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Sunday, September 17, 2017

What about forgiveness?

Walking in the light.

 Today I had the privilege of leading the worship at the Parkrose Village United Church. Lesley played the piano.
The theme was on forgiveness from a very challenging passage in Matthew 18. Look up the various translations on the Bible Gateway website.
Here is the order of service.
Welcome and Opening Prayer

Hymn: “God of Mercy,God of Grace” 218 3v

Announcements: Geoff

Bible reading: Matthew 18:21-35Living Bible (TLB) Pat

Hymn: “Here at thy Table Lord” 238 4v


Church Prayer: Geoff. (Include the Lord’s Prayer)

Hymn:”Open my eyes Lord” 172 4v 
Sermon: “What about forgiveness?”  Geoff 
Hymn: “God forgave my sin” 3 verses.

Benediction and Vesper:  Now unto Him

Here is the sermon outline which had a few off the cuff remarks added as we went.  

What price forgiveness?
Or What about forgiveness?
This passage we had read today is one of the most challenging in the New Testament.
Many seemingly fine Christians find it a great stumbling block.
It seems a very hard teaching.
Let’s talk about forgiveness.
You might know someone who has been seriously hurt by someone else’s behavior.
It may even be you, or me.
This has been a serious hurt and very wrong.
It might be a sudden action,
 a one off,
or it might be something that happened over many years.
How do we deal with it?
When we read todays reading it is obvious as Christians we need to forgive those who have wronged us.
For us to go up to someone and say you should forgive  that person,
for what they did to you,
 while it might be well intentioned,
it can be met with a very painful reaction.
You might be met with the retort;
“Why should I?
“Why should I forgive?”
Not after what they have done to me or my family!”
The person reacting like this obviously is suffering from very painful memories and sometimes physical scars of what has been done to them.
Some might say I know I have to forgive but I can’t.
 It was too bad!
 what was done!
to me!
I was hurt so much!
In any case I can’t forgive until I feel I can!
And I can’t forgive until I see justice served.
Until I get my revenge!
So if it is so hard for people to do this what is the consequences of our unforgiveness?
Before we tackle that let’s get back to our own forgiveness by God.
Was it because He loves us?
Yes it is.
He does love us,
 but not because we are good people worthy of His love.
Our forgiveness is not based on any good qualities He sees in us!
His love for us is unconditional.
His forgiveness is the result of His sacrifice for us,
His death on the cross,
In reality we are no better than anyone else.
It is only through God’s providence,
 and how we have been blessed,
that we have not committed the horrible things that others do.
Given the same  circumstances, we are quite capable of the same evil.
If we think we are above others we are fooling ourselves.
We don’t understand the Gospel.
The consequences of our un-forgivness of others are many.
Unforgiveness in our hearts can cause us:
 to lose sleep.
to become emotionally crippled and withdrawn,
to always be full of anger,
to have a short fuse,
to be super critical and judgemental of everyone,
to be full of fear,
to never have any joy,
to have all sorts of pyschosomatic illnesses,
like ulcers and other things,
and the list can go on and on.
Our unforgiveness will cut us off from really knowing the peace and fellowship of God.
That’s why our passage today tells us we should forgive 70x7.
So, two things to ponder!
1.  Our lack of forgiveness is sin.
God clearly requires us to forgive when we read the scriptures.
What caused our distress in the first place was likely the sin of someone else.
We don’t have to say “well that person was quite ok to do what they did!”
We don’t have to feel love for them before we exercise our forgiveness.
Forgiveness is an act of the will.
It is not a feeling!
We use our will power to forgive and ask God to help us with that.
If we are walking in the Light, as He is in the Light, continuing in unforgivness is not an optional extra.
The passage read to us today is very severe in it’s consequences.
I don’t think it is saying we lose our salvation if we don’t forgive others, but it is saying our unforgiveness will cause us a lifetime of grief.
The second thing to ponder.
2.Healing from the effect of other people’s sin.
Healing from all these consequences will often only come about as we forgive the perpetrators but also as we ask Jesus to heal our many unhappy memories.  
Often we have things deep down that we have suppressed.
Hurts that we have suffered even as little children.
 We are not necessarily conscious of them.
We just know things aren’t right.
We can ask Jesus through His Holy Spirit to heal us of these unhappy memories.
In summary,
 if we truly forgive others,
 from our hearts,
it will be,
 that for those we have forgiven,
 they will sense a change in us, if we are still in contact.
Often the person who has wronged us is full of guilt themselves .
It is important that we know how to forgive ourselves,
 but also how wonderful when the person we have wronged forgives us.
How wonderful is reconciliation with someone when it really takes place.
The disciples of Jesus remonstrated  with Jesus over Mary, the prostitute, who anointed Him with expensive perfume.
Jesus told them “Where much has been forgiven, the same shall love so much.”
Folks we are so blessed to have received the Grace of God.
To know God’s forgiveness.
One of the statements I hear often these days, and you do to, is when someone being interviewed on TV, often after a court case says “well now we might have some “closure”.
They know in reality that there is not closure even when justice seemingly has been served.
The wrong that has been done is still not healed,
The only true statement and act of “closure” was by Jesus on the cross.
He said. “It is finished!”
The reason He came to earth was accomplished.
He had finished His work so that His cross could become active in our lives.
The work of reconciliation and forgiveness and healing.
I close with a reasonably well known story of Corrie Ten Boom.
Corrie and her family were locked up in a prison camp in the second world war.
It was one of those places where many Jews and their supporters were murdered in the gas chambers.
Corrie and her family were imprisoned there because thay had been hiding Jewish people in their house in Holland.
The Ten Booms were a fine Christian family.
Corrie was the only one who was released eventually from the prison.
The only one of her family.
While in the prison Corrie and her family were treated very badly and she witnessed her sister, on one occasion, being badly beaten by one of the guards.
After the war Corrie became a Christian author and travelled around the world conducting Christian meetings throughout Europe.
At one of these meetings she was approached afterwards by a man who said this to her.
“Frauline, I was a guard in your prison, I am a Christian now. Will you please forgive me?
He extended his hand to her.
Corrie immediately recognized him as the man who had cruelly beaten her sister.
Her memories and image of her sister suffering at the hands of this man came flooding back.
She thought how can I possibly do this?
She thought I can’t,
Look what he did to Betsy,
but she knew she had to forgive him as a Christian.
She asked God to give her the power to take his hand.
She grasped his hand in forgiveness.
She said she felt a current of love run through from her head to her toes as she did this.
You can imagine what this meant to this contrite man.
I am going to pray now and ask God to help us, if we are harboring unforgiveness, to really forgive from the heart.
We will thank Him for our own forgiveness,
 that we don’t deserve,
that was bought for us on the cross.
 We will ask Jesus to heal our often damaged emotions that might be buried deep down.
Shall we pray?

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