Comment from Ken – We all make mistakes – do we regret them? Oh yes, I think we do! Do we forgive others when they make a mistake? We must, or we are not forgiven ourselves.
Matthew 6:14&15; 7:1-5
14“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
1“Judge not, that you be not judged. 2For with what judgment
you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it
will be measured back to you. 3And why do you look at the speck
in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own
eye? 4Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5Hypocrite! First remove the
plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Our walk today is at quarter to five, and it is a good time to walk for the temperature is now at 86 degrees. It was warmer than that earlier today. No, I do not like really hot weather; I much prefer the weather in early spring and in the autumn or even in the winter. Sometimes I think that is because of my carpentry hobby and craft in my younger days. On hot days, it was miserable to shingle a roof or to carry heavy timbers. In the winter, you can dress for the cold; in the summer, there is no way to be cool unless you are wearing a bathing suit and on a beach or swimming in cool water.
There has been something on my mind that has been bothering me for several weeks now. I try to forget it but that difficult thought keeps coming back into my mind. Do you have that happen to you? Something unpleasant has happened, and you try to ignore or forget it. But at the strangest times or places, it arises again in your mind. That has been happening to me every time I drive down Briar Hill Road toward the village of Contoocook. It had to do with directions, giving the correct directions to Gould Hill Road. Most every road around here is named after a hill: Gould Hill, Briar Hill, Beech Hill to name just a few.
Being new to this area west of Concord, I have driven my truck about exploring different roads and places. It is a rather fun thing to do for it is something I have done for several years no matter where I lived.
That curiosity of an area where I was living has been with me since I purchased that first automobile, my 1934 Ford, for 85 dollars. Once I had my license and my automobile, I extended the area from my neighborhood to all the cities that were nearby the city of Melrose. With no particular place in mind, I would drive down streets in unfamiliar areas until I knew that city very well; eventually my exploring even included the city of Boston.
One of the stories I am almost ashamed to tell happened the first month I had my automobile. My explorations went out miles and miles, and, of course, my automobile used a lot of fuel. Now gasoline was very inexpensive back when I was a boy. For a time, there was a refinery in Revere, Massachusetts, and a gas war took place on McGrath Highway going into Boston. I purchased gasoline for 17 cents a gallon. However, I did not pay for the gasoline for I had asked if I could charge it to my father’s gas card: number 250-827-284. Ashamed, I still remember that number in my memory. I went overboard with my dad’s generosity until I had a dentist appointment with him. He told me to wait a moment he had to get something from his billing office. Before he began to practice his dentistry on me, he showed me a bill for gasoline for forty dollars. That was a terrible sum of money years ago. He spoke to me in a rather upset and angry voice. After that horrifying moment, my dad would allow me to fill up my car occasionally, but if I had my own money, I paid for the gas. Now in a way, I have to tell that gas story to get it off my conscience even though it happened so many years ago. And on our walk, I must get another story off my conscience.
I have explored so many roads here in the Concord area. I have driven from town to town with the paved roads, at times, turning into narrow, bumpy, and dirt ones. My automobile with its driver, me, have been lost time and time again. But I am learning back roads; yet, I am far from knowledgeable about the roads even here in Hopkinton.
I was standing in our driveway when a bicyclist, a man in his fifties or perhaps even sixties, asked me the way to Gould Hill Road for that where he was seeking to ride. Of course, I knew the way. I told him to go down our road, take a right at the bottom of the hill and then take the first left. The man thanked me very much and off he rode. The time was early evening.
Dale was not far off when I spoke to the man, and she asked me after the man had left where he was going. I told her the directions I had given him, and she told me, “Ken, you take a right at the end of the hill not a left.” She was right (Ahem! She is too often right.) How terrible I felt. Darkness was approaching, and I had sent the man in the wrong direction. Jumping in my truck, I headed off to find him, but I never did. How badly I felt; how it bothers me that I gave that innocent good-natured person the wrong directions. How often might I have done that during my active ministry? How many times did I give someone the wrong directions – directions for living a good life?
I am a pastoral minister, and there are fewer and fewer pastoral ministers for many ministers today are social activists not shepherds of their flock in the traditional sense. That may sound harsh, but seminaries are very different today from when I attended seminary. As a pastoral minister, counseling and helping people face difficult times in their lives was part of my important task. Did I give good directions over the years, or did I fail to give helpful answers to their problems?
Thinking over my past ministry, I am aware that I made many mistakes in seeking to be a problem solver. My background growing up was almost puritanical in nature, so I do think that I was not very objective when thinking about Christian standards.
In one of my first churches, I learned that marriages can be stressful, and the people involved can innocently trespass a Christian principle and find themselves in difficulty when they did not intend for that to ever happen. Two couples that I was close to had very difficult marriages. One of the marriages was difficult because the wife’s husband was not thoughtful or appreciative of his wife’s youthfulness and her love of being very feminine in her attire and actions. The other couple had difficulty for the wife was always self-absorbed; in fairness though, her health was poor, and she ignored her husband. The two unhappy partners in their marriages took part in a musical production, and one evening the unhappy husband reached in the window and kissed the unhappy wife. For a time, they met clandestinely, but never do I believe they carried on an affair. I was a young pastor then and had my eyes opened to life and the mercilessness at times of unbending, strict standards. This kiss between the unhappy man and unhappy women all began in innocence. There was not a planned, evil lustful desire between the two involved in the musical. This was not a time for condemnation but a rebuilding of the two failing marriages.
The direction and guidance of this pastor changed as the years passed by. He learned to look at each situation through the eyes of compassion and understanding taking into consideration our human frailty. Jesus condemned harsh judgment. Jesus spoke of compassion and love and understanding. He saw that many of the Judaic laws were unmerciful and unkind. The common statement of today, “What would Jesus do?” is a very practical Christian test. “Judge not lest ye be judged. Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.”
I am counting on that mercy and ask God to forgive any wrong directions I have given over so many years of service. And to that man on his bicycle – Please forgive me – I led you down a wrong path, but I did not mean to do so. If he rides by my house again, I hope he will stop and tell me how I gave him the wrong directions. So much I would like him to know I am sorry; I am sorry for my misdirection. The road is better known to me now – I could tell him how to find Gould Hill Road. On the other hand, maybe the next time a person on a bicycle asks directions, I will tell that person to ask Dale. Oh my, I pray over the years that my guidance was wise and in accordance with the will of Jesus Christ.
Dear God, we who profess the Christian faith try with all our hearts and beings to be fair and helpful at times when we are needed. Please help us to always ask what Your Son would do in the same circumstance. Grateful for Your mercy and the mercy of our fellow human beings, we will seek to give wiser directions in the future. Help us to do so, we pray, in our Savior’s name, even Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Please join me again for our walk next week. This retired pastor attempts to have his walk written on Tuesday but tries to have a new story and lesson each week.
“And now may the Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from the other.”