Faithlife
Faithlife

Belonging To A Forgiving God

Notes & Transcripts

Wilson’s Mills Christian Church

Disciples of Christ

September 12, 1999

Year A, Pentecost, Proper 19

 

Ecclesiasticus 27:30—28:7

Psalm 103

Roman 14:5-12

Matthew 18:21-35

 

BELONGING TO A FORGIVING GOD

 

BEFORE I BEGIN TODAY’S MESSAGE, I WANT TO THANK YOUR PASTOR, DEBORAH, FOR INVITING ME TO COME AND WORSHIP WITH YOU.  IT IS ALWAYS A HUMBLING EXPERIENCE TO BE ALLOWED TO PREACH THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS CHRIST. 

 

I ALSO WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT I REALLY APPRECIATE YOU SHARING DEBORAH WITH US AT THE DAY-BY-DAY ALCOHOL AND DRUG TREATMENT FACILITY IN SELMA. 

 

SHE IS TAKING HER TURN LEADING THE WORSHIP THERE WITH OTHER VOLUNTEERS AND I AM VERY GRATEFUL FOR HER WILLINGNESS TO SERVE AND YOUR WILLINGNESS TO SHARE HER MINISTRY.

 

READ GOSPEL LESSON   MATTHEW 18:21-35

 

LET US PRAY:  COME HOLY SPIRIT, FILL THE HEARTS OF THE FAITHFUL AND KINDLE IN US THE FIRE OF YOUR LOVE.  SEND FORTH YOUR SPIRIT AND WE SHALL BE CREATED.  O GOD WHO BY THE LIGHT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT DID INSTRUCT THE HEARTS OF THE FAITHFUL, GRANT THAT BY THAT SAME HOLY SPIRIT WE MAY BE TRULY WISE AND EVER ENJOY YOUR CONSOLATIONS, THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD.  AMEN

BELONGING TO A FORGIVING GOD

LET ME REVIEW SOME OF THE SCRIPTURE WE HAVE HEARD THIS MORNING.

PSALM 103:8-10

GOD IS MERCIFUL AND GRACIOUS, SLOW TO ANGER AND ABOUNDING  IN LOVE; HIS INDIGNATION DOES NOT LAST FOREVER, NOR HIS RESENTMENT REMAIN FOR ALL TIME; HE DOES NOT TREAT US AS OUR SINS DESERVE, NOR REPAY US AS BEFITS OUR OFFENCES.

TRANSLATION:  OUR GOD IS A FORGIVING GOD

ROMANS 14:7-9

FOR NONE OF US LIVES FOR HIMSELF AND NONE OF US DIES FOR HIMSELF; WHILE WE ARE ALIVE, WE ARE LIVING FOR THE LORD, AND WHEN WE DIE, WE DIE FOR THE LORD: SO ALIVE OR DEAD, WE BELONG TO THE LORD.

TRANSLATION:  WE BELONG TO THE LORD

MATTHEW 18:23

AND SO THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN MAY BE COMPARED TO A KING WHO DECIDED TO SETTLE HIS ACCOUNTS WITH HIS SERVANTS.

TRANSLATION:  THERE ARE CONSEQUENCES TO BELONGING TO A FORGIVING GOD.

THE MESSAGE THAT JESUS TRIES TO CONVEY TO HIS DISCIPLES AND TO US, IS THAT WE ARE TO FORGIVE, NOT MERELY TO AVOID THE WRATH OF GOD, BUT RATHER THAT WE MIGHT BECOME MORE LIKE THE GOD WE WORSHIP.

IF WE SAY WE WORSHIP A GOD OF MERCY AND FORGIVENESS, HOW CAN WE THEN JUSTIFY OUR OWN LACK OF MERCY AND OUR UNFORGIVENESS?

BUT EVEN IN OUR SIN, ST. PAUL REMINDS US, WE BELONG TO GOD, ALIVE OR DEAD, WE BELONG TO GOD.  AND BELONGING TO GOD, AS WE HEAR IN MATTHEW’S GOSPEL, HAS SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES.  WE WILL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR OUR LIVES AND MOST SERIOUS OF ALL, WE WILL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR OUR UNFORGIVENESS OF OTHERS.

JESUS DOES HIS VERY BEST TO GET US TO A PLACE WHERE WE CAN UNDERSTAND THIS.  HE KNEW THAT THE HURTS AND SORROWS OF THIS LIFE WERE REAL, ARE REAL, AND NOT ABSTRACT NOR EASILY PUT ASIDE. HE KNEW THAT CHEAP FORGIVENESS, LIKE CHEAP GRACE WAS AND IS SHALLOW AND NOT LIFE CHANGING.

BUT A FORGIVENESS THAT IS AS REAL AS THE SIN THAT IT OVERCOMES CAN ONLY COME AS WE TRY TO IMITATE THE FATHER.  ONLY IN OUR PRAYERFUL ATTEMPTS AT BECOMING ONE WITH ABBA FATHER IN MERCY AND GENEROSITY CAN WE HAVE ANY HOPE OF EXPERIENCING THE LIFE CHANGING EVENT WE CALL FORGIVENESS.

BEGINNING IN 1988 I STARTED GOING TO THE DAY=BY-DAY ALCOHOL AND DRUG TREATMENT FACILITY IN SELMA TO GIVE LECTURES ON SPIRITUALITY AND FAMILY VIOLENCE.  DURING ONE OF THE EARLY SESSIONS ON SPIRITUALITY, I ASKED THE RESIDENTS TO THINK FOR A FEW MOMENTS ABOUT WHAT GOD WAS LIKE AND WHAT WORDS THEY WOULD USE TO DESCRIBE GOD. 

WE WOULD THEN GO AROUND THE ROOM WITH EACH PERSON GIVING THEIR OWN WORD TO DESCRIBE GOD.  I WOULD WRITE THE WORDS ON A CHALK BOARD AND SOMETIMES WE WOULD GO AROUND THE ROOM SEVERAL TIMES UNTIL THE BOARD WAS COMPLETELY COVERED WITH ALL SORTS OF WORDS.

I MADE IT A PRACTICE TO NEVER STOP THE EXERCISE UNTIL AT LEAST ONE PERSON SAID, “FORGIVENESS” OR “GOD IS FORGIVING”.  ONCE SOMEONE SAID THIS WORD, I WOULD WRITE IT ON THE BOARD IN CAPITAL LETTERS AND UNDERLINE IT.

MY EXPLANATION TO THEM ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF THE WORD ‘FORGIVENESS’ WAS THAT NO DEFINITION OF THE DIVINE IS COMPLETE WITHOUT IT, THAT NO RELATIONSHIP IN HEAVEN OR ON EARTH IS POSSIBLE WITHOUT IT, AND THAT IT IS ONE OF THE CENTRAL THEMES THROUGHOUT ALL OF SCRIPTURE.

THE BOOK OF GENESIS TELLS US THAT AFTER ADAM AND EVE DISOBEY GOD AND PLAY THE BLAME GAME TO EXPLAIN THEIR ACTIONS, GOD MAKES THEM CLOTHES FOR PROTECTION AS WELL AS PASSING JUDGMENT.  WHEN CAIN MURDERS HIS BROTHER, GOD DOES NOT KILL CAIN BUT RATHER MARKS HIM WITH A SIGN THAT WILL PROTECT HIM FROM THE HARM OF OTHERS.

LATER IN SCRIPTURE WHEN MOSES MURDERS AN EGYPTIAN AND RUNS AWAY TO SAVE HIS LIFE, GOD CHOOSES HIM TO GO BACK AND LEAD GOD’S PEOPLE OUT OF SLAVERY. 

KING DAVID KILLS A FRIEND IN ORDER TO STEAL HIS WIFE AND GOD FORGIVES HIM.  SOME OF THE LAST WORDS JESUS SPEAKS BEFORE HIS DEATH ON THE CROSS ARE A PRAYER ASKING THE FATHER TO FORGIVE THOSE WHO HAVE PARTICIPATED IN THE EXECUTION EVENT. 

SAUL, WHO BECOMES OUR BELOVED ST. PAUL, AUTHOR OF MUCH OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, PARTICIPATES IN THE PERSECUTION AND DEATH OF MANY EARLY CHRISTIANS AND YET CHRIST FORGIVES HIM AND USES HIM TO BRING SALVATION TO MANY.

THE PRAYER THAT JESUS HAS TAUGHT US TO PRAY HAS AS ONE OF ITS CENTRAL ITEMS, A REQUEST THAT GOD FORGIVE US IN THE SAME MEASURE AS WE FORGIVE OTHERS.  SOME OF US MIGHT BE BETTER OFF IF GOD DOESN’T ANSWER THAT PRAYER.

YES, FORGIVENESS IS A GOD ATTRIBUTE.  IT ALLOWS US TO CONTINUE IN RELATIONSHIP WITH THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE AND IT ALLOWS US TO CLAIM MEMBERSHIP IN THE COMMUNITY OF FAITH THAT WE CALL THE BODY OF CHRIST.

ONE OF THE GREAT PREACHERS OF YOUR DENOMINATION, DOCTOR ALLEN SHARPE, ONCE SAID THAT DISCIPLES OF CHRIST ARE NOT TO BE JUST PEOPLE WHO HANG AROUND WITH JESUS BUT THEY ARE TO BE IMITATORS OF CHRIST AND PEOPLE WILLING TO TAKE ON THE BURDENS OF CHRIST.

I BELIEVE THAT ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT BURDENS WE ARE CALLED TO TAKE ON IS THE BURDEN OF FORGIVING, FORGIVING OURSELVES AND FORGIVING OTHERS IN THE NAME OF JESUS.  IT IS DIFFICULT, BUT IT IS POSSIBLE.

 (TELL STORY OF PRISONER AT CENTRAL PRISON WHO TAKES A BAG OF ‘FORGIVENESS COOKIES’ TO A FELLOW PRISONER AND HOW THEY ARE RECONCILED.)

IT IS DIFFICULT, BUT IT IS POSSIBLE.  IT IS POSSIBLE IN PART BECAUSE WE BELONG TO GOD AND BECAUSE GOD IS MERCIFUL AND GRACIOUS, SLOW TO ANGER AND ABOUNDING IN LOVE.

IN A FEW MINUTES WE WILL JOIN TOGETHER IN A CELEBRATION OF OUR LORD’S LIFE, DEATH, RESURRECTION, AND ASCENSION TO GLORY.  JESUS ASKED HIS FRIENDS TO REMEMBER HIM IN THIS WAY AND PAUL HAS REMINDED US NOT TO PARTAKE OF THIS MEAL UNADVISEDLY.  ONE OF THE KEY ELEMENTS OF THIS REMEMBRANCE THROUGH THE BREAD AND CUP, IS THE FORGIVENESS, WHICH GOD OFFERS US THROUGH JESUS CHRIST.

AS WE COME TO THE LORD’S TABLE, LET US ALL RECOMMIT OURSELVES TO IMITATE ABBA FATHER AND HIS SON JESUS AND OFFER THIS SAME FORGIVENESS TO ALL WHOM WE MEET.  LET US BEGIN BY ASKING GOD’S FORGIVENESS, LET US CONTINUE BY FORGIVING OURSELVES, AND LET US COMPLETE THE CIRCLE BY FORGIVING ANY WHO HAVE TRESPASSED AGAINST US.

AND NOW UNTO GOD THE FATHER, GOD THE SON, AND GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT BE ASCRIBED ALL MIGHT, MAJESTY, DOMINION, POWER, AND GLORY THIS DAY AND EVERMORE.

AMEN

INTRODUCE COMMUNION SERVICE - ANNOUNCE  COMMUNION HYMN

MEDITATION – ‘METANOIA’

ELDER’S PRAYER

WORDS OF INSTITUTION

PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING

INVITATION HYMN

BENEDICTION – HAVING WORSHIPPED GOD, HEARD HIS WORD, AND SHARED THE SACRED MEAL, LET US GO FORTH INTO THE WORLD IN THE NAME OF THE RISEN CHRIST AND WITH THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, PRAISING GOD, GIVING THANKS, AND PROCLAIMING THE GOOD NEWS.

CONGREGATION SAYS CLOSING

RELATED MEDIA
See the rest →
RELATED SERMONS
See the rest →