Saturday, August 17, 2013

13th Sunday after Pentecost: Forgive us as we forgive....but do I HAVE to forgive THEM?

Readings for Sunday:  Jeremiah 23:23-29; Psalm 32:1-8;Hebrews 11:29-12:2; Luke 11:1-4

There’s a VeggieTale video called “God Wants Me to Forgive Them?”  It has are two short stories, one in which Junior Asparagus has to forgive this family of grapes (yes – all the characters are veggies and some fruits!) who insulted him.  And then he has to forgive them – AGAIN – when they insult him AGAIN.  In the other story, everyone is angry with Larry the Cucumber, who crashed the tour boat on a deserted island (much like that island Gilligan landed on) – and they have to learn how to forgive him, even if they never get off that island.

Can’t you just hear it?

God wants me to forgive…THEM!?!

Veggie-silliness aside, that’s probably the first thing that comes to mind when you really think about the part of the Lord’s Prayer that says “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”…


God wants me to FORGIVE…THEM!?!

The second thing that probably comes to mind is:  but, but…I thought God’s forgiveness was unconditional, you know, grace – no strings attached.  Isn’t that what Jesus did on the cross?

Let’s start with that second thing first.

Yes.  God’s forgiveness is unconditional.  You ask for it, you got it.  In fact, you have God’s forgiveness even before you ask for it!  This is what Paul writes in Romans 5:8-10:  But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.  Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.

You ask for it – you got it.

That’s what we just did at the beginning of the service – we confessed our sin, those things we did and those things we left undone.  We confessed that we don’t love God and the neighbor as we should.  And we asked for God’s mercy and forgiveness.

And then I got to proclaim the good news that  - you got it!  God, who is faithful and just, does indeed forgive us all our sins!

And in forgiving us, God opens the way for us to have a new relationship with God. The future opens up, and it becomes possible to live as a beloved child of God.

Part of living as a beloved, forgiven child of God is learning to forgive as God forgives.  Forgiveness becomes a way of life. 

We forgive because we are forgiven.  We become new creations – it’s like God gives us a heart transplant, removing our sin-sick heart and replacing it with God’s own heart. 

A heart of love and mercy and forgiveness and grace.

Yes, God forgives us unconditionally. So how does that go with praying “forgive us as we forgive.”  That doesn’t sound like grace.  That sounds like God won’t forgive us unless we forgive everyone else first. 

That sounds like most of us are in trouble.

Because most of us have someone one who we think “God wants me to forgive them????!!!!

And.  We. Just.  Can’t.


Well, you just don’t understand what she did to me.

But if I forgive him, then he gets off scot free.

I’ve forgave him once, but he just keeps doing the same thing over and over again.  He blew his chance.

She is the one who wronged me – she should apologize first!

When you look at forgiveness that way, you make forgiveness about the other person.  And it’s really not.  Forgiveness is about you, about letting go of the past, about loving with God’s heart, about living the life abundant God created you to live.

God loves us enough to forgive us.  God loves us enough to not want us to be stuck in our own unforgiveness.  So Jesus teaches us to pray, "forgive as we forgive."  

In a very real sense, we only truly experience God’s forgiveness when we take that forgiveness we are given and use it to forgive others.  When we're mired in grudges, and anger and resentment and all the other stuff holding on to hurts bring, we miss out.  

It's like someone has given you a gift.  It’s wrapped beautifully.  You can hold this beautiful gift and marvel at it, and feel wonderful that someone loved you enough to give it to you.

But unless you unwrap the gift….you never really get to enjoy it.

Yes God forgives us.  But unless we forgive, there’s something that holds us back from fully living as God intends us to live.

That’s what forgiving others does.  It releases us from your bondage to the past, and opens us up to experience life the way God intends – right relationships, love, joy, peace, hope, wholeness.

Still, it’s not easy to forgive.  Sometimes it’s painful to forgive.  Sometimes we forgive in little bits, sometimes it takes a long time to let go of the past hurt to forgive.  Sometimes, the hurt is so deep, it feels like we can never, ever let it go – to forgive would betray our very selves.

Jesus knew this.  Jesus knew that we humans have a hard time forgiving, and yet we need to be able to forgive in order to  

I think that’s why Jesus teaches us to pray “Forgive us our sins as we forgive the sins of others.”  It’s prayer that is both our plea for forgiveness and God’s promise that we are forgiven and that God’s forgiveness gives us the grace and mercy to forgive others.

No matter how many times we may need to pray.

We’ve already confessed to God and asked for forgiveness.  Now we’ll end by praying that we can forgive as God forgives us. 

1.   As a congregation, we’re going to pray the first part of the Lord’s prayer, stopping after “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,
2.   Then we’ll take some time in silent prayer to ask God to help us to be able to forgive.  Maybe there’s someone in particular, or a situation you need God’s help to forgive.  Maybe there’s a grudge you need to give to God instead of hold on to. 
3.   After a few minutes, we’ll close with “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen”

“Jesus, Lord, use this time to teach us to pray…

“Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…

Time for individual prayer

“For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

1 comment:

  1. Well done, Ramona. An invitation to really think deeply about forgiveness and grace.