Genesis 45: 3-11, 15 ;Luke 6: 27- 38
Sermon for 24 February
Forgiveness; reconciliation; love; compassion; mercy; generosity; they all sound so wonderful don’t they. Especially if we are on the receiving end.
But the actual doing; giving; being of these is much, much harder.
Jesus adds to the task by insisting that all of these attitudes need to be applied, not to your friends and loved ones, but to those who hate us, those who are our enemies, those who wish us harm!
For goodness sake!!
Does he know what he is asking?
Of course he does.
The story of forgiveness in the bible is not a new concept, the story of Joseph tells of astonishing forgiveness.
The reading we heard from Genesis is the culmination of an event begun years before.
It is a tale full of jealousy, anger, betrayal and deception. It is not the finest hour for Joseph’s brothers.
I wonder – did they regret their actions in those ensuing years?
When they saw their father’s grief, did they wish it was different; did they replay it in their imagination, seeking a different outcome?
Joseph remembered them; they did not recognise him for many reasons. The most obvious of course being that they thought he was most probably dead!
But also, he has been away from them for around ten years; he had grown from a boy to a man, and he is living as an Egyptian. There is little by way of clues for them to recognise a man they had assumed lost.
Joseph had realised who they were; and had made them suffer by over filling their bags; and putting some of the Pharaoh’s sliver in with the grain so he had an excuse to call them back and confront them, his anticipation and excitement at the big reveal must have been enormous.
He knew, with the wisdom of hindsight, that the gift of dream telling had placed him in the right place, at the right time; he knew that God had been with him throughout, and because of that, God had blessed and preserved him for this time.
He also knew that forgiveness was his to give. Forgiveness to his brothers, whom he loved, in spite of the fact that they had plotted to kill him; had attacked him; and eventually sold him to slave traders… all that they had done, and yet, his faith enabled him to let it go, to free his own pain and offer forgiveness and love to these estranged brothers. And then, because God had placed him exactly where he needed to be, was able to help his family in a time of great need…
Forgiveness; reconciliation; love; compassion; mercy; generosity; all the elements that Jesus was talking about are found in the story of Joseph and his brothers.
Jesus’ teaching hits home; the instruction is easy to understand, but almost impossible to put into practice – unless we remember that in all things, God’s grace abounds. Under our own power we are powerless; with God’s grace we can achieve amazing and wonderful things.
The key point, the Golden Rule, is Love your Enemies. It is not difficult to understand but it is very difficult to do!
I find I ask myself how? How can I make this work in my life? There is responsibility, there are rules…
I do not have a satisfactory answer yet, though I am working on it.
Earlier this week I was at the annual Presbytery Clerk’s conference; we received previews of some of the things that are going to be coming up at General Assembly in May, including two far reaching pieces of work that look into the administration of the church and the new revised radical plan which looks at the future of the whole church.
Both will require hard, brave action.
Both are created with input from the whole church – not just those admin people in Edinburgh, but ordinary people from the parishes; parish ministers – like you and me, the people who are on the ground, being the church.
Forgiveness; reconciliation; love; compassion; mercy; generosity; all the elements that Jesus was talking about are going to be needed by the church as we move forward in the next months and years.
Change is coming. The world does not stand still, and neither can the church as a whole stand still.
In our Presbytery, and in our area, talks continue, prayerfully looking forward, seeking new and creative ways to sustain and build.
Our challenge is to be open to what may be suggested; to think beyond this building and our village; to be generous with those we do not know well; to be encouraging, even if we are unsure ourselves.
I do not know what is coming; and I do not know how we will be affected.
I do know, we can be like Joseph; trusting God’s plan, even when it seems impossible.
I do know we can follow Jesus’ lead… for God’s kingdom, God’s love, God’s family is ours too.
The future is hidden from our eyes; the world is still upside down
But we are reminded again: God’s love takes us into new ways, new adventures as we follow.
God blesses us with grace and love; the world may be upside down, unpredictable, constantly changing…
But we are equipped by God: forgiveness; reconciliation; love; compassion; mercy; generosity; all ours through JesusAnd with that hope – we can be strong. Amen