Sermon Title: Forgiveness

Date: 14 September 2014

Preacher: Rev’d Susanne Chambers

Church Calendar Date: 14th Sunday after Pentecost 2014

Lectionary Reading: Matthew 18: 21-35

“Living Presence, vulnerable in love, never refusing to forgive those who have done great harm, never sealing yourself off from those who are in pain.

Channel our anger, deepen our compassion, and open our hearts that we may be true to your name, however costly the way may prove to be.
We pray this after the pattern of Jesus and in the power of the Spirit.” Collect year A Unfolding the Living Word Forgiveness from Jesus’ point of view may not have been easy, but he forgave from his heart throughout his life. You may recall when Jesus, an innocent man, was nailed to the cross, dying and in excruciating pain, he said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Jesus whole ministry was about forgiveness, showing compassion, caring for the little ones, the marginalised, healing and the basis for all of this was his
great love for each one of us and he wanted us to learn to love as he did.

Forgiveness for us is far from easy. Some of us can forgive certain circumstances more easily than others can. Some of us can forgive but it
takes a long time to do so.

One of Jesus disciples, Peter, asks how many times should he forgive…and in his day one could forgive not once but twice (and that’s all) so Peter saying
seven he probably thought was pretty generous. What Jesus said, must have astounded Peter! Jesus basically says forgiveness must be uncalculating,
(don’t measure how many times) and it is to be limitless and to justify this call for forgiveness without limit Jesus tells the parable of the unforgiving servant.
In this particular parable, Jesus tells of a king settling debts with his slaves.

One of his slaves carries a massive financial obligation to his king, a debt too great ever to be repaid. And so the king decrees that the slave and his family
ought to be sold in order to pay the debt. Knowing his whole life was about to be crushed, the slave begs for more time, more patience but receives
something unexpected instead: a wholesale remission of his debts. He forgave him the debt.

We read on that the now liberated slave leaves with a whole new life available to him. How wonderful! However, he doesn’t pass on that amazing
gift from the King, to be caring and forgiving to others. Instead he insisted that the debt a fellow slave owes him is to be paid immediately. The slave is
unable to pay so he throws the slave in jail.

The forgiven slave is so callous. How could he forget so quickly the amazing gift that he was given! Why didn’t that translate into caring about his fellow

In these parables Jesus goes over the top to get our attention. God’s forgiveness knows no end and so also should our relationships be governed
by a grace that knows no bounds. I think it was earlier this year, I went to see the film ‘The Railway Man’ a true story about Eric Lomax’s tale of forgiveness for a soldier who tortured him in World War 2. I actually went to google because I couldn’t remember the name of the film () and found the true story of Eric and about Nagase.
Eric had the most shocking nightmares of his time as a prisoner of war. The conditions were brutal and horrific.

Years later, Eric had therapy which helped him and the nightmares lessened, though they never fully disappeared. Then one day in the post Eric received
a book –Crosses and Tigers by Takashi Nagase, sent to him by another survivor. In the book Takashi describes his crimes and his efforts at

Eric and Takashi began writing to each other for two years before they decided to meet- at a hotel by the bridge over the River Kwai. Eric had some
thoughts of killing him, taking revenge. But when they met Eric realised that the other man was a human being. He realised that it is possible to forgive.
Eric died only two years ago in October 2012 and on his grave are these words he wrote: “sometimes the hating has to stop”.

We have heard other stories of people forgiving those who have injured them in some way. We have also heard stories of people wanting to take revenge.
Our wars, it seems have elements of revenge, amongst other reasons for war……………….. ‘Sometimes the hating has to stop.’
Oscar Pistorius’ trial has been televised over the past 7 months and many have their own thoughts on what should happen to Oscar. I’m sure some of
you do. The mother of Reeva who has sat through the long, heart wrenching trial is, from my reading of her response after the verdict was handed down
on Friday, is that she wants an eye for an eye. She is still understandably so hurt and angry. There is no way she is ready to forgive…accident or not.

Now, these seem extreme stories that don’t happen to us. The reaction around the world, in regards to Pistorius’ story and other horror stories we
hear, say that they do touch us…we are outraged by the way people mistreat other human beings and we can also in a sense become secondary
victims or they awaken hurtful times in our lives. Hurtful times that may not have anything to do with the presenting issue, but we have tucked away
inside us, the anger we have of someone who has wronged us in some way…and so it can get muddled with a present issue.

Betrayal of friends, husband or wife, colleagues; pranks that have embarrassed us (usually when we were younger and still remember them), so
many big and little things can linger in our conscious and unconscious and they can eat away at us.

“Sometimes the hating has to stop”.

Today’s reflections around forgiveness are extremely challenging for us. And we need to wrestle with the reasons why we don’t forgive or can’t forgive
and when we can forgive. It’s about being honest with ourselves and honest in our prayers to God.

As Brendan Byrne, a NT scholar says: “The capacity to forgive is itself a grace. For many it will be a lifelong project, to be sought in prayer from God. What
Jesus requires is forgiveness ‘from the heart’ that is, from the radical core of a person that is the domain of God and that only God’s grace can ultimately
touch and heal. Forgiveness and unforgiveness may long wrestle in human hearts…” Lifting the burden- Brendan Byrne page 146

For a baptism that we have today, this is all a bit heavy…but life ain’t always easy and for Christians we have to wrestle with the issues of life and
death..and some questions don’t have answers just more questions…but this is the place where we can think, talk with each other, pray together and
then confront injustice, ask forgiveness for ourselves and as a community, maybe change our ways or stand in unity with brothers and sisters who are
wanting to create a more peaceful, forgiving world.

Why do we do this? So that we can live more fully the way God intended. God is a God of grace. God has compassion on our human failings and God acts even more graciously than we could ever expect.

God’s forgiveness knows no end..thank goodness I say! There are times in my life that I have done wrong, said hurtful things, kept anger inside of me, not
forgiving the wrongdoing done to me. Thank goodness God still loves this woman despite my human failings.

When we experience such grace, which is what this is, we acknowledge that we are forgiven and loved, and are transformed in gratitude. We say thank
you, God for still loving me and accepting me though I am far from perfect.

“Grace that is experienced as grace, in turn, begets grace. If God’s grace has affected our lives, we will live differently in relation to others.
This is something the forgiven slave has to learn..and us too. This transformation through the experience of grace is not something mechanical
or mathematical; rather it comes ‘from the heart’. “P39-40 Preaching the revised Common lectionary.

Forgiveness is a very big topic and I have only touched on it today, but hopefully gives us all food for thought focussing on a God of love and grace
and through the gift of grace how we respond to hurtful situations in our lives so that we may live healthy, loving lives.

The Lord be with you.