bonded sermon series part 4

This BONDED series has given me the opportunity to write about some experiences regarding relationships over my life. I’ve shared over the last several weeks about best friends I’ve had previously and the painful ways those friendships ended. I had another best friend about 20 years ago named Angelo Cruz. We bonded as soon as we met and our families spent a lot of time together. We studied the bible together multiple times, but something seemed to be holding him back. In fact, he shared a few years earlier he started studying the bible and quit. He seemed quite elusive and mysterious about it, but we enjoyed one another’s company and we were still studying, so I thought eventually whatever it was, it would come out. One day he told me that I may come to his door one day and he may not be there, but didn’t want to discuss it further. Many were involved in the studies over a long period and eventually Angelo WAS baptized. Something did come up in one of the studies I was not allowed at, but no one was candid with me because of the sensitive nature of the topic. A couple of weeks later, Angelo’s prediction came true. I couldn’t reach him or find him, and more alarming, neither could his wife. The next day I received a collect call from the Miami-Dade County jail. I accepted it and Angelo was there. He finally told me what was holding him back and how he ultimately decided to confess his past and be clean before God. He’d never discussed it with anyone, including his wife, but a decade earlier as a troubled teenager, he committed a terrible crime. A case that was previously unsolved and cold. Angelo had the courage to confess and accept the consequences. I was astonished that anyone would do that. His story made headlines and many were amazed at his faith. At his trial in Pennsylvania, many came forward in his behalf to share about the unbelievable transformation in his life. Even the prosecutor, in a rare demonstration, spoke in favor of a light sentence vs the 20 years-to-life he was facing. He’d been in jail for 12 months by then and miraculously only received an additional 30 months. Angelo and I wrote to each other every week and I could tell incarceration tested his faith daily and he was in constant danger. His strength and courage inspired me and I named my third child Hunter Cruz, after my friend. When he was released, he had very strict parole restrictions and could not leave the state. I guess the pressures of life caused him to drift further and further away from God and he started to get bitter, though he was free and reunited to his family. He violated his parole by leaving the state and having drugs in his system and eventually he stopped writing. I tried to keep track of him in the system after that. but failed. 

Tony started the final part of his BONDED series with this thought…Very few times Jesus speaks directly to us. In John 17:20 Jesus prays for us…that those who believe in him (in the future), he wants us all to be “one”. 1 Cor 12:12-31 says we are all a body part of Christ. We are one, but function differently than other parts. With all our diversity in all aspects of life, we are all baptized and given the exact same spirit. Each body part is important, whether you have a critical function or not. The Greek word “symphoneo” means harmonious together, not to be exactly the same. The value of being unique is understated. We can all be different and unique and still have unity. The body needs every part to be successful together, and in fact God placed the parts in the body exactly where he wants them to be. The scripture says the seemingless, weakest parts of the body are “indispensable”. Body parts by themselves are gross. A severed hand, or a severed ear, or an armpit by itself in gross (Tony borrowed one of my Halloween decorations for the illustration). All together, they fit together and create something amazing. 

My experience with Angelo was head-shaking. He was such an inspiring and noble part of the body. It was literally like cutting off a hand to me. God can do immeasurably more than we hope or imagine, and maybe the story isn’t finished yet. Perhaps a body part can be surgically reattached in the future, and I pray for that for Angelo, and all those that amputate themselves. Let us recognize our usefulness in this body and value our contribution.

Have a great week !