Sunday, 29 May 2016

Forgiveness: Letting go, moving on sermon for 29th May

2 Corinthians 2:1-10 

Once upon a time; a long time ago; I received a letter telling me amongst other things what a bad mother I was.
It was hurtful; it was based in untruths; and it was really aggressive.
And for a while I sat with it. Pondering. Reflecting. Praying. To this day I believe it was well intentioned; that the writer thought that by writing down their perceived criticism they would be helping me.

Eventually I decided to write back, I outlined the accusations and responded with explanations and affirmation of the gist of the critique.
It sort of helped. I felt a little better afterwards.
Eventually I received a response.
And, as I suspected my correspondent had no clue that what had been written would be hurtful.
It was beyond their comprehension.

Forgiveness is one of those tricky things: we can forgive a wrong, and we can hope to move on, but very often this moving on necessitates forgetting as well as forgiving. Letting go. Moving on. And that is not easy.
But it is full of grace.
Beautiful, wonderful, freeing, exhilarating, God-given Grace.
 We cannot know exactly what it is that has prompted this part of Paul’s letter – but we can be sure that the behaviour or words of another has caused unrest, anxiety and upset.
Paul is writing to appease; to calm; to send love and prayers into a hurting community. Because this is sure: the behaviour or person has caused a stushie!
It is not clear if they actually realise how much hurt they are causing; nor indeed if they acknowledge that their behaviour has caused such hurt and sadness.  But the result has been immense sadness for everyone; the ripple effect is in full flow and it seems no sector of the community is immune.
Sadness and upset is just as contagious as joy and happiness; and from this stems our corporate responsibilities: to care for each other; to share each other’s’ burdens and to let each other know that even if certain behaviours upset us, make us sad, we still love them. We still care. We still want what is best.

This reading reminds us again – if we ever needed it – that there is nothing new in the world.
Here we are 2000 years ago, and a Christian community is in uproar over the behaviour of one of their number. It is the same in families; it is the same in churches; it is the same in this century as it was back then.
People are people.
We are not perfect
We act in haste and repent at leisure
We speak out of turn; without thinking; too quickly – and once the words are out there they cannot be pulled back; they cannot be unsaid.

We each have things to forgive and things to seek forgiveness for
We each have things we need to let go of; stop worrying about; move on from.
Forgiveness is a holy thing; a holy gift.
We are all gifted forgiveness – forgiveness we may not have sought; forgiveness we may feel we do not deserve.
Nevertheless it is ours.
All is possible through Jesus

At the last supper the words he used were deep and full of meaning:
This is my body broken for you
This is my blood – poured out so that sins may be forgiven

We are forgiven through all that Jesus did for us; in that case, who are we to withhold forgiveness?
Who are we to revisit old wounds?

Forgiveness is a holy thing
To give and to receive.
To forgive takes courage and not a little vulnerability
Forgiveness is also powerful.
To know we have done wrong, hurt another and feel terrible, and then the wonder and joy, the great blessing that comes from knowing we have been forgiven – that joy cannot be underestimated.
It takes a brave person to not retaliate; not leap in when we are hurt
It takes courage and grace to be able to forgive and then move on, letting it go.
Grace – the free gift from God that never runs out; never fails us.
Let’s try to hold that thought
Let’s try to use that grace to let go, move on and be fully reconciled
Because let’s face it if Jesus can hang on a cross, his blood pouring out and his life ebbing away, and still proclaim forgiveness, who are we to withhold it?

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