Sermon February 20, 2022: Contemplating Forgiveness
Its all about forgiveness!
Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! Joseph lives it in Egypt & Jesus preaches it in the Gospel.
Our readings today from Genesis and Luke have a great deal in common. They are focused on the idea of forgiveness. In our 1st reading we have the end of the novella of Joseph. He had angered his brothers so much that they had sold him into slavery and told their father that he was dead. In our Gospel reading we return once again to the sermon on the plain - Luke’s version of the Beatitudes. And we have Jesus instructing his disciples that they must forgive. That everyone is to be loved - friend and enemy alike - they are equal.
Martin Luther did a commentary that suggested that Joseph was a “Christ figure” in that he was betrayed, mistreated, handed over to death, unexpectedly reveals himself as alive and he offers forgiveness and a new beginning.
So our theme is forgiveness.
In today’s readings we have powerful examples of forgiveness that can lead to reconciliation. As followers of Jesus we are called to forgiveness. For forgiveness can lead to reconciliation.
But forgiveness is not easy. How are we supposed to love and forgive our enemies? How are we supposed to love and forgive those who have hurt us? How are we supposed to do this?
The idea of forgiveness is radical, powerful and it runs against our thinking, our inclination, our desires and our wills.
Our Gospel might be “good news” but it is not easy news for those called to follow.
I guess the short answer to how can we forgive those who harm us is, we cannot - we cannot do it on our own. Our ability to forgive starts with God’s radical and abundant forgiveness of us.
In our own spiritual journeys we remember those times where we too have been harsh, vengeful, unforgiving or indifferent in our relationships. If we reflect long enough we can recall hurtful encounters.
We are not only hurt by others - we have knowingly caused hurt to others.
I invite you to take a moment or two to reflect on forgiveness and hurt and reconciliation.
Is there someone you need to forgive?
Is there something you need to be forgiven for?
These can be small things or big things: an argument that has fractured a relationship, words spoken in anger that cannot be unsaid, taking something that did not belong to you, damaging something, preventing someone from doing something or achieving a goal.
In our stumbling human ways we hurt one another in many many ways.
We have to come to terms with the past and be restored to forgiveness.
Jesus tells us, forgive and you will be forgiven. We need to hear these words. It can be tempting to stay in the bad feelings. Tempting to focus on the hurt we have felt or the hurt that we have caused. But that does no one any good. We cannot move forward in our relationship with God and one another if we cannot forgive.
To answer hurt with forgiveness is only possible because we Christ is our strength.
The stories we heard today are powerful stories of forgiveness and reconciliation among God’s people. We too are called to this.
No it is not easy, in fact it might be the most difficult thing we are called to do. We have been promised we will never be alone - we were never promised that following Jesus - loving God and neighbour would be easy.
But forgiveness can happen even between people that we might never expect it to happen. For some good news stories on forgiveness between unlikely people all over the world check out The Forgiveness Project, thefogivenessproject.com will inspire you.
Maybe it will inspire you to ask for forgiveness or to give it?
Jesus calls us to love selflessly abundantly & extravagantly. The Spirit guides us into merciful lives with the power of forgiveness to reconcile what is fractured and divided.
In worship we have the opportunity to confess and ask for forgiveness. And perhaps today we can begin with the golden rule. In Luke’s sermon on the plain Jesus tells the disciples do to others as you would have them do to you.
A very good place to start as we struggle with forgiveness and reconciliation.