Forgive as you’re Forgiven

forgiveness

The Pas Proper / Ordinary 13 – Pentecost + 6 – Trinity + 5
Year B – Canada Day
1 July 2018

Isaiah 32:1-5, 16-18
Psalm 85:7-13 pg 819
Colossians 3:12-17
John 15:12-17

God of hope,
you are ruler of both night and day,
guardian of those who wander in shadows.
Be new light and life
for those who live in the darkness of despair,
for those imprisoned by guilt and grief,
for those living with anxiety and depression,
so that, even where death’s grip tightens,
all may know the power of the One
who conquered fear and death. Amen.
__________________________________

“Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Col 3:13b)

I came across this phrase in todays epistle lesson, and with all that’s going on the world, in the country, in the province, and in our town, these seemed like very important words to ponder, to investigate, to focus on today, as our nation celebrates its 151st birthday.

How often in the stretch of our lives, are we told to apologize? How often have we been told, in our youth, to apologize to siblings, and to mean it?

How often are we encountering people who offend us, upset us, putt us down, in today’s age, or even bully from behind a Facebook profile, or even to our faces.

And yet, to all of that Paul tells us to forgive.

Paul tells us to forgive as Christ, as God forgives each one of us.

If we stop and think about that, for just a moment, that’s huge. After all God’s forgiveness for each one of us is Jesus death on the cross and rising to new life. It’s found in Jesus breaking the power of sin and death in his actions on Golgotha.

But the point is, today, in our modern age, two thousand plus years from that event on Golgotha, we don’t often think about the depth of love and the depth of forgiveness that happened in Jesus death and resurrection.

At the same time, we find it very difficult to admit “We confess you the truth of our broken lives.” (Tree of Life setting: Brief Order of Confession and Forgiveness.)

And the formula for asking forgiveness goes on from there.

We don’t like to look in the mirror and admit to ourselves, to each other “Lord have mercy upon us. Christ have mercy upon us. Lord have mercy upon us.” (BCP pg 70)

To say “ALMIGHTY God, Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ, Maker of all things, Judge of all men:
We acknowledge and confess our manifold sins
and wickedness, …” (BCP pg 70)

Or “Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed,…” (BAS pg 46)

To be honest this is something we’d rather avoid, confessing to God, to Christ what we’ve not done, what we’ve done not with the spirit of God guiding our lives, and our hearts.

This is something we’re not comfortable with and I think it starts with admitting to ourselves that we, human as we are, make mistakes.

But this is where Paul, where the love of Jesus starts in our lives, for our lives, for all of creation.

Paul tells us: “Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly.” (Col 3:13b-16a)

But right here, in these words we find everything we’re claiming to cling to, as Christians, and it begins with forgiving others as we are forgiven by God.

I have to admit, this isn’t an easy thing to do: to forgive those who have hurt us, who have lied to us, who have caused us sleepless nights and pain?

Yet, this is what we are called to do, for our selves, and for those who have, whether intended or not, hurt us.

And, once we can do that, forgive as we’ve been forgiven by God, then the peace of Christ does in fact rule in our hearts.

It rules in our hearts because we’ve let go of the bitterness that comes with anger, with hurt, with the emotional pain of seeing those who have caused us that hurt.

At the same time, it’s like giving into anger when someone intentionally tries to pick an argument.

My mother-in-law is an interesting individual. For some reason she figures that if you’re not arguing, and yelling at each other, then you’re not communicating, nor do you love each other.

A strange sentiment, and for some reason, whenever she provokes an argument, at the end she feels better; she actually claims that we’ve had a good conversation. If it’s been a while since an argument has ensued, then she is bitter, and contrary, and down in the dumps.

From a psychological point of view, however, the moment you allow emotion into such heated types of discussion, then the one provoking this hurt filled emotional response from you gains the upper hand in the argument.

Then there is the perspective of marriages and relationships. When we get into arguments with our spouses, and try to force our will onto the one with whom we have promised our love, and with whom we share our lives, then that is when the hurtful words, the past mistakes, the pain caused previously attempts to rear its ugly head and intrude on the current strife.

So, if we enter into such hostile territory, willingly or not, and are overcome by the circumstances, then Paul tell us that we need to forgive as we are forgiven by God, letting go of the pain, the hurt, the distress, and the anger.

And when we let go, when we are able to invite the love of God into our hearts, both for ourselves, for our wounded lives, and for the life of the one who caused the hurt.

And this comes back to forgiving, and by forgiving allowing the peace of Christ into our lives, and hearts. From there it’s only natural to reach for that peace, that love, that sense of togetherness in Christ.

In today’s gospel, Jesus tells us: “12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (Jn 15:12)

So, it’s interesting, then, that both Paul and Jesus focus on love. They focus on that closeness that draws us together, not just as comrades, but also as family, as loved ones, as friends.

And it’s interesting, when we look at the fact that these readings fall on July 1, on our nations birthday. Especially when we look at how we have become, over the decades, more and more afraid of what it is we don’t understand, of what it is that haunts our dreams, and in the end causes us, unintentionally, to hurt others.

And we can see a cycle emerging here. Now the interesting thing about cycles is they can go up, or they can go down.

If the cycle goes down, we descend into negative emotions, we suffer from depression, we make bad choices, and in this mix, there is no room for Christ, for the love of God, for forgiveness or for peace in life, in the world.

On the other hand, the cycle can also go up.

When it goes up, the opposite happens. We are then able to forgive as God forgives us. We are able to invite the peace of Christ into our hearts, and from there, in a sense of love, and centred on the teachings of Jesus, we are able to do all kinds of reconciliation, seeking peace, justice, and treating each other as Christ treats us.

 

So, let’s envision this: We find ourselves on the opposite sides of an issue with someone.

But throughout our discussions, negotiations, talks, some of which are hurtful and ‘mudslinging’ has happened, on both sides, we are able to sit down, and actively forgive each other for such hurt.

We’re able to ‘lay our cards on the table’, and we’re able to forgive each other with the same sense of forgiveness that we receive from God.

At that point, what would the discussions, the negotiations look like?

At that point, we would be able to approach each other from the sense of peace that surpasses all understanding, and miracles would happen. Bridges would be built between us, our lives, and the lives of those with whom are in conversation.

As the psalm tells us, “10Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. 11Truth shall spring up from the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven.” (Ps 85:10-11)

Just imagine the sense of justice and peace that could emerge from such a step.

These days, all we have to do is look to the leadership of the USA for such inflammatory behaviour intended, like my mother-in-law, to reach the upper hand in all discussions by emotional manipulation.

Yet, we, have a choice. As the children of God, we are able to step out of that pattern.

We’re able to reject such emotionally laden barbs, and in a sense of peace and love, and we’re able to allow the love of God to guide us into paths of peace, of reconciliation, of understanding.

In today’s gospel we see Jesus telling us that the greatest form of love is the willingness to lay down our lives for each other, and Paul tells us to forgive as God forgives us, then there is an incredible message, here.

In our lives, in our actions, we’re able to point the way to Jesus. Like Paul, we are able to forgive and grow, and learn from the love of God, and like Jesus, we are able to step into that place where sometimes such sacrifice is demanded, not for ourselves, but for those around us.

And, it all centres around Jesus. It all centres on the love of God for not just you and me, but for all of humanity, for all of creation.

Jesus tells us: “16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.” (Jn 15:16-17)

And in that sense, of Jesus command, of God’s love, of a life lived in a sense of forgiveness, as we are forgiven, we face the celebration of our nation, and we are able to see both where we came from, and where we are able to go.

We are able to pray that we come together as one nation, albeit filled with a remarkable and beautiful diversity of individuals, philosophies, and faiths.

We ae able to grow, as God intends, and we’re able to be what God intends as a nation, when we live in these readings, in the sense that comes from the hearts of all those who long to see peace, reconciliation, and positive growth for all.

Amen.

 

About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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