Finding Joy in Real Life: A Habit of Forgiveness 8-3-14

Matthew 6:7-15  “And when you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles.  They think God will hear them if they use a lot of words. Don’t imitate them.  Your God knows what you need before you ask it. This is how you are to pray:  ‘Abba God in heaven, hallowed be your name! May your reign come; may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven: give us today the bread of Tomorrow. And forgive us our debts, as we hereby forgive those who are indebted to us. Don’t put us to the test, but free us from evil.” If you forgive the faults of others, Abba God will forgive you yours. If you don’t forgive others, neither will Abba God forgive you.

August 3, 2014

Finding Joy in Real Life: Five Habits for Living Well
            3. Live Toward a Different Future

We say the words every week, some of us every day – core words in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” There are plenty of other important parts of the Lord’s Prayer, especially the call for God’s reign to come on earth as it is in heaven, in the ideal. We cannot say these words too often, and we certainly don’t ponder their meaning often enough.
Lily Tomlin said, “Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.”
That’s such a profound statement. “Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.”
There is someone in my neighborhood who I was really angry because of some of the ways she acted in relation to the church I served in that neighborhood. She is a rather prominent person in that neighborhood, in that she cares about the area and goes to all the important events. So I see her rather often. And for years, I have pointedly not spoken to her at these events. We both look away and pretend we have never met or something.
Which is ridiculous. When I think about forgiveness as giving up hope for a better past, it helps me to realize that when I refuse to speak to this person, I am hanging on to those events in past, replaying them over and over again. If I forgive her, I don’t have to live in that past.
It’s embarrassing to admit that I have held this grudge for over 20 years. It is so far in the past now that it’s pretty easy to think about forgiving. All I have to do is start to acknowledge her and talk with her when I see her, which I have begun to do. It’s actually quite a relief.
Forgiveness gives you freedom. You don’t have to become best friends with the person.  You don’t have to even like them. Forgiveness gives you options that you don’t have if you are holding a grudge. And Jesus says, if you forgive others, God forgives you at the same time.
Today, before we take communion I invite you to think about someone you have held a grudge against. I hope not for 20 years, like I did. Though it seems that the nearer in the past it is, the harder it is to give up hope for that better past.  The closer it is the more we want some justice or accountability from that person that would signify they know what they did and they would never do it again! But look, even if the event that you’re upset about was last week, you cannot change what is past. It is not possible.
So some forgiveness may happen pretty immediately. That’s what we’re all hoping for (after all) when we are expecting forgiveness. Sometimes we may take a long time to forgive, but we expect others to forgive us right away – especially God.
So let me also invite you for a moment before communion to think about someone from whom you might need to ask for forgiveness. Having thought about what you it would take for you to forgive someone else, you might know that asking for forgiveness won’t mean immediate love and light and reconciliation. Asking may just be an opening for conversation that deepens your understanding of what needs to be forgiven.
Thich Nhat Hanh says, “When there is a mature relationship between people, there is always compassion and forgiveness.”
Forgiveness is the only way most of our relationships really work. When I thought about asking forgiveness, I again thought about something that happened a long time ago. I have been wanting to ask forgiveness for this incident a long time. I assume that just asking will not be enough, but I’ll let you know.
In the meantime, Jesus says that if we forgive, God forgives us. In fact God’s grace is always present in our lives at many different levels. God’s grace enables us to forgive. God’s grace enables us to accept forgiveness. God’s grace leads us through every part of the hard process of forgiving and being forgiven.
As we gather around the table this morning, to receive communion by intinction, I invite us all to first take a moment to pray, to think first of someone we sincerely would like to forgive, right now, before communion. Then I invite us to think of someone of whom we intend to ask forgiveness within the next two weeks.  Let’s be in prayer for each other, and let each other know how it goes in our LIFE groups and in church.
After a moment of silent prayer we will sing The Lord’s Prayer.

Communion hymn  271 The Lord’s Prayer