Sunday, October 28, 2012

October 28, 2012, "Forgive and Forget"

Isaiah 43.14-28
Ephesians 4.32
1 John 3.19-20

Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012

Reformation Sunday
Oct. 31 - Luther - 1517

Reformation - all about forgiveness

Not via the church, but Christ.

This month - power of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is heart of freedom …

Freedom from the hurt done to us.
Freedom to move ahead.
Freedom to be who we are in Christ - 
We are not our circumstances.
We are not our pain.
We are not our troubles.
We are who we are in Christ.
Filled with the Holy Spirit.

We sometimes hear: forgive AND forget.
Can we truly forget?
Time plays a role here.
But “forgetting” isn’t possible.
God doesn’t forget!
God forgets nothing!
God chooses to “not remember” - big difference.

Re-membering is devastating - even for God.
For my own sake, I will not remember.
I will not fill my mind and heart with past sadness.
I will not dwell on the ones who hurt me.
I will not dwell on failure.
I choose to move ahead.
To a new day.

Remembering causes anger.
Remembering breeds the spirit of vengeance.
Remembering takes us back in time.

What can we do?
Set our mind on the mind of Christ.
Things above.
The promises of God.
God is our refuge.
Our strength.
A very present help in the day of trouble.

The deepest piece of faith:
God at work in all things.

Don’t every preach this to someone who’s in the throws of sorrow.
Preach to ourselves.
For others, offer comfort.
Weep with those who weep!
Be patient.
In time, God will dry their tears!

Some things need to be remembered:
Frederick Buechner: Holocaust, p.285
Xn Century: Anti-semitism in America

We need to remember some things:
Injustice and work to change the world.
Horrors of war and work for peace.
God’s creation and work to honor it.
For ourselves:

Chose the godly way - not to remember.
Give it all to Christ. 
His hurt for our hurt.
His sorrow for our sorrow.
His shame for our shame.
Give it all to Christ!

Press on to the high calling - come home, take off the clothing of the day! Wash up, put on comfortable slacks and shirt.
Don’t wear the rags of hurt.
Wear the clothing of Christ.

Use Scripture and prayer - sing a song.
Move ahead with Christ.

Remember the wrongs done to others and do what we can to set it right for them - this is love at work!

Don’t remember the wrongs done to us - let God set them right for us - this is faith at work!

Amen and Amen!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

October 7, 2012, "Forgive Us Our Debts"

Psalm 51 & Matthew 6.1-15

Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.

On every page of the Bible, we see the power of forgiveness … the grace of God in the midst of human folly and tragedy … we fall of a cliff, and God comes to our rescue.

Adam and Eve pluck the fruit, plunge the world into spiritual calamity … Adam and Eve have to leave the Garden for a strange new world; there is no going back; they can only forge ahead.

Before they leave the Garden, God becomes a tailor … 

The fig leaves didn’t work … no human device, or effort, can cover over the sadness of sin … we ourselves cannot make up for the deficit of disobedience … this alone belongs to God.

Why forgiveness?

Forgiveness allows every one to get up and get going in the right direction. Forgiveness breaks the shackles of the past so we can set our sights on the future.

Forgiveness begins with God … God is the source of forgiveness.

Because all sin - whatever it is - is sin against God.

The Psalmist writes: Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
      and done what is evil in your sight.

Sin against a human being, we sin against God! 

Sin against God’s creation, we sin against God.

All sin is against God.

Only God can forgive!

God has to forgive!

What other choice does God have?

Destroy the world?

God tried that once upon a time - it would have worked - if God hadn’t saved Noah and his family … there was something in Noah that caught God’s eye, and God, “in a moment of weakness,” decided to save Noah and his family from the flood.

But it was too late!

Noah and his family carried within them the seed of sin.

From the moment Noah and his family left the ark, sin picked up where it had left off … and it only grew worse.

If God had destroyed all of humanity, what then?

We wouldn’t be here.

And God would have to live with the memory that sin was greater than God … that God couldn’t do anything about sin … that all was truly lost.

It was God who learned the big lesson during the flood … I have to forgive them … I have no choice … in order to get on with the work of creation … I have to forgive them.

God was willing to stick with it; make the best of it … I am greater than sin … with the power of forgiveness, I will make it possible for humankind to survive … and more than survive … to have life, life abundant.

I have no choice, says God.
Whatever the price.
I’ll pay it.
Whatever it takes.
I’ll do it.

Jesus reminds us that we have no choice either.

Forgive us our debts AS we forgive our debtors.

If not forgiveness, then what?

Hate and fume?
Fret and fuss?
Rehearse the crimes committed against us?
Remember and remember again what was said to us?
Stay in the trenches of memory?
Go nowhere!
Stuck in the mud.

If we want to get on with our life, we have no choice; we have to forgive!

Forgive as God forgives … 

Did Adam and Eve ask to be forgiven?


The Prodigal Son on his way home rehearses his confession, but the Waiting Father hushes the son and calls for a party instead … the Father knew that forgiveness begins in his own heart rather than in the words of the son.

Our words never prompt God’s forgiveness; it’s the nature of God to forgive … the love of God to forgive … God is the God of forgiveness.

“God’s forgiveness is always will be the last word.”

But let us always remember:

Forgiveness is costly!

Remember the clothing God made for Adam and Eve?

From animal skins.

The first sacrifice … life given for life!

The whole Book of Leviticus … two realities:
  1. There is forgiveness.
  2. It’s costly.

The writer to the Hebrews puts it this way: Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.

Thanks to Jesus Christ, you who were once so from away have been brought near the blood of Christ.

Behold, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

Is it easy for God?

God says to us: It’s a price worth paying.

I will go to the cross for them … and with my blood, the world will be cleansed.

When Jesus asks us to take up our cross and follow him, he’s asking us to participate in the power of cleansing the world … whatever it takes, to undo the damages of sin and set the world right.

At the end of our days … we lay our head down for the last time, we will say with God, It wasn’t easy, but the price was worth it. 

We work at it.

We pray about it.

We cry about it.

It happens … the Holy Spirit comes to us, prays within us with mighty groans
 … minds transformed … the impossible becomes possible.

Time and again, I’ve watched people wrestle with forgiveness … and wrestling it is … to shed the shackles of time and memory … it begins with the raw words: I forgive … and say the person’s name … and if the name isn’t known, then only the memory … forgive the memory … 

Saying the name and the words, I forgive, starts something rolling … a locked door has to be unlocked, and then we begin to walk into the next room … a pulled shade has to be pulled up, and then the light fills the room … 

There is power in the words … I forgive!

And now we have to be careful … I’ve heard folks say, I forgive you, and those words dripped with spiritual pride … it’s not a matter of forgiving someone … it’s a matter of being a person of forgiveness … our very nature, transformed and transforming by the love of Christ, becomes a godly nature, like unto God, and we begin to forgive, not because the other person asks for it, but rather because it’s our nature to forgive!

Don’t be conformed to this world, writes Paul the Apostle, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds … 

Forgiveness begins with the words in our inner life … there may be other other steps to be taken; outward steps … a phone call, a card, maybe a visit … who knows … take a chance … it doesn’t always work, but it’s up to us to do what’s right … and leave the rest to God.

There’s more here to consider … we’ll look further at forgiveness in the next couple of weeks.

And always remember:

God helps us along the way … because God is the God of forgiveness!

Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.

Amen … and Amen!