From the Preacher’s Post: Philomena (Mercy and Justice)

The movie Philomena, based on the book “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee”, by Martin Sixsmith, is the true story of Philomena Lee‘s 50-year search for her forcibly adopted son and Sixsmith’s efforts to help her find him.  In 1951, Philomena became pregnant and was sent by her father to Sean Ross Abbey in RoscreaIreland. After giving birth, she was forced to work in the convent laundry for four years, with little contact with her son. The nuns gave her son up for adoption without giving Philomena a chance to say goodbye. She kept her lost son a secret from her family for nearly fifty years. Philomena’s daughter suggested to Martin Sixsmith, who had recently lost his job, that he should tackle the telling of the story to find the lost son, Anthony.

The quest for the truth about Anthony reveals a dark story of lies and deceit, bitterness and cruel punishment by one nun, Sister Hildegarde McNutty in particular, who viewed the plight of Philomena and her son as her punishment from God for having sex and getting pregnant outside marriage.   It turned out that Philomena’s son, renamed Michael, was searching for Philomena, but his search was cut short by his untimely death.

The prophet Micah, speaking for God, vents frustration, even anger, at humanity’s adoption of the form of faith and deliberately ignoring the essence of faith and practice.

What shall I bring to the LORD, the God of heaven, when I come to worship him? Shall I bring the best calves to burn as offerings to him?  Will the LORD be pleased if I bring him thousands of sheep or endless streams of olive oil? Shall I offer him my first-born child to pay for my sins?  No, the LORD has told us what is good. What he requires of us is this: to do what is just, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:6-8)

The sacrificial system of the Old Testament wasn’t the point, anymore than some of our religious posturing today is the point.   God declares that all the offerings one could imagine couldn’t help the bitter, greedy, selfish heart. Faith is not a recipe to be followed, it is a relationship to be lived and is based on love of God, self and neighbor.

 What Micah does introduce is the three legs of a life living in synch with God: justice, mercy, humility. A life based on all three becomes like a stool which can stand stably even on unstable ground. But it takes all three legs to work. Justice without mercy (forgiveness) becomes vengeance. Mercy without justice becomes mere sentimentality. Humility keeps everything and everyone one grounded and the right size. There is a God—I am not God. But I do have a contribution to be made that only I can make.

Philomena embodied all three. The questions I’m asking myself are…

  • Where am I seeking to be “right” and justifying my anger and wrath?
  • What does it mean in my context to seek both justice and mercy and what is at risk for me? What is it going to cost me?
  • Humility? Where am I too big for my britches? Where am I staying too small and avoiding Jesus’ call to engage the real world as it is, not as I would have it be?

Hope to see you Sunday.

THIS SUNDAY, AUGUST 13TH AT 9:40 AM, BETWEEN WORSHIP SERVICES, WE WILL BE HOLDING OUR ANNUAL CONGREGATIONAL MEETING. Our published annual reports will be available and will provide updates from our different ministries from this past fiscal year. During the meeting the budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year will be presented. Please plan to attend!

  1. ANDREW IS PARTICIPATING IN THE ANNUAL SONOMA CITY PARTY! We will be sponsoring a Grilled Sausage Sandwich and Hotdog booth on Friday, August 18, 2017 from 5:30-8:30pm at the Sonoma Plaza. We’re looking for volunteers for booth set-up, booth workers, and booth take down. If interested, contact Stacey Schoeningh at (707) 227-6285 or check your COMMUNICATION CARD on Sunday.
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