Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A Sermon about Forgiveness

I have a new therapist. Breaking in a new therapist is always an interesting experience. Some of them just ask questions, keeping any kind of personal info to a minimum. My last therapist was that type. I left her office knowing nothing more than her credentials and her taste in decor.

This new guy is different. When I have an appointment it's not all about me. And that's okay too. It's a technique I've used myself more than once. But today he asked a curious question at the end of our session, "Have you ever written a sermon about forgiveness?" I wasn't quite sure how to answer, except to say "Yes."

My new doctor is in his 60's. A nice Jewish fellow who serves on the board of his temple. He's been a therapist for a good long time. And I am so very fascinated by his question. Was it really about his desire to understand more about forgivness? Or was this a question about me?

He said he might like to read one of my sermons on forgiveness as it is something he has to help people with now and again. I'm not sure which one I want to give him. But maybe some of this would do. I wrote it in September of 2001.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote:“I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, no anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.”

Our calling today is to love in that same way. To love without limits. To love without hesitancy. That’s the best weapon we have against the terror that has been unleashed upon us.

We are called to welcome the stranger and the wanderer in our midst. We are called to share our bread, our life and our love with all who are in need. So that there are no hidden places. No lost coins. No missing sheep.

Our calling is to live like Jesus. We are to bear witness to the world that our faith makes a difference. It affects the way that we treat others.

We must be clear in showing the world that the love of Christ is extended to all people. That’s how we will demonstrate the difference that faith makes. We can be “a light to the nations.” If we live the love of Christ. If we follow Jesus.

In these difficult times, we are called to be a people of hope. A people of loving actions. A people of prayer. A people of thoughtful and faithful discussion. And a people who are committed to working towards healing and forgiveness.

My dear brothers and sisters, we have a choice. We can live in terror and let our grief rule our heads and our hearts - or we can follow Jesus.

When he wrote to his friends in Corinth, Paul put it like this, “Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”

One reporter this week said that “courage is fear that has said it’s prayers.” And so I would commend you to be faithful in your calling. Be diligent in your prayers. Keep hope alive in your heart. Knowing that the love of God goes with you always. May we go forth from this place today, following Jesus.


P. Softly said...

This sermon is about living the Christian life in general, and forgiveness is only one part of that.

Do you think the therapist was asking about forgiving others or forgiving ourselves?

BTW, I've come to understand Jesus' command to forgive others 7 times 70 as more literal than figurative. I have done intentional forgiveness, with the help of prayer, only to have the issue rear its ugly head again, get forgiven again, pop up again, etc. They do seem to come up with less frequency as I repeat the intentional forgiveness, but there they are.....

I was recently distressed over some issues that reminded me of an old hurt. I felt like a failure for not having let go of this. Writing this response has reminded me that I haven't finished the 7 X 70 yet...and I need to forgive myself for still having these feelings.

RevHRod said...

Dear PS- You're right, this passage really isn't fully about forgiveness. It was the week after 9/11 though and so forgiveness was on my mind.

As to the 7x70, are you speaking of forgiving each error 490 times. Or that each person gets 490 times at bat. Either way, I would agree it starts out as a literal command, but then how do you keep track? I think that's when Jesus gets to the heart of it all, we can't keep track. So why bother. We know when we've forgiven someone. Or when we've forgiven ourselves. If we try too hard to keep track of the numbers, we're still keeping track of the sin and the pain that goes with it.

I think that forgiveness is very simple (i.e. not complex) but it is not easy.

As to the therapist, I haven't figured him out yet. I think he was talking about both things probably. And since the goal for me is to always walk away with new questions to ponder in the coming weeks- I guess I got my money's worth.

Thanks for your input.