The Words of the Lamson Family
Thank you. Wow, what a warm welcome. It's an amazing feeling to be up here and see this. When I was asked to give the sermon by our senior pastor, I realized as I thought about it that this will be the fifth sermon I've ever given in my life. Can you imagine? I've always been the kind of person who looks for the talents that people have, and I want to support other people in bringing out those talents. So it was quite a shock for me when I realized I'm going to be the one up at this podium this time.
Good morning and welcome to Lovin' Life Ministries at the beautiful Manhattan Center in New York City. I must say that things look a lot different from up here. I think all of you should try this sometime.
I want to thank everyone from around the world who has joined us today, and I want to say a special thank you to our senior pastor and all the families from New York and New Jersey that have been supporting the development of Lovin' Life Ministries and this amazing broadcast. Thank you.
Our senior pastor, Rev. In Jin Moon, used to always sing a song for her parents called "The Wind Beneath My Wings." I think she sang this for her mom, our True Mother, because her mother always lifted her up and encouraged her.
Our senior pastor has been the wind beneath our wings and allowed us to fly to places that we never thought we could go years ago, don't you think? Sometimes when I'm watching the big screen in Ohio or Indiana or some of the other states, I have wondered if the families in New York and New Jersey realize what an amazing difference they're making in communities across America. Each Sunday as you applaud and create this high spirit, we feel it everywhere. Thank you.
In Jin Nim has been the wind beneath my wings as a district pastor, allowing me to shine and lead, and encouraging me to be excellent in whatever I choose to embark on.
In Jin Moon – December 4, 2011
I must say that in the beginning of our ministry there were some things that I did not really understand. Was that correct for all of you, too? It was something different. I was more like a groupie following a rock star. As I grew in the ministry, however, I became a partner and an owner of my faith. Our ministry has become more than a Sunday event; it has become a lifestyle, a Lovin' Life lifestyle.
Over the last three years attendance is up, tithing is up, new members are joining. New people are being called by God to be leaders, like the Rev. Gaines in Atlanta, Cliff and Tiff. Hey, Cliff and Tiff. And Reverend Herndon, now helping us out in Ohio.
When I was thinking about our live broadcasts and the different speakers we have enjoyed, the image of Forrest Gump came to my mind – when he's sitting at the bus stop talking about what his mama used to say. "Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you're going to get."
Listening to our national staff and our district pastors has been a wonderful experience. They are all the same on the outside, like pure chocolate, but when they shared with us on Sunday we were able to discover a lot of different flavors.
Our senior pastor is a hard act to follow, with her passion for a ministry that can change lives and her sermons filled with stories of True Parents and True Family.
I have always been encouraged by her faith and her belief that we could move mountains. Today I feel like I'm standing in front of a mountain and praying that God will help me move it, so I think I have a lot of growing still to do.
She won my heart in our first district pastors' meeting when she shared with us that she did not have to tell us what to do, that we should watch what she does and do it. Little did I know that that would lead me to a podium with all of you today. What amazing lives we live!
Today I'd like to share about "Re-Membering our Prodigals" That's Re-Member, a phrase Reverend Cotter coined a few sermons ago.
First, however, I would like to share a little about myself.
My name is Michael Lamson, and I'm honored to be the district pastor of District 6. It's a wonderful district comprising a group of the most interesting states. Some would consider them fly-over states until there's an election, when everyone realizes how powerful we are. When I travel through Ohio, North Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, Indiana and Kentucky, I realize what amazing families we have in our ministry. And I have to give a big shout-out to all the families in my district. Hey, guys! When our movement launched this new ministry, it was a really big step for some communities to switch to a live broadcast, but we did it. The communities in every state took that leap of faith, united with our senior pastor's vision, and God rewarded us with happier, healthier communities, families, and children. And it's amazing what we've done in three years.
Also, I want to say a special "Hello" and thank-you to my adopted state, Hawaii. My wife and I go to Kona every year. We take time for ourselves and really invest in each other. I can tell you, Kona is a place where you can rediscover your love for life and you can really recharge a battle-weary soul. I think Kona today is taking Lovin' Life out on the ocean. Can you imagine watching Lovin' Life on a boat? I really want to be there.
I was matched by True Parents to a wonderful sister from Sweden named Wiveka Ringmo. We have two amazing children, Mika and Trimon. I have a grandson – can you imagine? – named Shaka, and another one on the way any day now. And we have a wonderful son-in-law named Sean Willis. I really love my family. They have been behind me and supported me from North Carolina to New York to Africa, all over the world. So family is really important.
I grew up in North Carolina. I met the church there in 1974, and my life from then has been an amazing journey, discovering God through the providence that our True Parents are leading.
From the first workshop I fell completely in love with True Parents for liberating my heart and helping me find a path through which I could find joy. I was happily hooked after that first weekend.
For all our new guests here, I would highly recommend that you attend a Divine Principle workshop; your heart will be liberated, and it will change your life.
Through my life experiences, I think the one thing I learned the most was that God loves all of us, more than we can ever imagine. I learned that he loved me so completely and unconditionally and that He expected me to do the same. He expected me to love others as he loves me. I discovered that this is the key to a happy, joy-filled life.
It's amazing what an impact someone can have on our lives, and I really want to thank True Parents for allowing me to walk with them down this path. Walking with True Parents on this path to restore true love, to liberate the heart of God, and to help His prodigal children find their way home is a life worth living, a life filled with value and meaning. And I think we should give our True Parents a big hand.
The Principle of Creation of the Divine Principle states that "the purpose of life is to return joy to God." The Principle explains that heart is the impulse to love and seek an object to love. God feels joy when he can receive love from his beloved. That's us. God loves each one of us individually, and rejoices when we return his love and multiply it by loving others.
God loves each one of us as his beloved. This is the kind of heart we who represent God and True Parents must give to our prodigals. This is the kind of heart that our senior pastor has guided us to have for each other.
Those who have come to know me know that there is nothing more important than discovering joy. I like to discover joy in every single thing I do. For a few years some frowned on my love for life, and some thought that if I was not suffering I was not close to God. Do you ever feel that way – "I can't show someone my joy?" Well, I couldn't hold it in, so I almost made a prodigal of myself.
Our senior pastor, through creating Lovin' Life Ministries, has opened a new path for all of us, where it is understood that we live for the sake of others instead of dying for the sake of others. My heart has found a home in this ministry and I really thank In Jin Nim. Let's give her a big hand.
I love to laugh. I love going on adventures, and there are still a hundred things I'd like to do before I become full of achy, breaky parts. And now I can do those things by creating a small group every ten weeks. I can do all of those things I want and share it with friends.
This quarter my wife and I joined a scuba diving group led by Reverend Herndon and Takashi Sawada. We also joined a Cycling group led by Lee Nishio. I think living lives that bring joy to us is the best way to inspire people.
In Matthew 5:16, Jesus shares, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."
One of my favorite quotes is one by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in which he encourages us with his words, "And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give people permission to do the same."
I firmly believe that the best way we can grow our ministry and raise healthy children is to live a life that we are proud of and let people watch.
Even though I am happy – actually, almost all the time I am – it does not mean that I don't care about the world or that my life is problem-free. It just means that I understand that life does not come with a remote. If I want to change something, I have to get up out of the chair, and I have to change it myself.
The bumper sticker on my truck reads, "Are you going to cowboy up or are you going to lay there and bleed?" That's my bumper sticker. Living life like this allows God to help me and guide me. When I experience Him helping me, I'm a really happy person. I have learned that doing this five percent is a great motivator for God.
When we choose to take ownership and responsibility for ourselves, problems and mistakes are no longer a roadblock. It's just something that we look for a solution to.
Like all of us, I have many things that I am concerned about, and I am always looking for solutions. Today I want to share with you one of these concerns with the hope that we can work together to make a difference. I want to talk about our prodigals.
Jesus told his disciples a story we now call the "Prodigal Son," to teach us about forgiveness and about the heart of a parent. [Luke 15:11-32]
Jesus told them this story: "A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, 'I want my share of your estate now before you die.' So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.
"A few days later this younger son packed his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him to the fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.
"When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, 'At home even the hired servants have food to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, "Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you."'
"Filled with love and compassion, the father ran to his son when he saw him walking down the road. The son said, 'Father I have sinned against you – against both Heaven and you – and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.'
"But his father said to the servants, 'Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf that's been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and now he has returned to life. He was lost, and now he is found.' And the party began."
I would like us to understand that if God is our Father then we, or at least most of us, are prodigals. We're his prodigals. He has been investing almost all of his heart in bringing us, his prodigal sons and daughters, home.
Some of us understand God's longing heart and are doing our best to come closer to our Father each day, but some of us have forgotten our calling, and we go through our lives on autopilot, with hearts that are slowly dying.
God loves everyone, from the person who takes your order at the drive-through, to your teacher's child, to the lifeguard at your pool and the greeter at your Wal-Mart. All are his children, yet many don't even know he exists.
In our families we have prodigals. A son who decided that his family and his faith are no longer relevant. A daughter who tried to find true love in all the wrong places and feels that she is no longer worthy to be a part of her family or our faith. A husband who feels trapped by his wife, who no longer thinks that sex is just as important as prayer or religious studies. A wife who longs for love from a husband who no longer believes love is even possible.
Our burdens become too heavy to bear, and we turn away from God. God becomes less and less important. He is no longer a part of our lives, and one day we wake up as prodigals.
As our burdens become too heavy to bear, we turn to God less and less. We can't make our prodigals come home; they have to make that decision themselves. But we can through prayer and a love that is unconditional create a path for them to return.
This year our True Father has asked each family to bring home 12 new spiritual children. This request is not only about increasing membership. It's because True Parents understand God's longing heart for his children to come home.
God is a parent, and he has been working constantly to bring home his children, his prodigals. I want to encourage each of you, young and old, to join together in this worthy endeavor.
Let's help God bring home his prodigal children. Let's allow God to receive his joy and all of us prodigals in the Last Days, to love and be loved.
Next Sunday is a Boost Sunday, when the sermon and the programs after church will be focused on new guests. Let's show God that we understand his longing heart by bringing a friend to church next Sunday.
I would like also to take some time to re-member our own prodigals. As a district pastor I often find myself holding the hand of a mother as she cries for a child who has chosen a life without God, without faith, and often on a path without hope.
Many young people have shared with me the hurtful things that have been said to them or about them that crushed their hearts and made them dislike our church.
Almost all of us have a friend we worked with for many years who has left our movement because our friend was hurt or misunderstood.
Many of us know people who are angry and disillusioned, who feel they have no voice and no way to reconcile the issues that they are dealing with, and they blame God and the church.
We also know that these brothers, sisters, friends and sometimes moms or dads are some of the best people on the planet and that our love for them remains the same, if not stronger. So I'd like us to really up our prayer for our prodigals, today and throughout this week.
There was a time when my son grew his hair really long. This was the only time, I think, when I reflected on my life before I discovered our church. I looked at my son and thought about how much I loved him, and I marveled at what a good person he was. More than a few members asked me to tell my son to cut his hair. They thought his hair sent out a bad message to other young people.
I remembered a verse in the Bible at that time, Exodus 20:5, "God punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third- and the fourth generation." I think of all the Bible verses, this one scares parents more than any other. I had really long hair when I met the church, and it did not make me a better person.
For the first time in my life I reflected and repented for the things that I had done before I joined the church and up till that day. I asked God to allow me to carry the burdens that were due, and I pledged to live a life that would provide liberation for my children, not burdens.
I never did ask my son to cut his hair, and he has never disappointed me. I could have made him cut his hair and completely misunderstood his heart, I could have a prodigal today instead of a best friend and a loving son. I thank God every day that I trusted him and that I trusted my son.
I want to share with you a short video. It's a video about the heart of a father and the heart of a prodigal son. But before we watch the video I would like each of you here to think about the prodigals in your life and to really hold them in your heart. It's even better if you write down their names on a piece of paper. Let's pray for them today as we explore a way that we can bring them home.
SON: Do you ever get tired of your boring, day-to-day life? I know I do. I should say that I did. Then I decided to do something about it. You see, conventional wisdom says that you live your life and then your parents die and they give you whatever they have left over, an inheritance. I'm sorry, that just wasn't good enough for me.
So I decided to do something about it, you know? I want my money right now. So one day I walked right up to my dad and I said to him, "Dad, I want what's coming to me right now."
FATHER: That's what my youngest son said to me. "Dad, I want what's coming to me right now." All I could think at that moment was, "I'd like to give you what's coming to you right now." I brought him into this world and I can make another one just like him.
But he's my son, and I love him. So I gave him his money and told him if he could have a better life on his own without me, so be it. He packed his bags and the next thing I knew –
SON: I was out there. "Kiss this boring place good-bye." I had places to go, people to see. So the first thing I did was –
FATHER: My son got lost. I love him, but he's no Magellan. I heard he had to stop for directions at least four times before he even made it out of our hometown.
SON: You know what? No, not four. It was three. And one of them wasn't even my fault. I couldn't understand what the guy was saying. It was just like, "Okay, thank you." And besides that, the only reason I can't follow directions is because somebody never taught me to follow directions.
FATHER: Don't go there.
SON: Okay, look. The point is, I got out of there, and I started to live it up. I mean, I had more friends than I knew what to do with. I was eating like a king, I had the finest clothes and ladies – what can I say about the ladies?
FATHER: I can say something about the ladies. They were women, but they were not ladies.
SON: Okay, you know what? Never mind. The thing was, life was good. Until.
FATHER: Until my son's money ran out around the same time a recession hit our country.
SON: There wasn't any work to be found. I mean, I tried. I really tried. But there just weren't jobs. Eventually I found a job. It wasn't bad. It was a manager's position –
SON: It was an associate position –
SON: Okay, I was a bacon preparation assistant.
FATHER: Which means?
SON: I fed pigs. I hated that job. Didn't pay much. I didn't have enough money for a place to live. There were many days I didn't even have enough money to eat. Sometimes I was so hungry I would gladly have eaten the disgusting scraps I was feeding the pigs, but I couldn't. They wouldn't let me. So with hunger pains as a constant reminder of how I'd squandered everything my father had given me, I lived in agony day after –
FATHER: Day after day after day, I'd watch, and I'd wait for my son to come home. And my heart would ache as only a parent's heart could for his own child. But hear me on this – I never gave up on him. I never gave up on him. I knew that it would happen one day.
SON: One day it hit me. One day I realized that the lowliest of my father's workers lived better than I did. At least they had a place to live and food to eat – and I didn't have either one of those things.
FATHER: So I wondered, "What if he never comes to his senses? What if he lets pride just get in the way?" "No. No. I will see him again."
SON: Again and again, these thoughts ran through my head as I began my journey back to my father's house. I knew what I would do. There's no way that I would accept a handout and I couldn't expect him to take me back as his son, so I would ask him to hire me on as a worker. I mean, maybe he would do that. Just maybe.
FATHER: "Maybe today will be the day that my son will come home." That's what I would say every morning – "Maybe today will be the day that I would see him off in the distance as he makes his way back home."
SON: Home. That word means so many things – comfort, care, security, love. Home. I couldn't believe I was just a few hundred yards away from it.
FATHER: It was a beautiful day. I was sitting on my front porch, and that's when I saw him.
SON: He stood up out of his chair. He looked in my direction. He squinted his eyes to get a better look at me. And then I began to wonder, "What if he doesn't take me back? What if I get to him and he just looks at me and he says, 'I told you so. I told you so.'"
FATHER: I told you so. Some of you would just roll your eyes every time I mentioned my son, but I knew he would come back. I just knew.
SON: I just knew this was a bad idea. I knew I shouldn't have done this and so I just stopped.
FATHER: He just stood there.
SON: I couldn't move.
FATHER: I couldn't just stand there –
SON: So he jumped. My dad literally jumped off the porch. I've never seen him do anything like that before. It's like he was this little kid who was excited about something. Then it hit me. He was excited about me.
FATHER: So you know what I did next? I ran.
SON: I ran.
FATHER: My heart was pounding so fast, I just had to get to him.
SON: I've never seen him run so fast. He was running at me with his arms stretched out wide as if to say, "Welcome home."
FATHER: "Welcome home!" That's what I kept shouting to him. But I don't know if he could hear me, so I just kept shouting it over and over. All I wanted to do was just scoop him up in my arms like he was when he was like a little child and just let him know that everything was going to be okay. And as I got closer to him, I could see tears running down his face.
SON: He was crying.
FATHER: Tears of joy. And you know what my son did next?
SON: I jumped. I was nervous, I was excited, and so I literally jumped. And you know what my father did?
FATHER: Well, I fell backwards. He's a big boy. And then – and then he hugged me.
SON: And he embraced me like only a father can. I kept saying over and over again, "I am so sorry. I am so sorry. I am so sorry. I don't deserve to be called your son."
FATHER: My son is back! Get him some clean clothes. Let's give him a meal – no, a feast! For my son will no longer live as an orphan.
SON: All my hopes have come true. I guess it was hope. Hope that made me start that journey back home, hope that got me through all the miles – the hope that father would take me back and somehow I could be forgiven.
FATHER: Forgiven. It's all forgiven and I will never bring it up ever again. There's no shame, there is no guilt. For my son was lost, and now he's found.
(End of video.)
I am moved every time I watch this video. The father first and foremost expressed to his son his joy that he has been found again and that his return to life was the most important part. This joy indicates that there remained so much goodness intact. Even if he is a prodigal, a son does not cease to be truly his father's son. It also indicates a good that has been found again, which in the case of the prodigal son was his return to the truth about himself.
I think one of the most important things here is that the son had to see the truth about himself before he could start his journey home. I don't think the son would have come home if his father would have gone out to get him. Sometimes we have to allow our children to go down a path that we might not like.
We have to trust that God is walking with them on this path and that he can help them discover who they really are.
I was so inspired a few years back when I read a book written by Rob Parsons called Bringing Home the Prodigals and thought how relevant this was to our community of faith. I remember wanting to share this message with everyone, but there was just no way to do that at that time.
Now, thanks to our Senior Pastor, through creating Lovin' Life Ministries and this live broadcast I can share this with all of you.
It's really sad when we realize that we have made prodigals of some who were never prodigals at all. They never turned their back on God; they only turned their back on some rules and regulations that were never keeping Heaven away anyway.
We make prodigals of people because of the color of their hair or a mistake they made in high school. A young man came up to me a few months ago in tears because of a mistake that he made in high school four years earlier with a girlfriend. He was told that he would never be able to marry a girl in our church because of the mistake he made, and he lived with this guilt and shame for years.
His tears, however, were tears of joy because he found a sister who could love him for what he had become, not what he had done, not judging him. Over the years we have done this to many of our young people, and in a sense we have been a part of creating prodigals.
So many of us here today and around the nation carry the weight of guilt for prodigals. "If only I had been a better brother, a better sister, a better friend, a better husband or wife!" But especially it's parents who carry the guilt for prodigals.
I have heard parents all over our district questioning what they did wrong. Some have two children; one may be doing so well while the other one is breaking their hearts. Parents often say if only. "If only I had prayed and spent more time with my children," while others say, "If only I had given my children more space and not pushed faith so much."
All these if only's and the guilt they create can be suffocating. We become like a deer in the headlights of a car, unable to move forward.
We have to lay down the guilt. Adam and Eve had the perfect father. Adam and Eve had the perfect environment, but they still went the way their father asked them not to go. Our job is to do the best we can as parents, but there are no guarantees.
Many parents I have worked with have given the task of parenting their very best shot, but their children make choices and sometimes those choices are bad.
Sometimes we have to say to God: "If I got it wrong, please forgive me, but I have to lay down the guilt because it's too heavy to carry as a parent."
When we can do that, when we can let go of the guilt, faith and hope can come back into our hearts. When we allow guilt to be heavy in our hearts, God has a hard time getting in. When we lose our self-confidence because of this, it becomes almost impossible for us to see a way out.
Another point is this: When the Father's house is filled with the Father's love, the prodigals will come home. If we don't stop fighting each other in our local churches, if we don't stop having arguments over the style of worship, the music, the building or the youth, there is hardly any point of bringing them back.
We all know that we can have the church of our dreams. We can have sermons that are shallow or deep – or run on like that joke people like to tell with the purple shades. We can have worship in which people swing from the chandeliers or sing from the traditional Holy Song books. We can have Starbucks in the chapel and nice cushioned seats. We can have anything we want if we stomp and kick hard enough, but it won't bring back our prodigals.
Our churches and our homes should be places of compassion and forgiveness where we are united in our vision to help people come back to God. Jesus in John 17 prayed right before he died, "that all of them may be one, Father. Just as you are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me."
I was so moved by the heart of the father and the heart of the prodigal son that we saw in the video. The father looking for his son's return every single day and the son feeding the pigs and thinking of what he would say to his father: "I am not worthy to be your son. I have sinned against Heaven. Please take me on as your hired servant."
On the day his father saw him on the road his father started running toward him. When he tried to give his speech about his unworthiness, his father did not listen but shouted for clothes and a feast. "My boy is home! My boy is home."
It's an incredible story, but that's not the main reason Jesus told this story. No, the main reason is the character waiting in the wings that's now about to emerge: the elder brother with his careful guessing of all the sins the prodigal brother must have committed.
Let's continue the story:
"Now his older son came in from the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, 'Your younger brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.'
"But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father, 'Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I have never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.'
"And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and now is alive again, and was lost and is found.'"
Pray that our prodigals don't meet the elder brother when they come home. Pray that they meet the father because he will be much more patient.
A young man shared with his father: "Dad, I have come home to you and to God, but please be patient with me as I still have many things that need to be worked out." The elder brother, however, will want it all worked out immediately: "Is that smoke I smell on your breath? Are you still drinking? Are you still with that woman?" Oh that elder brother!
We need to pray that God can help us have the father's heart and not the heart of the elder brother when our prodigals come home.
The final point I would like to share today is the importance of prayer.
Those of us who pray for prodigals have a great advantage; we have a broken heart. We know that no book or event will bring our prodigals to God: No book or event will bring them home. Our only place to bring our prodigals is to God through prayer. We need to pray; we need to create homes and churches that are ready to love, to forgive, and to celebrate our prodigals' return.
Thank God for the mothers who wait up all night to hear that key turning in the door. Thank God for the mothers, the fathers, the brothers and sisters, the grandparents and friends who remember to pray for the prodigals.
One testimony that Rob Parsons shared was about a mother whose daughter had left home six years ago when she was 18. The mother shared that every night she always prayed and waited, knowing that her daughter would come home.
Each night when her husband would turn off the lights, she would remind him to leave the porch light on. Every Christmas she would put a small lighted tree on the front porch, as she did when her daughter was little.
Her daughter did come home and back to God.
Her daughter shared how ashamed she felt over the years, how she used to drive down their street sometimes at 2 in the morning and how their house was the only house with a light on. She knew that the light was on for her.
She shared about how every year around Christmastime she would park in front of the house late at night and look at the small tree that was lit on the porch. She knew that that tree was lit on the porch for her, and she was able to remember all the childhood Christmases.
Don't ever give up on your prodigals. God loves them and knows where they are, not just physically but their mind and their heart. He loves them even more than you do. God is walking with us every single day on our journey, and it is the journey he cares about, not the destination.
Please know that God loves us more than we can ever imagine, that we should be a ministry that offers forgiveness and hope, that nurtures people and believes that our prodigals will come home.
So let's remember to keep on praying for our prodigals, and let's always remember to leave the light on.
1: Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him.
2: And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5: "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7: "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
8: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10: "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11: "Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
12: Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.
13: "You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men.
14: "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid.
15: Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.
16: Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
17: "Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them.
18: For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.
19: Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20: For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
21: "You have heard that it was said to the men of old, `You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.'
22: But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, `You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire.
23: So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,
24: leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
25: Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison;
26: truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.
27: "You have heard that it was said, `You shall not commit adultery.'
28: But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
29: If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.
30: And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
31: "It was also said, `Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.'
32: But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
33: "Again you have heard that it was said to the men of old, `You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.'
34: But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God,
35: or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.
36: And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.
37: Let what you say be simply `Yes' or `No'; anything more than this comes from evil.
38: "You have heard that it was said, `An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'
39: But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also;
40: and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well;
41: and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
42: Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you.
43: "You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
44: But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45: so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
46: For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
47: And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
48: You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
1: Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.
2: And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them."
3: So he told them this parable:
4: "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it?
5: And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
6: And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, `Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.'
7: Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
8: "Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?
9: And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, `Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost.'
10: Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
11: And he said, "There was a man who had two sons;
12: and the younger of them said to his father, `Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.' And he divided his living between them.
13: Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living.
14: And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want.
15: So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16: And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything.
17: But when he came to himself he said, `How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger!
18: I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you;
19: I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants."'
20: And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
21: And the son said to him, `Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'
22: But the father said to his servants, `Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet;
23: and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry;
24: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to make merry.
25: "Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.
26: And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant.
27: And he said to him, `Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.'
28: But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him,
29: but he answered his father, `Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends.
30: But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!'
31: And he said to him, `Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.
32: It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'"
1: And God spoke all these words, saying,
2: "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3: "You shall have no other gods before me.
4: "You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;
5: you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,
6: but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7: "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
8: "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9: Six days you shall labor, and do all your work;
10: but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates;
11: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it.
12: "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the LORD your God gives you.
13: "You shall not kill.
14: "You shall not commit adultery.
15: "You shall not steal.
16: "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17: "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor's."
18: Now when all the people perceived the thunderings and the lightnings and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled; and they stood afar off,
19: and said to Moses, "You speak to us, and we will hear; but let not God speak to us, lest we die."
20: And Moses said to the people, "Do not fear; for God has come to prove you, and that the fear of him may be before your eyes, that you may not sin."
21: And the people stood afar off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.
22: And the LORD said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the people of Israel: `You have seen for yourselves that I have talked with you from heaven.
23: You shall not make gods of silver to be with me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold.
24: An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you.
25: And if you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones; for if you wield your tool upon it you profane it.
26: And you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it.'