Monday, September 12, 2011

Reflections on forgiveness

Sermon from Saturday evening.

September 10, 2011

Genesis 50:15-21
Psalm 103:[1-7] 8-13
Romans 14:1-12
Matthew 18:21-35

Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O God, our rock and our redeemer.  Amen. 

There’s something unique about this service, isn’t there…okay maybe it’s not just one thing…and maybe the service isn’t too unique, but because of a few simple differences this service allows us to deeply connect with today’s Gospel lesson. 

The basic order of service is the same as Sunday, and it can be simplified to 4 parts. 
Gathering: we gather together in confession and song
Word: we hear God’s word
Meal: we come forward for the Lord’s Supper
Sending:  we are sent from this place…back into the world.

But the gathering is where this service is just a little different. 
Immediately following the confession and forgiveness, we pass the peace. 
Now that’s a bit different.  And truth be told, it’s tripped me up a few times….but today, when our lessons revolved around forgiveness….how many times should we forgive? 

Here’s a comic to illustrate today’s lesson, from Agnus Dei…

(Above is the weekly lectionary based comic from Agnus Day.)

We’re left with the sheep to ponder…really, how many times are we to forgive…and is it really as easy as the click of a mouse?  Probably not…

And like last week…this whole forgiveness thing isn’t about making life easier for you or me individually…it’s not about forgiving so you can forget what happened, it’s for the sake of the larger community. 

This is a tricky parable we come upon this weekend…and it’s a weekend that calls us to think about the past, about actions we have taken not only as individuals but also as a community and as a nation.  How are we to forgive those who have purposely hurt us? 
How are we to forgive those who have taken lives who have hurt families who have instilled in us a sense of fear? 

I don’t have a clear answer for you.  That’s the truth.

Maybe the other truth is the reality that maybe we cannot forgive. 

Every time we speak the words of the Lord’s Prayer we speak forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. 

We continually pray for forgiveness…for new starts, for fresh beginnings, for the opportunity to have a clean slate.  And time and time again….God reaches in with a hand and a promise that we are forgiven.   We are freed to see outside of our own hearts and lives to see each other and the impacts we have in all our relationships. 

So here we are…forgiven.  A new people.  A new creation. 

Pretty amazing, huh? 

So how do we live in a world full of hate and revenge as people walking in the light of Christ…as a people united by the cross…washed in the waters of baptism…and forgiven and freed to love one another? 

It could be that we don’t think we deserve this unconditional love from God that we are only human, and we don’t deserve this love and grace. 

Yet we begin worship each week with this gracious reminder…
And at this service it is immediately followed by the passing of the peace…

Not a time to catch up with each other on the week’s gossip,
Not a time to find someone to volunteer for a new committee or project…

But the passing of the peace of the Lord…
It’s a time in the service where we make amends with one another…
It’s a time for us to forgive others…
It’s a time that helps us prepare to come forward to the Lord’s table…not focused on one another. 
Not worried about our own issues or someone else’s problems…or gossip or hurtful words, coming up to this table is that second reminder of God’s amazing grace and forgiveness…that we are welcome here no matter what. 

Think about that…
No matter who you are, you are loved.
No matter who you are, you are forgiven.
No matter who you are, you are free….to share that love and forgiveness. 

So what does that mean for us…here and now? 
Within the walls of Trinity, within the community of Robesonia…and as a nation? 

How does who we are as a chosen, loved and forgiven people impact the world around us? 

How does that change how we respond to war, pain, suffering, attacks, world hunger, broken families, sickness and death? 

I’ve heard it said that the heart of God is cross shaped. 
Pretty cool, huh?
The heart of God is cross shaped….because that’s where God’s unconditional love was and is shown for us as Jesus died on the cross.  That’s how much love god has foe us…so as a new people, as a chosen, loved and forgiven people, how do we point out God at work in the world…even in the suffering and the pain, in the remembering and the reconciling….

There’s this well-known tag line, or call and response that says, God is good…all the time. 
All the time….God is good. 

I’m not sure if I can agree with that…God is good in the midst of war?  In the midst of famine?  In the hurricanes, storms, floods?  In the political arguments?  In the economic struggles?  God is good? 

What I can stand behind I that God is God.  All the time….
And all the time God is God. 

God is with us in the midst of all that happens…loving and saving us and watching us mess up and continuing to love and save us…throughout history…this cycle seems to repeat itself. 

That won’t make life any smoother…
That won’t take away the pain and suffering in the world…
That isn’t a go directly to go and collect $200….it means we are still a vital part of this world, this church and this community. 

But knowing God is active in our lives each and every day changes who we are in the world. 

So as you leave from this place, this day…hear and know this:
God is with you. 
God loves you. 
God forgives you. 

And may those words of forgiveness remind us of the new creation we are in Christ.  . 

May God’s amazing grace in our lives change us, move us and free us to love and serve and forgive….

And now may the peace, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, and let all God’s people say amen. 

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