First Baptist Church of Rahway, 177 Elm Ave., Rahway, New Jersey 07065 is a multi-cultural congregation that has a Blended English Service on Sunday Mornings, a Latino Service at 12:00, and a Service in Telugu at 3:30PM. For more information, call (732) 388-8626. Or click here to send an email. If you wish to help the Mission and Ministry of First Baptist financially click the Donate Button.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I'd Be Dead if Mom Could Have Got Away With It

A Story of Forgiveness by Pastor Bill

I look back on my life and I give a loud ‘thank you’ for the patience and understanding of my friends and family. When I think about all of the stupid things that I have done I am amazed that they have forgiven me. Because of all the times I have been forgiven I understand what forgiveness is all about.

I remember a time when I was around ten years old, my mom was so angry with me she could have killed me with a look. We attended a church in Rahway, NJ. Mom sang in the choir and I was active in the Sunday school. Mom was up in the choir loft, only ten feet from my friends and I sitting in the front pew. We used to fool around a lot, like all boys our age. Mom and the other adults used to warn us every now and then to keep us in line. Warnings only go so far, while death threats are much more effective.

The way we Baptists take communion is different from many other Christian denominations. We slice plain white bread into little cubes and place them onto silver communion trays that stack up real nice and pretty on the communion table. We then take grape juice, never wine because of our prohibitionist roots, and pour it into little plastic cups. We used to use glass cups but people got tired of cleaning them. They are now in a box in a storage closet somewhere, want to buy some? We put these cups into silver communion trays that also stack. It all looks lovely shining on the communion table. Deacons then pass the trays around the congregation on communion Sunday, for us once a month. The only people who should partake of the bread and cup are people who have professed faith in Jesus Christ and been baptized. With this in mind, I return to my story. The ten-year olds sitting in the front row had not been baptized and thus were excluded from communion.

Now as you probably know when you exclude kids from something there are always consequences. Try taking your child to an ice cream shop and buying one for yourself but not for your child. The reaction will be swift and furious. Or try drinking a glass of wine in front of your children. You get the big-eyed look and the question; can I have some? You say no and they want to know why not. Have some wine after the kids have gone to bed. Life is easier that way. It’s the same thing that happens in church. Tell the kids that they can’t take part in the communion service and they might seem to accept it but there is trouble brewing down the road.

On this one very memorable Sunday morning I was with my coconspirators in the front row only a few feet from my ever-watchful mother. And as the bread was passed around the congregation I pretended to take some bread and eat it. My friends and I giggled and had a good time over this. Then as the cup was being passed around, I pretended to take a cup and drink it. I acted like I was looking at it up and down and then I pretended to eat the cup. Roars of laughter rose up from the front row bouncing off of our high tin ceiling and down onto the congregant’s reverent ears. One congregant in particular was no longer focused on Jesus’ sacrifice, she was focused on a ten-year old ‘dead boy walking’ in the front row only a few feet away. I looked up and the eyes were boring into me. Mental daggers flew out of those eyes and struck me full of holes. To be told at that point that I was in trouble was an understatement. I am sure to this day that she was thinking about leaping over the wall that separated the choir from the congregation, quickly covering the few feet of space and throttling me right then and there. Fortunately for me she was after all celebrating communion.

I was forgiven a long time ago for that little episode. Though the memory lingers for me, my mom no longer remembers. I think about the many times that I have messed up over the years. I think about all of the people I so foolishly hurt. And I realize how often and how many people have forgiven me. Because of this I am truly blessed. The gift that I have received is the practical experience of being forgiven. Being forgiven over and over taught me how to forgive. And if it weren’t for this valuable lesson I wouldn’t have any friends, I wouldn’t be married. Healthy relationships depend upon going beyond the failings of each individual. They depend on forgiving and forgetting.

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