This is one of the greatest things God ever does for us. How beautiful forgiveness is from God...though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool (Isaiah 1: 18, NRSV). Forgiveness is life-giving, liberating, and graceful. And the thing about grace, is that it has nothing to do about us (except that we receive it), and everything about whoever is giving it (earning forgiveness is a myth)
Forgiveness is defined as:
To excuse for a fault or an offense; pardon.
To renounce anger or resentment against.
To absolve from payment of (a debt, for example).
More strictly, to forgive “is to grant pardon without harboring resentment.”
Why Forgive? Because forgiveness transforms! People consistently become more loving, friendly and compassionate after deep forgiveness. Emotional pain is released. Depression departs. And, healing can even occur in the body. Joy returns. Laughter is found again.
Why forgiveness transforms the mind’s functioning is open to speculation, yet we do have the easily observable fact that it does. We can observe that when the bitterness, grudges, and resentments of the past are let go of, life energy becomes much more available to that person. How much life energy depends on how much energy has been put into holding resentments and bitterness?
People who say they have done complete forgiveness of all the people and situations in their life, live a life with much joy in it. They get sick much less often and people are more friendly to them than before their forgiveness transformation. Some say they don’t get sick anymore as long as they hold no upsets with people. This, though, is not an easy state of mind to attain. But, the pay off is great.
Some have deeply religious experiences after their forgiveness and reconciliation experience and say they have a deeper understanding of life and love. Their relationships with people, in general, get better, and their friendships deepen. They are less stressed and angered by daily personal and world events. They find it easier to get over upsets. Forgiveness has tremendous potential, but it must be used.
We have some major myths and lies about forgiveness, which may get in the way of actually doing it, which is another big problem I think we have. When we forgive, we are un-burdening ourselves, we are lifting a weight off of our shoulders. Holding on to grudges is not healthy for us, and it is letting something someone else did to you control your life. Here are some myths about forgiveness:
Forgiveness is not the condoning of a bad behavior or the justifying of an offense.
It is not dependent on apology, or whether the person will ever be talked to again.
Forgiveness does not imply turning the other cheek to allow the offense to occur again.
It does not demand reconciliation. Reconciliation, which is the coming together again of two upset parties, is not necessarily the outcome of forgiving. A person can forgive and choose to never see the person again to protect themselves from abusive behavior. However, for effective reconciliation to occur, forgiveness of the offense or offenses must have occurred.
It is not dependent on the person being alive or ever seeing them again.
Forgiving is not losing. Losing is having to deal with the stress of anger and hate in your body that ruins relationships, and can even cause physical problems. What kind of winning is that?
Forgiving is not the easy way out. It takes more courage, authenticity and integrity to let go of a justified upset and find peace. It takes courage to go through the wall of anger and resentment to the other side, the side of our highest possibility as a being.
The offenders apology is not necessary. In fact, they might not ever apologize because they have a different perspective of what happened.
Whether the person deserves forgiveness is not the question, they might not. Though forgiveness can be an act of compassion for another, it can also be mainly for the forgiver so that they are no longer burdened by hate and anger.
Even though they keep doing the offense, forgiveness can still occur, because forgiveness wipes away the effect of the past even if it was only 15 minutes before.
Out of sight out of mind or forgetting about it might not always be forgiveness but can be denial of the effect of the offending act. Forgiveness acknowledges what was done and chooses to let it go, but not through avoiding its impact on us. Avoiding just keeps the negative effects occurring below the surface of the mind.
These myths and misunderstandings about forgiving keep it from being done.
Jesus encourages us, by gifting us the words of the Lord's prayer, to pray for forgiveness as we forgive. As we forgive others, we are set free. I believe that being forgiven prompts us to forgive others. Sometimes we are unable to forgive someone for what they have done, because we have done something similar, and we can't forgive ourselves for it! Jesus tells us that we are forgiven, so that we can forgive others. If God can forgive us, we can forgive others. Think of the possibilities forgiveness allows! Initially, forgiveness allows us to be set free from anger, hate, and resentment, which could lead to less stress and better personal health---healing. It may also help us to forgive ourselves for what we have done. At best, forgiveness can help to restore relationships through the process of reconciliation (although we have learned this is not always the case).
Forgive us, Lord, as we forgive.
'Forgive our sins as we forgive,'
you taught us, Lord, to pray,
but you alone can grant us grace
to live the words we say.
How can your pardon reach and bless
the unforgiving heart,
that broods on wrongs and will not let
old bitterness depart?
In blazing light your cross reveals
the truth we dimly knew:
what trivial debts are owed to us,
how great our debt to you!
Lord, cleanse the depths within our souls,
and bid resentment cease;
then, bound to all in bonds of love,
our lives will spread your peace.
*Forgive Our Sins as We Forgive, United Methodist Hymnal, 390.
I learned the majority of what I expressed on this post from Jim Dincalci of The Forgiveness Foundation. Their website is http://forgivenessfoundation.org/ and his book is "How To Forgive When You Can’t"
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
As you can imagine, my heart is still aching, confused, hurt, and in mourning for the murders in Orlando at the LGBTQ+ night club, Pulse. You can imagine why I feel these ways; this was a massacre of folks, looking for more than a good time, but for a sense of community, belonging, a place where they feel free to be who God made them to be. It is sad that such a thing happened.
But I also mourn the fact that I don't know where to go from here. I know that God is a healer, a comforter, and provider of the things that I may not even know that I need. I trust God. But I also know that this trust does not make healing automatic. I am at a loss for words.
the Holy Spirit “helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26 NRSV)
Perhaps the writer of the 77th Psalm might have been feeling the same way:
I cry out loud to God—
out loud to God so that he can hear me!
During the day when I’m in trouble I look for my Lord.
At night my hands are still outstretched and don’t grow numb;
my whole being refuses to be comforted.
I remember God and I moan.
I complain, and my spirit grows tired. (Psalm 77:1-3)
“My faith says that one day all will be equal.”
That’s hope with a thick skin. It’s hope that is grounded in the assurance that one day God’s kingdom will indeed come and God’s will will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Hope is our bread of life. When words fall short, hope covers us. We get something better than understanding, but a peace that passes understanding. We hope in these promises of God, and we stand on them, as the hymn urges us to sing:
*Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
Through eternal ages let His praises ring,
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
Standing on the promises of God.
Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
I’m standing on the promises of God.
Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.
Standing on the promises I now can see
Perfect, present cleansing in the blood for me;
Standing in the liberty where Christ makes free,
Standing on the promises of God.
Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord,
Bound to Him eternally by love’s strong cord,
Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword,
Standing on the promises of God.
Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call
Resting in my Savior as my all in all,
Standing on the promises of God.
We hope in the promise that God gives us an alternative from worry (Luke 12: 22-32, the Scripture I will focus on in my sermon this week), that God promises us that words are not everything, that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. Thanks be to God.
Thank you, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, for all of the things you have given us; for all the pains and insults which you have sat with us through. Most merciful friend and sibling, may we know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, both to our strength and your great glory. Amen.
*United Methodist Hymnal, 374.
** United Methodist Hymnal, 493, adapted
Quotes and resources from this post were originally found in Jim Harnish's entry titled "When Words Won’t Work" on jimharnish.org
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
This Sunday, we begin a 6 week journey in which we will focus on the Lord's Prayer as the center of our worship time. The preaching series will be broken up into different portions of the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples from Matthew 6:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
This, for all its different renditions and translations, unites all Christians.
Some of the differences include:
The phrase " And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" to "and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us."
The phrase "And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one" to "and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."
However you pray this prayer, there is a completeness, a wholeness, to it. We address our God appropriately, pray for God's ways to be accomplished here on earth in our lives, for God to provide for us, forgive us, equip us to forgive others, and to save us for eternal life with God. All this is prayed because we believe that God can do these things, that God is powerful and loving enough to listen to us and accomplish these things.
The sermon series will be broken down like this:
1. Our Father
2. Thy Kingdom Come
3. Give us This Day Our Daily Bread
4. Forgive us Our Trespasses (Debts)
5. Lead us Not Into Temptation
6. For Thine Is
My hope is that you will find these reflections and sermons as helpful in guiding you to a place where you would pray this prayer with intention. Christians are very good at doing and saying the same things over and over and forgetting the meaning behind these words and ways. The Lord's Prayer is not meant to be spoken and forgotten, but prayed and lived out with God in our daily lives. My hope and prayer is that you will find that this is one of the most radical and earth-shattering prayers you could you ever pray. When we pursue with God what we pray for in this Lord's Prayer, we are asking God to break through in this world with us. Nothing is more powerful than that.
So, this first week we will look at the first phrase "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name."
The word "hallowed" means to honor as holy; to revere or respect. In this first phrase of the prayer, we are honoring, revering, and respecting God as our God, our Father. This is similar to calling your parents "ma'am" or "sir." You are saying to yourself and to God that you recognize who God is, one to be glorified. This sets the "tone" of the entire prayer!
My challenge to you, and to myself, is to say the Lord's Prayer daily. Say each line slowly, and think about what you are praying. Let your prayer life flow in and through this prayer. This is the way Jesus taught his disciples to pray, perhaps we should take his advice!
My prayer rises to heaven, to the mystery of God's power,
as the smoke ascends when the precious incense urns.
Have mercy on us, Lord, and grant us your grace.
My voice glorifies the Lord God of majesty,
as the night bird sings the dawning of the day.
This is my offering to God, the Lord of all
*My Prayer Rises to Heaven (Refrain), United Methodist Hymnal, 498.