My good friend (and fellow Haiti Mission Project team member) Danielle Tietjen spoke at Journey last Sunday. As always, she was challenging and inspiring. You can listen to the message by clicking on the little media player below, but in case you don’t have 35 minutes I wanted to share my favorite quote: “compassion is giving of yourself without judgment.”
We’ve been discussing the topic of forgiveness during worship at Journey the last three weeks; starting with a message on God forgiving us (July 13), followed by a message about forgiving each other (July 20), and then last night (July 27) we had a guest preacher talk about the messiness of forgiveness. It was an honest talk about a difficult topic, and it was both a sad and hopeful evening. Let me explain.
The guest preacher was Rolf Olson. In case you’re not familiar with Rolf’s story, he is the father of Katherine Olson, the young woman who was murdered last fall while following up an ad she found on craigslist to be a nanny. (If you’d like more info on the story, do a google search for “Katherine Olson” and you’ll find over 1.5 million sites.)
Rolf is lead pastor at Richfield Lutheran in the twin cities, but he’s also a father, a husband and a regular person, so you can imagine that this wasn’t an easy message for him to share. He’s angry about the whole situation – he lost his daughter – and he is not at a nice/clean point where he can confidently say, “I forgive the young man who killed my daughter.” He’s aware that he needs others to help him and his family; not only to pray for them during these difficult times – especially as the case goes to trial in January – but also to continue praying for his daughter’s accused murderer (since he admits this is really hard for them to do right now). Aside from some quotes in the media and things he’s said at his church, Rolf has not spoken publicly about the horrible situation that he and his family have been living in since last fall. This was a big step for he and his family. He did an incredible job and we are thankful he accepted our invitation.
For anyone who wasn’t able to be at Journey on Sunday night, here are some ways to hear, read or share the message:
- Read Rolf’s message (pdf) – these are his notes from the talk (used by permission)
- Listen to or download the message (mp3) – titled “Forgiveness | It Gets Messy” from 7/27/08
[Personal note: Rolf and my dad were classmates in seminary, and they are still friends today. As Rolf mentions at the beginning of his message, there are a few other family connections between the Jolivettes and Olsons, but that’s the main one that led us to invite him to share a bit of his story at Journey.]
In honor of it being Valentine’s Day, here’s part of a wedding sermon that one of my seminary professors shared in class today…
Marriage by Roland D. Martinson
The heart of marriage is a promise. On the face of it, it’s a crazy promise; two people who have only a partial understanding of one another stand up and make this bizarre statement that they’ve going to cherish and care for one another for a lifetime. They say, “I take this one and this one takes me as long as we both shall live,” not “as long as we both shall love.” To many persons this seems like a mad and risky thing to do. Yet I would suggest that the madness is the romance. Without risk there is no beauty or strength or goodness.
It’s not a very courageous thing for two people who have found themselves mutually delectable to say, “I will shack up with this one, and this one with me, as long as the delectability continues.” It has no gallantry. It’s just a mutual optimism. So that if people want to create all kinds of lovely music about what is simply one of the higher forms of self-satisfaction, I find nothing admirable about this at all. I find it completely understandable. I find it even momentarily delightful. But I don’t think it has much to do with marriage. Certainly nothing to do with a promise. I’m really only challenged toward fulfillment, or at least partial fulfillment, when I understand marriage as a mutual acceptance of crazy challenge to fulfill the seemingly impossible. Then there is something that is really worth the human effort.
Bach produced greatness within the strict musical limits of his time, and the severity of the limits engendered the greatness of the accomplishment. Just as Bach accepted limitations and discipline in musical composition, so marriage means limits. Without limitation there is not expansion. Without the risk of a promise there is really no joy. There is only a kind of serial, episodic history of partial joys with interchangeable parts.
The problem with the temporary, ad hoc relationships which many people enter into today is that when there is a way out, the couple deprive themselves of the deepening effect of going all the way in. When there’s an exit, they can split. This is not to say that all marriage should survive. Sometimes the damage done in staying together is so great that the only answer is dissolution; we all know marriage like that.
It does not fit today’s popular mood, but we all need fidelity: the intention to do what we say, to accept discipline in order to solidify the good. Fidelity means more than not sleeping around the neighborhood. It means that we have made a promise, a commitment, and that we have accepted the limitations that are a part of that promise. There are great satisfactions in saying, ” I have done what I undertook to do.”
When the old guys emphasized “for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health,” they weren’t being sentimental; they meant it. A commitment like that takes guts.