“The Beginning of Forgiveness”

19 April 2015 – Easter 3B

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

West Walworth: Zion and East Rochester United Methodist Churches

 

Luke 24:36b-48

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

 

Prayer.

 

A number of years ago

The Gallup Organization

surveyed a large sampling of Americans and discovered

94% said that it is important to forgive,

85% said they needed some outside help to be able to forgive,

Yet, only 48% said that they usually try to forgive.

Help often comes from organized religion.

Indeed, forgiveness is central to

Judaism, Islam, BahaI, Buddhism, Hinduism, and many others.

And forgiveness is one of the highest ideals of following Jesus.

Jesus practiced forgiveness.

Jesus taught forgiveness.

Jesus continues to be the example that guides our attempts at forgiveness today.

 

When the risen Jesus tells his disciples,

And by extension, Jesus tells us today,

That we are to proclaim repentance and forgiveness

In the name of Jesus to all nations,

I’m thinking to myself,

“This, O Lord, is a mountain

I’m going to need help moving.”

I need your help, O Lord,

For me to forgive

All those who have wronged me

Throughout my life.

According to Gallup

I am an eighty-five percenter,

And I can understand why less than half of us are even willing to try.

I’m guessing many of you need help with forgiveness, too.

 

We need our Lords help because the list is long

And, the older we get,

The longer it grows.

My list begins with Mark Tober

Who punched me when I was in the 7th grade

Simply because he could.

It includes people who’ve

Rejected me,

Lied to me,

Misled me,

Laughed at me,

And people who have left me when I’ve fallen or failed.

 

We need our Lords help because the list includes

Some people who have cut deep;

Who’ve cut long,

Who have so traumatized us

That it has become nearly impossible to let go of them.

We obsess.

Our thoughts continue to hit the replay button in our memory.

Time scabs over the old wound, but it never heals it.

Our thoughts exaggerate some circumstances and diminish others.

We allow ourselves to attach judgment

with words like shameful, sinful, and evil.

We justify ourselves,

While at the same time,

We condemn those who we feel

Have sinned against us.

 

You think I don’t know the baggage you are carrying?

Yeah, right.

I’m carrying the same baggage packed full of bricks, too.

This is why we need the help of Christ.

Without Jesus

We sit and stew.

Without Jesus

We boil until we burn.

We burn and become the hell that everyone of us fears.

The fire and brimstone of hell

Isn’t in the afterlife,

It breeds and grows in the unrepentant, unforgiving

Stubbornness that we refuse to give up

Right here in this life.

 

“Thus it is written,” Jesus says,

“that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 

and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name

to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 

You are witnesses of these things.”

(Luke 24:45b-48)

For Jesus, repentance and forgiveness go hand in hand.

They mark the beginning and end of his earthly ministry.

Even though he was sinless,

Jesus received a baptism of repentance.

Jesus spoke forgiveness on the cross:

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

(Luke 23:34)

And in his resurrection, Jesus speaks repentance and forgiveness to us today.

Repentance stops sin dead in its tracks.

Repentance requires making a complete change

FROM pursuing our will

TO pursuing God’s will.

Repentance demands that we don’t forget.

We don’t repeat the mistakes of our past.

With repentance,

The grace of forgiveness can begin to flow:

Between one another

And with our God.

 

Sometimes forgiveness is for what others have done to us;

Sometimes it is for what we’ve done to others.

For Jesus, he doesn’t appear to distinguish between the two.

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

(Matthew 6:12)

The point is, forgiving others

Helps in obtaining forgiveness from others.

The world’s need for forgiveness

May appear to be overwhelming

To everyone except for God,

Yet, Jesus makes the point

That it begins with you and with me.

Forgiveness for our sins includes

Intentional self awareness.

It might take working with a professional, or simply a friend,

To crack open our inner soul and make a thorough assessment

Of how, when, where, and to whom we have transgressed.

Forgiveness for the harm that we have done includes

Humility; a willingness to subject ourselves

To the consequences of the pain we have caused.

 

We are being called to create the world of forgiveness;

Where forgiveness is one of our core values,

Such that forgiveness permeates every room we enter

And every chapter we are privileged to live.

Forgiveness begins to flow

When we follow the example of Christ,

And before you know it,

Forgiveness become contagious.

It comes back to us

And forgiveness spreads across our network of family and friends.

 

The life of Jesus was lived oozing forgiveness,

And so should ours today.

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

Is core to the teaching of Jesus:

It is all about forgiveness.

A forgiving father receives his repentant son back home

And serves as an example to a spiteful older brother still working in the fields.

 

Forgiveness is the heart of the Lord’s Prayer.

 

Jesus response to Peter’s question about forgiveness

By telling him to multiply it by 70 fold;

Seven times seventy times.

 

Jesus then teaches about forgiveness with the

Parable of the Unforgiving servant.

(Matthew 18:21-35)

 

From Jordan River

To the mount of Beatitudes,

From the cross on Calvary

To our third resurrection appearance experienced this morning:

Jesus taught forgiveness and he practiced forgiveness.

Jesus talked the talk

And walked the walk,

Teaching and modeling how his disciples

Are to create the world were forgiveness

Becomes the new normal;

Where hatred, grudges, and vengeance comes to an end.

 

Isn’t this what Christ really wants?

An end to all that separates us

One from the other?

Doesn’t Christ really want us

To end all that drives us apart from

The love and grace of our Heavenly Father?

 

Lastly, allow me to dispel the myth

That forgiveness is a sign of weakness.

It is not.

Many will taunt us with the mistaken believe that only the vanquished can forgive.

Jesus teaches us otherwise.

Forgiveness is great power to the powerless.

It becomes the selfless approach to servanthood.

Those who have power will lose it.

Those who have nothing

- forgiveness being the epitome of being reduced to Job like nothing-left-to-give –

will be given the whole world.

Anyone can hold a grudge.

It takes a bigger man or woman

To forgive,

To heal,

And to move on.

 

Jesus is the beginning of forgiveness;

But it doesn’t end there.

Forgiveness is God’s grace

That is entrusted to every disciple of Christ.

By his command

Repentance and forgiveness of sins

Is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations.

May we accept this responsibility

By our words

And by our actions.

Amen.