The Table of FORGIVENESS by Pastor Tracey Leslie Read: Matthew 6:14-15
True forgiveness is much harder than we like to admit.Now, I’m not talking about the easy simple stuff like a stranger who bumps into you in a crowd or a colleague who arrives late for a meeting.I’m talking about the big stuff; the kind of stuff that changes our lives.
We all remember the Japanese earthquake and Tsunami that struck in 2011.Japan’s Prime Minister described it as the most difficult crisis his nation had faced since the end of WWII.Nearly 16,000 people died and over 2,500 were never found or accounted for.I will never, however, forget what one church member told me the weekend after that horrible quake.With her voice trembling with emotion, she said that she believed the Japanese were getting exactly what they deserved for all the horror they’d inflicted during WWII; not the least of which was the horrific internment and execution of her favorite uncle.Her words took me by surprise.It was a brutal indictment.65 years had passed; but it seemed her anger and her sorrow was still fresh and raw.What a terrible burden to carry for 65 years.
Psychologists remind us that the failure to forgive can take a significant physical and emotional toll.It can even result in physical illness.And it most certainly leads to spiritual sickness.In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he speaks words of blessing over those who are merciful and gentle and peaceable.Jesus gives it to us straight: if we refuse to forgive others, we cannot expect God to forgive our sins and wrongdoings.It is, in a certain sense, a “conditional clause” in the Lord’s Prayer.We pray, “Forgive us our sins/trespasses/debts as we forgive others.”In chapter five of Matthew, Jesus says these words:“So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.”Jesus makes it clear; it is impossible to be right with God when we are unwilling to forgive others.
In several places in the gospels, Jesus tells someone that their sins are forgiven.That angers the religious leaders who don’t believe that Jesus has the right to speak those words.But Jesus does have the authority to forgive sins and Jesus knows how desperately we all need to hear those words: “Your sins are forgiven.”Forgiveness changes us.It sets us free.It lifts our spirits.It changes how we live.
It is a danger during the season of Lent that we become singularly focused on “me and Jesus.”We confess our sins; we seek forgiveness in the name of Jesus; we reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice for us.All of those things are good and important and a perfectly appropriate way to observe Lent.But if we get no further than seeking forgiveness for ourselves, we have stopped short.During Lent we are also invited to be ambassadors of God’s grace and to share that grace with others.
Questions to reflect upon this week: ·Are there people that are difficult for you to forgive? ·What kinds of sins or trespasses cause anger to well up within you? ·When have you experienced the joy that is felt when someone speaks those words, “I forgive you”?
Prayer: God of peace, I yearn for your forgiveness.Yet sometimes I begrudge others the mercy I seek for myself.Emotions churn within me at injustices done to me and to those I love.Keep me mindful, O God, that I cannot experience the fullness of your grace unless I am ready to extend that grace to others.Teach me to forgive others as you have forgiven me.This I ask in the name of the one whose grace has saved me.Amen.