Forgive and Forget

9/13/2020 at Homecoming Outdoor Worship

Post Script: this sermon was not an easy one to write. I really struggled with this passage because of my own story of forgiveness.

Message Title: Forgive & Forget
Theme: Life Lessons from the Playground
Season: ORDINARY
Main Text: Matthew 18:21-35
Scripture Reading: Exodus 14:19-31
RCL Scripture: Exodus 14:19-31; Psalm 114 or Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21; Genesis 50:15-21; Psalm 103:(1-7), 8-13; Romans 14:1-12; Matthew 18:21-35
Focus: Jesus uses a parable to talk about forgiveness.
Function:
To be guided by God’s wisdom through accountability, conflict, and resolutions.
Other Notes:
COMMUNION & HOMECOMIING

HOMECOMING FUN:

  1. Liberty History Quiz
    1. Liberty was organized as a church in what year? 1854
    2. What year was the log cabin church built? 1858
    3. What date did the church burn? March 1, 1994
    4. When did services start in the new(current) building? September 1995
    5. How many buildings has liberty had? (4)
      1. Met in houses
      2. Log cabin
      3. “Frame” church
      4. Brick building – the building that burned
      5. Current building
  2. GIVE AWAY for LIBERTY T-SHIRTS

SCRIPTURE READING: Exodus 14:19-31 19 God’s messenger, who had been in front of Israel’s camp, moved and went behind them. The column of cloud moved from the front and took its place behind them. 20 It stood between Egypt’s camp and Israel’s camp. The cloud remained there, and when darkness fell it lit up the night. They didn’t come near each other all night. 21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord pushed the sea back by a strong east wind all night, turning the sea into dry land. The waters were split into two. 22 The Israelites walked into the sea on dry ground. The waters formed a wall for them on their right hand and on their left. 23 The Egyptians chased them and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and cavalry. 24 As morning approached, the Lord looked down on the Egyptian camp from the column of lightning and cloud and threw the Egyptian camp into a panic. 25 The Lord jammed their chariot wheels so that they wouldn’t turn easily. The Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites, because the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt!” 26 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the water comes back and covers the Egyptians, their chariots, and their cavalry.” 27 So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. At daybreak, the sea returned to its normal depth. The Egyptians were driving toward it, and the Lord tossed the Egyptians into the sea.28 The waters returned and covered the chariots and the cavalry, Pharaoh’s entire army that had followed them into the sea. Not one of them remained. 29 The Israelites, however, walked on dry ground through the sea. The waters formed a wall for them on their right hand and on their left. 30 The Lord rescued Israel from the Egyptians that day. Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31 Israel saw the amazing power of the Lord against the Egyptians. The people were in awe of the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.

LORD’S PRAYER

PLAYGROUND LESSON: Not to throw a pity party for myself, but I was teased as a kid. Some of those memories still get to me when I look back. You would think a grown woman could move on. Especially because the nicknames kids used to tease each other can be weird. But the intention to hurt another would sting.

What frustrated me the most is when the teacher would make them say a disingenuous apology and I would HAVE to say ‘I forgive you.’ But I didn’t want to forgive them.

The teacher would then say, “Forgive and forget.” As if ‘sorry’ was all that was needed to repair the situation and move forward.

TRANSITION: Some offenses seem impossible to forget and equally hard to forgive whether it be playground bullies or tragic events like 9/11. Even 19 years later, we see the impact of 9/11 on our country. Admittedly, the concept of forgiveness is odd to focus on as we celebrated the anniversary of 9/11 Friday.

SCRIPTURE & EXPLAINATION: Matthew 18:21-35—Jesus uses a parable to talk about forgiveness – but will it make reconciliation easier?

Vs 21-22 21Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Should I forgive as many as seven times?” 22Jesus said, “Not just seven times, but rather as many as seventy-seven times.

  1. Recap from last week
    1. Conflict/Resolution–about restoring the community and listening for God’s guidance in moments of conflict. (2 people, 3-5 people, a church listening to God)
    2. Us vs. the problem, not Us vs. them.
  2. “how many times should I forgive”
    1. 70*7 = what you’re comfortable offering, you need to push even farther (PF)
    2. This isn’t a math problem but a statement of the grandness of chances to be offered

VS 23-35 23Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24When he began to settle accounts, they brought to him a servant who owed him ten thousand bags of gold. 25Because the servant didn’t have enough to pay it back, the master ordered that he should be sold, along with his wife and children and everything he had, and that the proceeds should be used as payment. 26But the servant fell down, kneeled before him, and said, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.’ 27The master had compassion on that servant, released him, and forgave the loan. 28“When that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him one hundred coins. He grabbed him around the throat and said, ‘Pay me back what you owe me.’ 29“Then his fellow servant fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.’ 30But he refused. Instead, he threw him into prison until he paid back his debt. 31“When his fellow servants saw what happened, they were deeply offended. They came and told their master all that happened. 32His master called the first servant and said, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you appealed to me. 33Shouldn’t you also have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34His master was furious and handed him over to the guard responsible for punishing prisoners, until he had paid the whole debt. 35“My heavenly Father will also do the same to you if you don’t forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

  1. Jesus shares a weird parable to highlight forgiveness
    1. Servant 1 owes the King more money than he could pay back in 165,000 years. (footnotes)
    2. Servant 2 owes Servant 1 about 2-5 years wages. (footnotes)
    3. The king forgives Servant 1’s unfathomable amount of debt
    4. Servant 1 refuses to forgive Servant 2’s debt (still a large debt but attainable to pay off)
  2. Jesus provides a weird warning about forgiving “from your heart”
    1. God wants to see transformed hearts

INTERPRETATION:

  1. The king’s mercy didn’t change the servant.
    1. Perhaps the first servant had not full processed the king’s mercy? Surely if he had, he wouldn’t act so harshly to his fellow servant. I mean, come on! The king forgave him a debt that would have taken him 165000 years to pay off. It was not possible to pay off that debt; that freedom should have liberated Servant 1 to liberate others. Right?
  2. Salvation is this way. Are we really children of God if the truth of Christ hasn’t transformed our words and our actions?
    1. I’ve always said, I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe there is a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward. How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate someone to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” – Penn Jillette
  3. STOP: God’s goals are bigger than giving people tickets to heaven! God’s goals are the end of evil & restoring creation to its fully divine goodness.
    1. We have a chance to spread hope instead of revenge!?!?
    2. Why are we stuck on the cycle of revenge?

APPLICATION: To be guided by God’s wisdom through accountability, conflict, and resolutions.

  1. BUT Meriah, what about rapists, murderers, Nazis, and the people behind 9/11? What about the ones who have wronged me or my family? Will I ever see justice?
    1. Jonah, is my patron saint, for this very reason: Jonah 4: 1-3 “But Jonah thought this was utterly wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Come on, Lord! Wasn’t this precisely my point when I was back in my own land? This is why I fled to Tarshish earlier! I know that you are a merciful and compassionate God, very patient, full of faithful love, and willing not to destroy. At this point, Lord, you may as well take my life from me, because it would be better for me to die than to live.””
      1. Jonah wanted vengeance. God wanted redemption.
      2. Jonah did not let his own heart be shaped by what God wanted. I have to accept that God’s got better plans… but that doesn’t mean we can’t expect accountability for behavior.
  2. Forgiveness & Accountability: I believe part of being changed by God is expecting or accepting the consequences of our wrong actions. As we are working towards living our lives transformed, we are bound to make the wrong choice, our job is to accept our consequences.
    1. Don’t assume you get off free in with the law simply because God loves you. This is as simple as actually following the speed limit and not trying to make excuses when you get pulled over.
      1. Instead of churches harboring abusers and saying God transformed them, allow them to show their transformation by owning up to their actions. This is rooted in a transformed life. God is not evil when we experience the consequences of our actions.
    2. BUT also, law could provide better rehabilitation services for the truly transformed convicts. Our actions do not define our intrinsic value as humans or how God feels about us.
      1. EXAMPLE: I worked in a daycare just before entering seminary. We had training regularly to be the best teachers possible. One session was on reframing our mind about discipline.
        1. Do we give a child the pathway to change their behavior if we call them bad?
        2. A child chooses to do something bad. A child is not intrinsically bad.
        3. A child can choose to do good.
    3. I HAVE to believe in my core that humans are intrinsically good. God made humanity and said it was very good. Humans are made in the image of God. We reflect God’s goodness. But we don’t always act that way. It’s time we embraced out inherit goodness. 

CONCLUSION

  1. Playground: Forgive and forget is a great concept but the phrase over simplifies the complexity of pain and the path towards healing and restoration.
    1. Bullies should have to own up for their actions. Not offer a blanket apology.
    2. Forgiveness means we let go of the vengeance, not the accountability.
    3. We also have the responsibility to provide space in society for our ‘bullies’ to be transformed.
  2. A Genuine apology: Rather than asking ‘bullies’ to provide blanket apologies, let’s help teach them why their actions were wrong. They can receive consequences but also give them a chance to learn and change.
    1. I’m sorry for…
    2. Next time I will…
    3. It’s wrong because…
    4. Is there anything I can do?

COMMUNION: As we enter into a time of communion, we recognize the differences in Christian practices around the Lord’s Supper. Confession is part of the holy meal in many traditions and I’d like us to practice it this morning.

This is a chance for us to consider our transforming lives and receive a fresh start.

Does everyone have their communion kit? Deacons can get you one.

**PAUSE**

Confessional: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Book_of_Common_Prayer_(ECUSA)/The_Holy_Eucharist/A_Penitential_Order:_Rite_Two=

Pastor: Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor.

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart;  we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

INSTRUCTIONS

BLESS THE ELEMENTS

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