - John Colin

Assistant Lay Director - Scott Miller

Spiritual Director - Pastor Steven Pipho

Secretary - Jane Miller

Treasurer - Ed Sever

Registration Coordinator-

John Colin 

Palanca Coordinator - 

Lee Ann Sever & Debbie Pipho

Communications Coordinator-TBD

Music Coordinator- Diane Colin

Fourth Day/Ultreya Coordinator - 

TBD

Webmaster - Scott Miller


Spiritual Director's Message

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A Question: I Know That God Forgives My Sin. Why Can't I Forgive Myself?

The reason is this. The ancients tried to account for the experiential, the qualitative, and the subjective dimensions of our human existence along with the material, the concrete, and the objective in pondering these kinds of question. Existential guilt, anxiety, and dread before the intuitive notion of a Divine Being to whom we are held accountable is not something that can be measured in a laboratory or extrapolated using statistical correlations. It can only be conjectured and speculated upon by modern psychology and secular philosophers.

Before anyone starts taking me to task, please note that I am describing a human individual theologically, as he or she is made imago Dei, i.e. in the image of God. So, I am eschewing the empiricism and reductionism of modern disciplines in favor of the simpler clarity of thought and intuitive reasoning possessed by the ancients, in which, obviously, I still find value.

The reason is this. The ancients tried to account for the experiential, the qualitative, and the subjective dimensions of our human existence along with the material, the concrete, and the objective in pondering these kinds of question. Existential guilt, anxiety, and dread before the intuitive notion of a Divine Being to whom we are held accountable is not something that can be measured in a laboratory or extrapolated using statistical correlations. It can only be conjectured and speculated upon by modern psychology and secular philosophers.

Nonetheless, these are the very things that seem most real to us because we experience as human beings; and that is where the essence of our spiritual problem with sin lies—in the subjective, experiential, and qualitative realms of human existence—no other place.

When you were born, you were born in innocence. When we looked at you, we told your adoring parents what a beautiful baby you were. Assuming that we weren’t lying, ... and we were not because all babies are beautiful by definition, ... what was so beautiful and special about you? Was it your father’s nose or your mother’s eyes? Was it your contented cooing and precious smile? It could not have been your ear-piercing scream for something to eat—RIGHT NOW  IT!  certainly was not the prospect of changing your soiled diapers. 

No, none of these. The innocence of a newborn child is a momentary return to the Garden, a poignant reminder of what we, the human race, forfeited in the Garden. It is the flower that fades almost as soon as it blossomed.

The gift of free will in the human race is a reflection of Sovereign Will in the Holy Trinity. God gave us free will that we should return His love freely because love not returned is love unfulfilled, and love not freely given is no love at all. We show our love for God by obeying His Divine Will which was revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father; …” (John 14:9)

In the simplest of terms, the Divine Will is this: 

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) 

This is the heart and soul of the gospel proclamation. Nonetheless, these are the very things that seem most real to us because we experience as human beings; and that is where the essence of our spiritual problem with sin lies—in the subjective, experiential, and qualitative realms of human existence—no other place.

When you were born, you were born in innocence. When we looked at you, we told your adoring parents what a beautiful baby you were. Assuming that we weren’t lying, ... and we were not because all babies are beautiful by definition, ... what was so beautiful and special about you? Was it your father’s nose or your mother’s eyes? Was it your contented cooing and precious smile? It could not have been your ear-piercing scream for something to eat—RIGHT NOW IT !certainly was not the prospect of changing your soiled diapers. 

No, none of these. The innocence of a newborn child is a momentary return to the Garden, a poignant reminder of what we, the human race, forfeited in the Garden. It is the flower that fades almost as soon as it blossomed.

The gift of free will in the human race is a reflection of Sovereign Will in the Holy Trinity. God gave us free will that we should return His love freely because love not returned is love unfulfilled, and love not freely given is no love at all. We show our love for God by obeying His Divine Will which was revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father; …” (John 14:9)

In the simplest of terms, the Divine Will is this: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) This is the heart and soul of the gospel proclamation.

“Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:14–16)

Perhaps you are saying to yourself at this point, “I believe that God forgives my sins; but the problem is that I cannot forgive myself.”

Well, then, let’s turn to the Holy Scriptures to see what they have to say about this situation.

When Jesus takes his ministry to Galilee, he returns to his hometown of Nazareth. His preaching and teaching offends the people who thought they knew him best!

They were so angry with his message of redemption through him that Luke says they were ready to throw him off a cliff. Somehow Jesus melts away into the crowd and escapes. (Read Luke 4:16–30)

The accounts in Matthew and Mark are much more abbreviated; but they essentially say the same thing. Let’s take a look at Mark’s account quoted below. Focus on the parts in boldface.

Then Jesus went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended by Him.

But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And Jesus marveled at their unbelief. (Mk 6:1–6)

How curious that Jesus “could do no mighty work there” except for healing a few sick people. Why not? The Son of God should be capable of doing anything. Isn’t this the same guy who fed 5000 hungry people, who walked on water, who calmed a raging sea, and who raised Lazarus from the dead? Why couldn’t he do some mighty works to make these people believe in his power?

Look again, more closely, this time at Mark 6:3b, “So they were offended by Him.” The people who thought they knew Jesus best were blinded by the prejudice that stems from undue familiarity. “… What wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” (Mk 6:3a)

Perhaps the answer is this: Jesus does not want us to believe in him because of the mighty works he performs. He wants us to believe in him because of the message he brings—the message of God’s forgiveness and love. 

“Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” says the Lord of hosts.” (Zach 4:6)

One of my hobbies is woodworking. I make furniture, clocks, jewelry boxes, funeral urns, bowls, bourbon tumblers, patterned cutting boards, etc. I usually start in the early fall making Christmas presents for special friends.relationship withy God? In essence, aren’t you telling God that you are not worthy of His love and mercy when He says you are?

Your own unbelief in the power of divine love and mercy is the great stumbling block that you are falling over. “And Jesus marveled at their unbelief.” (Mk 6:6)

So what is the answer? How can you come to forgive yourself? Well, technically, you cannot. But the good news is that God will do for us what we can not do for ourselves. Indeed, He already has! The only thing He asks is for us to take the great leap of faith into His waiting arms.

The great reformer, Martin Luther, was asked once about the forgiveness we receive in our baptism as Christians. I am going to give you his reply, but in a different way.

One of my hobbies is woodworking. I make furniture, clocks, jewelry boxes, funeral urns, bowls, bourbon tumblers, patterned cutting boards, etc. I usually start in the early fall making Chrsitmas presents for special friends.

This past Christmas, I decided to cut up the large maple log laying around the yard for firewood. As I got near the stump, I began to slice the wood as if it were a large casing of bologna. I soon noticed the burls, twists and patterns in the wood as I sliced through it. When I finished, I picked six of the best slices with a natural edge, planed them down, sanded them smooth, and began to apply layers of lacquer on the surface to make an attractive charcuterie tray. They turned out beautifully.

I decided to mail one of them to a friend in Germany. When I did not hear from him, I wrote to ask him if he had received my package. He sheepishly admitted that he had set it aside unopened and had completely forgotten about it.

Shortly afterwards, I received an email from him. He was serving his friends all kinds of bread, meat, and cheese on the charcuterie tray I had sent him. He had a big smile on his face, despite a mouth full of cold cuts, bread, and cheese.

Now the point of the story is this: While the package lay in his closet forgotten, it was as if it did not exist, although it was there because I had made it especially for him. It had his name on it, but not until he opened the package and claimed that gift was giving of that gift complete.

The gift of God’s forgiveness acts in the same way. He wraps His gift of mercy in the sacrament of Holy Baptism, and He sends it to me by way of the Church. But what happens with that gift if I do not claim it for my own. It still has all the value that it originally had; but it is of no use to me until I claim it for myself. I can do this by believing God’s promise of salvation to those who trust in the name of His Only Son, Jesus Christ.

“And Abraham believed in the promise of the Lord, and the Lord accounted it to him as righteousness.” (Gen 15:6)

In closing my response to your question, let me leave you with some Scriptural wisdom for tender souls such as yours.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? (Romans 8:31–35)

I suppose a good way to begin a discussion of this is with the classical view of what constitutes the human individual according to the classical Christian viewpoint. Essentially, that perspective defines a human being as that which happens when a body, a mind, and a spirit (a free will) come together. The result is the emergence of a s composite union called the soul--the subjective identity and core of our being.

October 2019

Steve Pipho

SD