Psalm 103:(1-7), 8-13
(Bellow are the notes I had for preaching the sermon)
Do not Judge but forgive.
To understand our Gospel we must understand that sin as the state which breaks relationship with God and other human beings. We need to understand that this is simply the given state we are in. We do and will simply do things that break or threatens our relationship with God and will have and will do repeatedly things that threatens or breaks relationships with other human beings, this will happen in the church as it does in the world. The difference between church and world here isn’t necessarily our actions but what we are called to and what some of us do, and hopefully all of us strive to do. But what should be obvious both from Paul’s admonitions we have heard to day and have been hearing and Peter’s own question to Jesus all in the church have never fully fulfilled this goal nor should we imagine that simply achieving the goal however its ideal is seen would restore our relationship to God. What Paul and Jesus are saying is that the church when it acts like the church should have a certain atmosphere where we admit we are sinners and God’s forgiveness and grace is able to be experienced and received and given. Thus what our texts our lifting up before us is the call not to have all the right answers or the right politics or social organization but to admit we are sinners and seek to receive and offer God’s forgiveness and grace. Thus when it comes to correcting faults we are to focus on our own sins before God and when it comes to others faults we are to seek the path of restoration of relationship, and if we are wronged we are to give the same forgiveness and grace god has given us because that is the only true path to the restoration of relationship.
II) But how does that work?
Now you might want to say yes but. What if so and so does this or what of this or that situation. I’ve been attacked, or my employer mistreats me or other people I know, or a husband abusing a wife. Let me just say that Jesus is not dealing with nations and counties and cities and corporations. Though some of these principles can work here, but first and foremost we must begin with the church. So then are the parties in these situations within the church well then the first part of Chapter 18 deals with it, to some degree. And I will emphasize that nothing in this demands that one stay in an unsafe or dangerous situation either mental or physically.
Peter has his own situational question. He kind of gets the point about how to deal with disputes and offense between members of the church. He understands it is to be a process of repentance restoration and forgiveness. However, Peter is also a realist. Peter knows people can be forgiven , repent and be restored to relationship and offend the same way or in different ways again and again. So, Peter wants to know how many times do we go through this process of forgiveness and restoration before we say no, no more we are sorry you are beyond the pale. You are unforgivable and beyond grace and love and forgiveness. Peter I think on one hand things he is being generous on the other is afraid Jesus is going to say something beyond what he can get his mind and heart around. So, he says 7 times, that’s how many times I should forgive someone? (Smile) That’s a good answer right Jesus. And Jesus has to disappoint peter and us, and says no and instead says a big number and just to make sure we don’t think that we are actually to count to 77 (would any us be able to keep track of that, maybe some) he tells a parable.
III) Admitting we all are sinners who can be God like in forgiving
The point here is that on the one hand we have been forgiven by God beyond our ability to have made things right between God and us, on the other there is no way no matter how small that another can truly make up for an offense or a sin against us. We are not restored to relationship either with God or with each other if we insist on view things we might do to hurt or sin against the other as things that can be made up some how, paid off like a debt. The only way to restoration is if there is a desire to be in true relationship on the part of both the offended and the offender. And finally we all have been offenders even if we only have sinned against God. This means that when we are offended or sinned against we are to act like God has acted towards us and all humanity.
IV) examples from the tradition
Stories from the early Desert Amma’s and Abba’s about forgiveness of being God like with our sisters and brothers through covering over their sins.
Pg 24 and 25 and 87
What I hope we can see is from our Scriptures today and from these sayings and stories from the early monastics and hermits is that we are to become God like in our readiness to forgive and offer grace to others. We do this because we too need this and God has already shown us his mercy and grace in forgiving us and continually being forgiven. We are to seek to be more aware of our own faults than of the faults of others- not so we have a poor self image but that we are opening ourselves up to the power of God that is known in weakness. Lastly that by seeking to forgive or cover up another sins or faults and being willing to not judge others we open up the way to repentance and to restoration of relationship. The point is neither to leave people in their sin or to keep people in abusive and dangerous situations but to offer all away out of unhealthy and destructive patterns, and offer communities in which we are seeking to live together in restored relationships centered on God who sought us out when we did not want to be in relation to God, when we were stuck in our destructive patterns, patterns we see still in our society and culture. We are called as the body of Christ to seek to be the alternative and the door of that alternative is non-judgment and forgiveness that admits that we all are sinners in need of grace and forgiveness. And so we offer it and receive it. Something I think