Wayne A. Strohschein, pastor
Forgiveness. It’s a tough subject. Tough to talk about; tougher still to do. It’s tough to give and tough to ask for. But sometimes we can’t avoid the subject. A time comes along and we come face to face with it, either because we are asked for it or we need someone to give us forgiveness. Sometimes we struggle with forgiving someone who has hurt us deeply. Sometimes we may be the one who has hurt somebody and we cannot imagine anybody could forgive us. We are unsure of where to even start in giving or seeking forgiveness.
Peter probably felt the same way when he questioned Jesus. Like so many of us, Peter wants forgiveness to be a straightforward process, a by-the-numbers routine. Just say the word seven times and, voilà, forgiveness is given or received, magically!
Our lessons for today help us better understand and embody Jesus’ vision of forgiveness.
The reading from Genesis, the story of Joseph and his brothers, is a moving story that speaks to the power of forgiveness. In the last chapters of Genesis, Joseph finally stands before his brothers. What will Joseph do? It’s his shot at revenge.
But revenge does not come. Joseph weeps as his brothers beg for his mercy in spite what they had done to him. Joseph found in forgiveness a release and liberation. This story reminds us that forgiveness lifts the burdens we carry of not forgiving or the forgiven. Joseph and his brothers found reconciliation.
Similar questions emerge from the second reading. The controversies in Paul’s time were not so different from our own. As a church, we are always struggling with how to harmonize different viewpoints, different traditions, and different experiences. The social issues we have today brings it all home to us. We know how difficult it can be to bridge these divides.
Jesus’ parable gives us a different perspective to forgiveness. It is a troubling story. The slave owes his master a ridiculously high debt, something close to the GDP of a small nation. Yet, mercifully, the master forgives it. However, when the slave fails to forgive the much smaller debt of another, the master takes back his decision and casts the slave into eternal torment.
The path of forgiveness can be hard, but a path without forgiveness is harder still.
Paul makes the final point to all Christians – saying that our lives are inextricably bound to the life of Christ and that judgment belongs to God and not to human beings. He makes the point we are all ultimately accountable to God (Romans 14:10-12).
With forgiveness also come the harmony and peace that we seek and wish we had within ourselves, within our families, within the church and within our nation.
They were a divided people, divided by the same things we are today – race, culture, class, real and perceived injustices, and by social issues. Until we seek God’s forgiveness we won’t have it either. If we want peace and harmony we must seek it, ask for it and then live it. Will we; can we? Only by the help of God and the Holy Spirit within us.
Join us today following worship for a potluck.
Happy Birthday to Valerie Frampton, and to Joshua Johnson and Jerry Shepherd, both born on Sept. 21.