Sermon preached by
This morning's reading continue on the theme of last week's; relationships between members of the Christian community and beyond.
In this morning's reading Matthew turns his attention to the subject of forgiveness and begins by pointing out that forgiveness will be a necessity whenever people exist together as disciples, not only in the early Christian church, but through the ages right up to today.
Because when people try to live together its inevitable that things, large and small will happen which need forgiving
Based on today's passage that's a forgiveness that knows no limit, an extravagant forgiveness
Based on Amos 2:1, Rabbis considered that three times was sufficient to forgive a person the same sin so Peter probably thought he was being generous increasing this to seven, the traditional number for fullness.
Jesus turns round and states that its not 7, it's 70 x 7.
Forgiveness not so much just an event, but more of an ongoing and continuous process. Bit like a journey and a destination.
Some destinations are further than others and take longer to get to. But that's not a reason not to start out.
I sometimes work from my home office and sometimes I work from San Francisco, very different journeys but they both start with me getting out of bed.
This just reflects the reality that some things take longer for us to really forgive.
Some journeys are easier than others, just as some things are easier to forgive than others.
We tend to go on many more small journey than major long ones and often it's the small matters which seem quite trivial that we need to forgive otherwise they just fester into something more serious.
And sometimes we think we've arrived on our journey, only to realise we haven't quite got to where we thought and we have to continue on for a bit further.
And it's not just about forgiving others. Sometimes we need to forgive ourselves for the things we've done, and that can be even harder than forgiving others.
But when we step out on the journey of forgiveness, when we begin to let go, that's when we begin to reconciled to each other and to God and we begin to find restoration, wholeness and healing.
And just as forgiveness leads to wholeness and healing, lack of forgiveness leads to bitterness, resentment and spiritual paralysis.
Whether it's ourselves or others we need to forgive, forgiveness is letting go - it's a choice, it's a conscious decision, which then may take some time to work out and through, but it is a conscious decision.
A conscious decision to do something, to change the balance, which leads to freeing ourselves and freeing others.
An acknowledgement that sometimes debts for injustices and wrongdoings against us and against each other can never be repaid, restitution never exacted and that we need to let go of them, forgive and move on.
'As the Father has loved me so I have loved you'
We are to treat others in the Christian community as the Father has, and will, treat us.
So what might some of the signposts be on the journey to forgiveness?
When we forgive it affects - our thoughts:
~ when things keep on coming back to our mind, as they do, we don't dwell on them, we give things to God and move on
~ sometimes it can be difficult because things that have been dormant in our mind, often for many years come back out of the blue, something stimulates us and something we thought we'd dealt with comes back
~ we thought we'd arrived at our destination years ago, only to find we're not quite there yet and there is a little bit further to go
When we forgive it affects - our words
~ if we've forgiven someone, or ourselves we don't keep saying negative things about them or about the circumstances involved
~ we don't keep having a dig at people or circumstances whenever the opportunity arises
~ it's not that we don't speak about things, but it's the way we speak about them if we do
~ we can let it go, perhaps praying to God if its mentioned by someone else, or it just pops into our minds
I have a friend who many years ago had a road accident and even today speaks bitterly about the group of people from whom the other person in the accident was drawn. Even now, many years later there is no forgiveness and its still a raw wound.
Each one of us probably could relate similar stories and the damage done by not forgiving and letting go.
When we forgive it affects - our actions
~ what we do that demonstrates we have forgiven or are positively working out that forgiveness
~ do we remain bitter and twisted against events, people and circumstances?
~ do we go out of our way to show we have forgiven, to hold out a hand, or do we let things remain as they are, a grudge continued for life, perhaps even by children on behalf of their parents, family feuds festering and continuing for years, often about minor matters 'of principle'?
~ sometimes we need to let go and demonstrate our forgiveness and reconciliation, just as Christ's actions on the cross demonstrated God's forgiveness of the world and each one of us. A demonstration we call to mind and re-acknowledge in the Eucharist we celebrate together
When we forgive it affects - our being
~ our openness to God to be forgiven and to forgive so that we can be healed and made whole and we can be agents of change as we forgive others
~ it's accepting that God is indeed in control and giving ourselves completely into His hands
~ facing up to ourselves and accepting that there are things in our lives we'd rather not have done but moving on
~ facing up to the world and accepting that there are injustices that we'll never fully understand
~ not just remembering 9/11 but moving on
~ to live out the 'forgive as we are forgiven' as Jesus taught us in the Lord's prayer, day by day