#MindfulMonday “Gentleness of Spirit” Sermon

Cincinnati Church

Sermon August 25, 2019

Rev. Renee Machiniak  “Gentleness of Spirit”

Psalms 18:35; Matthew 11:29-30, 26:52-53; Galatians 5:22-23

 

Call to Worship Written by Joanna Harader, a Mennonite pastor, Lawrence, Kansas

 

Call to Worship Litany (based on Psalm 133, revised)

Though we may be inclined to boast and brag,

let us come together with humility.

How good a thing it is when all of God’s people live together in unity.

Though we may be tempted to use harsh words,

let us come together with gentleness.

How good a thing it is when all of God’s people live together in unity.

Though we may want everything to happen quickly,

let us come together with patience.

How good a thing it is when all of God’s people live together in unity.

Though the world around often encourages hate,

let us come together in love.

How good a thing it is when all of God’s people live together in unity.

In humility, gentleness, patience, love, and unity,

Let us worship the God who has called us together.

 

Psalm 18:35 (NKJV)

35 You have also given me the shield of Your salvation; Your right hand has held me up, Your gentleness has made me great.

 

Matthew 11:29-30  (NKJV)

29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am [a]gentle and lowly in heart & you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Matthew 26:52-53 Jesus said to Malcus, the servant of the high priest, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. “Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?

Galatians 5:22-23  (NRSV) The Fruit of the Spirit

22 …The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.

Reading from Swedenborg

“Worship does not consist in prayers and in external devotion, but in a life of kindness.” ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

“The speech of heavenly angels is like a gentle stream, soft and virtually unbroken …” ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

(The Heavenly City: A Spiritual Guidebook (1993) Crysalis Books)

 

GENTLENESS OF SPIRIT

Our message today is about GENTLENESS.

 

Earlier this summer, while working as a chaplain at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, I was paged by nursing staff to the pediatric unit regarding a 4 year old boy with a heart condition. The staff was struggling because this 4 year old kept bumping into them, throwing himself, whole body, into them. They couldn’t stop the behavior. So, then, something amazing happened. God gave me the idea to get down on my knees, on his level, and look him straight in the eyes. It’s amazing how little ones interact with us when we do that. So now, I am not a giant above him, I am on his level; I bend low; I am gentle. Interestingly, one of the meanings of gentleness, in Hebrew, is to “bend low.”

I asked him how he was doing; he laid his head on my lap and cried. His aggressive behavior stopped. He just needed someone to be very gentle with him.

 

God is Gentle: “Lord, your right hand has held me up, your gentleness has made me great, humble, kind, favored, meek, merciful and tender” (Psalm 18).

This is the attitude of those who are people of “the way;” the way of God.

——————————————————————-

 

In 2010, a stirring article was written by a man named Paul Tillman. He wrote about the true story of a cowboy who learned the power of gentleness when training his horses.

 

This cowboy had been breaking horses since he was a child. But about 25 years ago, Grant Golliher changed his method. His old method was tried and true. “Make ’em do it, show ’em who’s boss. If the horse gives you any grief, whack ’em with a two-by-four.” He admits to ruining many talented horses with that method, and one horse even strangled himself trying to escape from the cowboy’s breaking method.

 

Golliher changed his methods when he met Ray Hunt, an original horse whisperer. Hunt taught Golliher to tame horses by building trust instead of fear. This six foot tall man, with rough leathery hands, is now a gentle man. He uses love and discipline. The discipline now takes the form of a white flag on a stick, which he uses to get the horse to overcome its fear.

As he pats Chestnut the horse after a productive session, Golliher says, “See him lick his lips? That’s a good sign. That means he feels good about what just happened. Horses really love you when you help them get through their fear.” Golliher says what astounds him most is not the changes in the horses, but in the people who watch and practice horse whispering. Some abused women have told him they see themselves in the skittish horses. Some men affected by the program have begun to use gentleness rather than fear in their relationships…and their relationships blossomed.

In Matthew 11:29 Jesus said,”Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentile and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

In our world today, we are bombarded with harshness and violence everywhere we turn…and this harshness and violence is tearing us apart, individually and collectively. Too many are “strangling themselves” to escape this planet, like the horse trained with brutality.

In our world today, sometimes those with the greatest opportunity to help, offer only harsh & biting word & we close up inside & disappear.

Most of the world lifts up the conquering hero who refuses to submit, and who exerts his or her interests against anyone who might challenge those interests. Rewards are for people who compete successfully through strength of will and superior power. In contrast, the meek and gentle person is ridiculed for being weak and soft, and of no real value in society.

Often, the most rewarded sales people are those with the most aggressive methods. The politicians most often voted into office are usually the biggest liars, and the most ruthless of men and women. Today, frequently, the heads of large corporations are those who have robbed others blind, stolen secrets, and cheated people of their retirement funds.

Jesus, however, portrays that the ideal follower is someone who is meek and gentle. The promised reward that such a person will inherit the earth is a bold contradiction of the worldly wisdom we encounter.

The apostle Paul, who was formerly a harsh persecutor of the church, a murderer, recognized that gentleness does not come naturally for many. He explicitly lists gentleness, or meekness, as a fruit of the Spirit, a virtue that is planted and flourishes where God dwells.

Gentleness or Meekness is listed in Galatians as the eighth fruit of the Spirit; it is a gift we “put on,” if you will – with the Lord’s blessing. In Swedenborgian phraseology, we “put on” a new will from the Lord and gradually grow to love the gentleness we choose in life.

Gentleness or Meekness is thought to be an elusive virtue, in that few people know how to define it. Many people incorrectly equate it to weakness. In the English language, it includes such virtues as: humility, mildness, modesty, unpretentiousness, tolerance and tender heartedness. Gentleness has come to mean soft or weak in our culture today.

But, the Greek word for gentleness or meekness does not express this. Gentleness or meekness manifested by God and given to the saints, is the fruit of power. * It is enduring injury with lasting patience and without resentment. Resentment is a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, an insult, or an injury. The spirit of God cannot dwell in the heart of someone who is harsh or resentful. This is reason enough to be more gentle in our lives – God can live in us when we are.

Gentleness is not a false modesty or a spineless refusal to stand for anything. It is strong and is never a cowardly retreat from reality. Neither is gentleness a false humility that refuses to recognize that God has given us gifts, talents and abilities, or that refuses to use them for God’s good purposes and plans.

Speaking on the level of community and loving the neighbor … it is impossible to have true unity with one another without gentleness. Remember, that genuine gentleness comes from God’s love and there is nothing stronger than God’s love. Though very strong, gentleness is a softness of manner and disposition; there is a total absence of harshness, fierceness, or violence in it.

We see how important gentleness is for the future of the human race and planet. We inherit the choices of those who came before us. Consider Matthew 5:5 where the Lord says: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Our very future depends upon re-claiming and returning to our gentle natures, deepening our relationship with God.

In the New Testament, Jesus is never described as weak, or mild. He was sometimes quite the opposite, both forceful and authoritative from love.

While discerning the Pharisees’ harsh, hypocritical intentions Jesus called them “brood of vipers.” He also overturned the tables of the money changers at the temple in Jerusalem.

So, we see there a contrast between our Lord’s gentle approach, but with authority, and the Pharisees’ harsh, hateful, condemning approach.

A weak & mild Jesus is not in our Bible. A strong, yet gentle, Jesus, is.

Jesus gathered children around Him and reminded us that we must become like a child to enter the kingdom of heaven, gentle and innocent, without guile.

Remember in the Word…

1. Jesus was gentle in his treatment of the woman caught in adultery that the Pharisees wanted to stone.

2. The way he treated Thomas, who refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead until he saw Jesus with his own eyes.

3. The way in which he associated with the outcasts of society, the sinners, the prostitutes, and the tax collectors.

4. The way in which he healed people who were suffering.

5. His conversation with the woman at the well in Samaria. Jesus engaged her in conversation that drew her close rather than alienating her. He allowed her to admit her sin rather than condemning her from the start. The conversation was a gentle conversation.

We can learn from all of these examples how to communicate in love and wisdom with others of varying backgrounds who are different than we are. Jesus was the truly powerful one and yet He was gentle.

When the Lord was being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, one of his disciples, Peter, pulled out a sword and struck Malchus, the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?

You can hear his firmness, but yet also gentleness in what He told Peter.

Jesus had massive strength at His disposal, but He restrained His use of power because He knew that He must die to bring freedom and salvation to all people. He put aside the strength and power of a king for the benefit of the weak.

He was gentle and lowly of heart.

As human beings, it is so hard for us to live the right balance of gentleness and firmness in truth.

So, what can we do to subdue a harsh nature and develop gentleness? Aubrey Andelin, in his book Man of Steel and Velvet, suggests three things. I thought this was very good advice:

1. We must work to have restraint and self-control. As Swedenborg invites us to consider: We must act “As If” we are gentle and bring our actions and emotions under the Lord’s will. We must bridle our tongues as one would bridle a horse and lead it gently where it should go. Our words can either kill or they can help to give life.

2. We must work daily to develop a gentle character. We will never be gentle in nature until there is a change in us that takes place – within our character. We must choose a life of gentleness until we have a gentle character that automatically prompts us to deal kindly with people. Swedenborg promises that in time – it becomes easier and easier to do the Lord’s will. Gentleness comes as we grow spiritually; as we develop loving kindness and forgiveness and learn to concentrate on people’s goodness rather than their faults.

3. We must develop humility. The key to humility is in learning to see our own mistakes and weakness and begin to change our ways, i.e. Swedenborg’s concept of repentance. When this occurs, the Lord softens our hearts and our attitude toward the errors of others. Grace softens us and we are never the same again. We are made new and speak and see through the softness of the angels, as Swedenborg illuminates for us. As we are being made new, we must subdue our will more and more.

Jesus speaks to you and to me today in our world in such great need: “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” “Blessed are the meek/the gentle,” “Blessed are the merciful,” “Blessed are the pure in heart,” “Blessed are the peacemakers.” For theirs is the kingdom of God.

• A gentle spirit is very precious in the sight of God. AMEN.

 

(Selected portions taken from: “A Gentle Spirit Is Very Precious to God” Martin G. Collins)

“Martha, the Last Passenger Pigeon” mural, designed by wildlife artist and conservationist John A. Ruthven

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1 Response to #MindfulMonday “Gentleness of Spirit” Sermon

  1. Pat Sommer says:

    What a beautiful service, Renee’. One to keep and re-read. A wonderful way to start my day on this Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019.

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