Already Forgiven!!

Posted in christian, Christianity, ethics, Faith, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Rev. Martha on June 10, 2016

11th Sunday Homily, 6-12-16  year C, 2nd Samuel 12:1-13, Galatians 2: 16-21, Luke 7: 36-50

Our 1st reading is one of the few readings in the Sunday lectionary from King David’s life, and it’s sad that we read about one of his worst moments.  Adultery & murder are taboo in most cultures because they tear the very fabric of community life.  David knowingly and purposefully sinned.  Nathan told him a parable which made him face what he did. David used his wiles, his wealth, his power, and his position to sin.  How could God forgive him?

But there is a clear message of God’s grace and mercy. Psalm 51 is David’s confession. “A clean heart create for me, God; do not drive me from your presence, nor take from me your holy spirit. Restore my joy in your salvation.”  So, what is the message Nathan brings?  “The Lord has forgiven your sin.”   That is the message of the story.  That is the take-away.  That is the point.  No matter how far he had fallen – even the mighty King David – or the darkness of the sin, God had announced his forgiveness to Nathan before David had even been confronted.  There are, however, repercussions from David’s actions – not punishment from God, but natural consequences; that’s an important distinction.

Then we hear Paul’s take on how we move from sin to grace. “I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me,” Paul writes to the Galatians.  Paul wrote to the church in Rome: “But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  We rejoice because of what God has done.” Let me paraphrase.  ”I live in the present”, he says.  ”But my sin, even before it happened, died with Jesus when he was crucified.  I have faith in and believe this in the very core of my being:  that Jesus loved me when I was at my worst, and that he was willing to die a shameful dead, a torturous death at the hands of people just like me, people who did the same sinful things I do.  All of this Jesus did before I ever came to believe.  Jesus’ actions and God’s forgiveness preceded my understanding of and my confession of my sins.”

But a picture is worth a thousand words, so Luke provides the picture. So often we find the original story in the Old Testament, like David and Nathan, and then Jesus comes along and takes that same story line, and lives it out, showing us God’s ways. See, without Jesus, we are inclined to think God is like us, and we want to create a god in our image.  We want revenge, we want others to stoop and gravel before us.  We want to hear, “Oh please, I beg you to forgive me!!”  So we assume, from our expectations, that we must cajole or coax or wheedle or shame God into forgiving us, you know, lean on him a little.  But is that really how God is??

To answer that question, Jesus, like Nathan, presents a compelling parable about forgiveness – in this case the forgiveness of debt, a concrete subject that wealthy Simon the Pharisee can relate to…just as David, once a shepherd, understood sheep story.

Here it is: Two men are in serious debt. One owes 50 days wages, which would take years to repay.  The other owes 500 days wages –hopeless, impossible to repay.   The vineyards that have been in his family for 100’s of years will be sold off, the wife and kids will be sold into slavery. But the creditor forgives both of them.  Which man will be really delighted, but which one will be ecstatic, jumping, screaming with joy, sobbing with love and thanksgiving?  Obvious.  Simon’s response sounds hesitant to me, and I suspect he hears a rebuke coming, for Simon the Pharisee is well aware that he has not extended the appropriate hospitality to Jesus.  Simon would have seen to it that anyone of his own social status would have been greeted with water to wash his feet, would have been given a firm kiss, and his hair would have been anointed with soothing perfumed oil.  But Simon had done none of these things for Jesus.  Jesus has been treated like the entertainment, and quite possible the amusement, for the other guests.

Meanwhile, Jesus had allowed this woman’s administrations, which are far beyond social norms. She sobbed over him, to the point of washing his feet with her copious tears, wiping them with her hair, which no proper woman would loosen and display in public, kissing and anointing his feet with ointment.  The boldness of this woman was undoubtedly caused by her understanding of who Jesus was, and the undeniable need to seize this chance to express her overwhelming gratitude.  Simon judges Jesus as ignorant of what he thinks is the impropriety of her behavior; Simon judges her to be of low morals and sinful.

But suddenly Jesus turns the tables. Simon is called out on his rude behavior, and the woman is praised: “Her many sins have been forgiven; therefore she has shown great love.”  The Greek structure of that sentence becomes ambiguous when translated to English.  Some might find it confusing and think her show of love has lead to her forgiveness.  Not so; think back to Jesus’ parable.  Did the debtors display any great virtue or faith?  No!  It was the creditor who forgave the debt, and the love and joy were a reaction to the forgiveness of the debt. And Jesus, to seal the deal so to speak, announces, “Your sins are forgiven”, and causes the other guests to stop and reconsider the whole situation.

So what are we left with here? Can it be that God initiates forgiveness?  Can it be that God has already forgiven us our sins, even before we acknowledge them?  Is it possible that we waste enormous parts of our lives avoiding facing our darkness and shutting our eyes and ears to reconciliation with God and neighbors?  Do we miss the chance to feel and express our joy; do we shut down and remain static instead?  Maybe the part of the darkness in this world that is ours just seems too large to fix or beyond our control, so we rationalize it as too big for God to fix.  How would our lives change if we forgave everyone of everything right away instead waited for them to confess guilt?  What if Christians really were known for their love and forgiveness?  Perhaps in the answers to these questions is the hope our churches and community and nations seek.



Something we all do…

Posted in christian, Christianity, ethics, inspirational by fatherjimb on June 30, 2009

but nothing we are willing to admit.

After my last e-newsletter I received an email from a friend of long standing who raised a question about a certain three letter word and asked me to respond to him. I’m afraid my response was less than adequate but that’s what happens when you try to cover difficult topics in emails. It would be virtually impossible to even conceive responding with a twitter (140 characters for neophytes). It is an issue with which man has struggled for Millennia.   Simply put, it is the question of sin.

Sin is essentially a self imposed estrangement from God, those around us and from all God’s creation. We only have to look around us to see the end result of sin yet more difficult to see sin in our own lives. In Moral Theology class we were taught that mankind was basically good with a tendency to do evil. Looking into my own life I can understand that while I want to do good my ego often gets in the way. This can be caused by fear of losing myself, my safety, my livelihood, my future — whatever, it causes me to set limits and build walls around me.

The most profound story of this was written more than a century ago by Charles Dickens. “A Christmas Carol” is a great example of how love withheld can warp and nearly destroy lives. Scrooge, reacting to the lack of love shown by his parents started off on the road to self centeredness.

To protect himself from hurt he began to build walls around himself that shut out the love that others wished to share with him. His nephew and Tiny Tim are good examples of how God tries to break through our walls offering unconditional love. It takes a series of life changing events to turn Scrooge around so that he can joyfully respond to the love all around him.

The Erosion Caused by Sin

Most of us do not go out of our way to intentionally commit sin. Rather, it becomes a matter of our life style that begins an alienation process from God and one another that in itself is sinful. An unfortunate example is that of an 88 year old man who became so obsessed with hatred that he went to the Holocaust Museum with the intention of killing people. A young guard acting in charity to open the door for this elderly man was the victim of the man’s hatred and became a victim of this hatred. While the action of this man was a sin in itself it was really a result of the erosion that sin caused in his life. You can compare it to the insidious damage caused over time by water seeping into the earthen levees holding back the river. This small trickle will over time undermine the entire levee so that it will give way under the pressure of the river.

We too can easily fall victim to the erosion of sin in our lives. It can happen when we want to protect ourselves from embarrassment or to appear more than who we are. We “enhance” the truth on our resumes or find a scapegoat for our own failures. It is rather easy to do can become a habit leading to more serious failings. “Creative” accounting and an attitude that “we deserve” things because we worked particularly hard or took large risks seem to have resulted in a collapse of the world’s economic system.

Sin, however, is not just confined to those actions we take that alienate us from God and one another. It is also allowing evil to happen by not doing the loving thing. Averting our eyes from the hungry man or woman huddled at the park bench or near the train station is equally sinful. The answer to the question. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is a resounding YES! Because we are unconditionally loved and love seeks a resounding response, like an echo, bringing to the author of love that love shared with another.

Personification of Evil

There is little doubt that evil exists in the world, the 20th century graphically demonstrated this. Genocide does not only happen in far away death camps or killing fields. In our own midst our city streets and our prisons have also become places where evil can fester and infect others in the community. We can become frightened and indifferent to those things which cause such evil to grow.

“Be sober, be watchful, the evil one, like a roaring lion goes about seeking someone to devour. Resist him steadfast in the faith.” This reminder from St Paul in his letter to Timothy is not as much about gang warfare but our tendency to yield to popular culture and accept what evil holds out to us.

The evil one, Satan, the devil, Beelzebub, Old Nick or whatever appellation you choose is not just some myth to frighten children or the gullible. God’s gift of a loving creation includes the gift of free will, a choice as to whether to accept this love and respond or to ignore it. While you may not be able to see the evil one you can and do experience his negative power in the world.

Evil feeds on complacency and resignation, it builds walls that keep out love while professing safety. Walls built on fear and distrust which turns to hatred thus enabling sin in the world and to enter our lives. We then become caught in a vicious circle. We know evil exists and are drawn to it like a moth to a flame. In fact there is little we can do to prevent it alone. We need each other and we need God who like a loving parent draws us close and leads us safely home.

It is when we align our will with God’s will, rather than trying to bend God’s will to ours, that we are saved from the flames of egocentricity. So, the next time you say the Lord’s Prayer try to make it not just a set of words but a life changing experience. That’s something we should all do

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God’s 10 Promises…

Posted in Christianity, inspirational by fatherjimb on June 30, 2009

When God gives these commandments, God makes promises to us. God says:

I promise to be your God… you shall have no other gods before me.

I promise to be there for you… you shall not idolize people, wealth or things that take you away from me.

I promise you a good name… you shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God.

I promise you I will be God and provide you rest… you shall remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.

I promise you stability… you shall honor your father and your mother.

I promise you life… you shall not murder.

I promise you my faithfulness… you shall not commit adultery.

I promise you my generosity… you shall not steal.

I promise you truth… you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

I promise you what you need… you shall not covet.

Rather than a list of “do not’s” The Ten Commandments are really a list of great promises of love that God has for us.

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