Sermon 19a 2014: Be Forgiven, Forgive Others, and Forgive Yourself Introduction: Why Forgiveness?

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1 Sermon 19a 2014: Be Forgiven, Forgive Others, and Forgive Yourself Introduction: Why Forgiveness? A married couple had many sharp disagreements over the course of their marriage; Yet somehow the wife always stayed calm and collected; On their twenty-fifth anniversary the husband commented on his wife s restraint When I get mad at you, he said, you never fight back. How do you control your anger? The wife replied, I work it off cleaning the toilet. The husband asked, How does that help? She said, I use your toothbrush. A motorcycle patrolman suffered a minor accident that put him in the hospital; His injuries were to his leg and ankle; But when he woke up from surgery, he not only had a cast on his leg, But he also had a huge bandage pasted on his bare chest; The kind that will be exceedingly painful to tear off; As he looked at the bandage, he saw this message written there: A gift from the nurse you gave a ticket to last week. A judge in a two-third s world country was trying to resolve a difficult case; The wife of a deceased man was asking for the death penalty To be imposed on the man who killed her husband. It seems that while the man was gathering fruit up in a tree; He fell on the husband and killed him; The judge, seeing that it was an accident, tried to get the woman To accept a different sentence than death, but she wanted blood. So, in making his judgment, the judge ordered the man to be tied to a tree; And that the wife would climb to the top of the tree and throw herself down Until she took his life in the same way her husband had been killed. 1

2 The woman was speechless at the thought of falling from so far up; then the judge spoke, Perhaps you d prefer the financial settlement after all. The cycle of unforgiveness touches all of our lives; Whether we re the ones who are unwilling to forgive Or we re the ones who stand in the need of forgiveness that won t come; Forgiveness from others, forgiveness from ourselves; But that s not the way it s to be for us Christians We who share in Christ s ministry are called to a life, To a practice, to a way of forgiveness. And this practice, this spirit, this way of forgiveness is both the hardest And the sweetest part of being One Body with Christ; It s hard letting go of real or perceived wrongs and mistakes and sins The acceptance of apology, of repentance, of turning, of change; The decision to allow for second chances. But in the practice of forgiveness, there s also a sweetness, a grace As we experience and share in the very essence of Christ s ministry & community; As we are drawn closer to the heart, to the infinite love of God; And are freed for new life. Offering Forgiveness Now more people get turned off by Christianity or fail to fully commit to Christ Because of Jesus call to forgive and to practice forgiveness; Than any other aspect of the faith. We like Jesus the person; we like His stories; His healing powers; His miracles; We like the practical how to s as it relates to prayer and sharing and giving. We love the promise that there s life beyond the door of death; But this forgiveness thing is another matter for most of us. 2

3 For most of us forgiveness is hard to offer Because when we ve been wronged, we want to get even, We want someone to pay, we want justice of some kind. But Jesus demands another way, a way that sets aside our desire or our need to get even; A way that breaks the cycle of unforgiveness, however unfair it may seem. And seeing Jesus offer forgiveness, time and time again, got the disciples attention; So Peter came up to Jesus one day and asked, Lord, how often should I forgive someone when they sin against me? Up to seven times? Sounds pretty generous. And Jesus responds, Not seven times, but I tell you, seventy-seven times. Or seven times seventy, 490 times, some translations read. This is a hard teaching. A man was in counseling with a Christian psychologist and came in one day and said, My neighbor slapped me yesterday, should I forgive him? Yes, answered the counselor. How many times should I forgive him? the man asked. How many times did he slap you? Once, said the man; Then forgive him once, said the counselor. But what if he slaps me fifty times? the man asked. Then you should forgive him forty-nine times, came the answer. Why only forty-nine times, if I was slapped fifty times? the man asked. The counselor replied, Freely accept the fiftieth slap; You deserve it for allowing yourself to be slapped the first forty-nine times. Forgiving others is one of the hardest parts of the Christian life And there are times when we need to get away from people who continue to hurt us; 3

4 But forgiving others frees us as it frees them from the endless cycle of getting even; And opens us to God s way of mercy and peace and new life. Receiving Forgiveness And just as forgiveness is hard to practice for most of us Forgiveness may be even harder to accept, especially from God; Harder to accept because we think we re not really all that bad And so we don t really need to be forgiven anything; Oh, we make mistakes now and then, but we re not really sinners. There was a very popular book in the 1970 s called, I m Okay, You re Okay And the basic premise of the book was that we re all really alright; That we re not that bad and so we don t really need forgiveness. But the Christian message is more like I m not okay and you re not okay; And that s okay, because God is willing to forgive us When we turn to God and ask to be forgiven. You see, God coming down and living among us was no minor undertaking; Jesus going to the cross to die to take away our sins And to be raised on the third day was no trivial act. God came and God died on the cross because our sins are real, not just mistakes; Our purposefully, sinful lives, our lives lived apart from God and one another Break apart our relationship with God and our relationships with one another; And the only way to mend what sin breaks comes at the cost of Jesus life; As God s final word that we are not only loved, but we are forgiven; And are freed to live the life that is really life. The Life of Forgiveness We, who have been forgiven so much Have an opportunity to be like Jesus in forgiving others; By allowing others to make their mistakes on us, even sin against us; 4

5 By allowing others a second, a third, a fourth chance, a 77 th chance, a 490 th chance; By forgiving until the spirit of forgiveness begins to generate a spirit of forgiveness And those around us are changed by it as we have been changed. And what applies to others, applies to ourselves as well; We, who have been forgiven and are trying to practice forgiveness; Would do well to forgive ourselves, too. How many of us are straining under the burden of sins, Sins we ve committed, that we just won t let go of; We may have received forgiveness from God or from the other person, But we won t forgive ourselves. Forgiving ourselves is also part of the path to a new way of life, Freeing us of the shame and the self-blame that can be crippling; And allowing us to begin again. There s much more to say about forgiveness And I expect that over the course of the next year As we delve into what it means to be One Body, to be a community That we ll have another chance or two. For the truest mark of Christian community, After the presence and feeling that God is truly present; Is a group of people who accept and offer forgiveness; A community in which we set aside our judgmentalism Even though we have to make judgments and face consequences; But the judgments and consequences come with forgiveness. Consider this when you re struggling to forgive someone for something That you consider sinful or hideous or beyond redemptions 5

6 What would you hope for when you live or act in such a way That your life, your actions cross the line, as they are likely to; Wouldn t you want forgiveness? So beginning today, I invite you to enter more fully into the life of forgiveness: Someone in your life is standing in the need of your forgiveness give it to them; Some of us are standing in the need of forgiveness ourselves For things we ve done and things we ve left undone; Forgive yourself. All of us are standing in the need of God s forgiveness And God is waiting to forgive us, if we will but confess and accept His grace. The way of forgiveness is a challenging aspect of Christian community; But by the grace of God it is also the sweetest; And in this way of life you and I will find life; And be drawn ever closer to the heart of God. Amen. 6

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