Sermons on forgiveness
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church The Rev. Barbara Hutchinson Seven years ago, when I was interviewing here at St. Andrew’s, the Search Committee had written a marvelous Parish Profile for all perspective applicants, outlining a lively commitment to outreach, a devotion to worship, and ongoing opportunities for both children’s and adult formation. I pored over the material, absorbing it like it was the very air I was breathing, circling the phrases and sections I was most drawn toward, and writing in…
The criminal’s words seemed scant, insufficient, and almost pitiable. Yet they were all that was needed. The request was minimal, merely that Jesus remember him. The response was extravagant. Jesus gave him the kingdom, then and there. Jesus gave him peace. Jesus gave him love, and Jesus died doing the one thing he was called to do all along: offer forgiveness. In his last exchange with humankind, Jesus fully lived into his vocation of bringing reconciliation to all humanity. For, like the king or the father in so many of Jesus’ own parables, Jesus offers the ones most unworthy the entire feast, the whole garden of God, the state of shalom or wholeness. The criminal’s reward was abundant because, in the moments before he died, he began living and acting as though Jesus were king.
We have a glimpse of this eternal rest each time we come to Jesus, when we surrender our souls weary from carrying the burdens of a world where injustice reigns and broken relationships flourish, when we take the yoke of Jesus upon our own shoulders, and we move in sync with the grace of Christ.
“Do you see this woman?”. This may sound like a simple question, or a question with a simple answer. It is the question that Jesus asks of Simon in our gospel story, and one, which exemplifies Jesus’ prophetic role in bringing in God’s new kingdom: where all are seen, where the dignity of all are respected, where all are treated as God’s beloved
This is what John the Baptist speaks of in our lesson today: the baptism of the repentance for the forgiveness of sins. It’s actually not the sins themselves that he wants to wash away, for God has already done that. It is our repentance of them, our turning away from them, our stretching our minds beyond them, our conversion to a life which no longer allows them. John the Baptist wants us to release ourselves from whatever prison we find ourselves within, which keeps us from the love of God. This is what we’re called into today by the prophetic voice of John the Baptist. Our actions, or our failure to act, the attacks, wounds, insults and slurs we have inflicted upon others or which have been inflicted upon us, these can stay with us for years, even though God has long ago has washed them away. For grace comes first. God shows up. God invites us to repent, to “go beyond our mind”, so the mountains we construct to protect our souls, can be torn down and washed away.
Our job is to scatter seeds, not produce the growth – that’s God’s job.
If we see sin as a way of being which doesn’t allow ourselves to be fully embraced by the love of God, or sin as a barrier that has become entrenched in the way we think or regularly make decisions, that doesn’t allow ourselves to be fully embraced by the love of each other, I have a feeling if we go deeply into our hearts, we will find fear at the basis of all of these ruptures.