Matthew 26:28; Acts 2:38;
“…the forgiveness of sins…”
The verse we just heard from Matthew should sound familiar…“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” It is part of the liturgy we use whenever we celebrate Holy Communion…They are words we have spoken for 2,000 years as a remembrance of the price Jesus paid for the forgiveness of our sins.
The two verses from ACTS remind us that we only share in the gift of forgiveness after we turn away from sin and believe in Jesus Christ. “Repent and be baptized, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 2:38) “…everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:43)
So far we have seen how the Creed shows us WHO God is and what God HAS DONE…God created; God came to earth as Jesus; Jesus suffered, died, and rose again; These are all events in the past…While all of this is good news, today we hear some really good news…FOR US…We see now how everything we have talked about in the Creed so far…Who God is and all that God has done…We see how our faith in these things really affects US…Our faith offers us forgiveness of sins and life everlasting…Our faith has an impact on our lives and who we are as Christians.
So, what does this forgiveness of sins really mean for us?
How are we supposed to respond to such a gift?
- On the one hand, this is the easiest part of the lesson because Jesus tells us precisely how to respond…On the other hand, it may be the most difficult lesson to live-out precisely because of what Jesus expects of us…“We as the forgiven, reconciled people of God respond by forgiving those who have sinned against us.” (Tennent, page 95) It is a clear mandate that we cannot avoid recognizing, but we spend tons of energy trying to avoid doing…Jesus expects us to do our best to be like him…We become like him by becoming forgivers…If we cannot forgive others, then we have not truly heard the good news of our own forgiveness.
A man goes into his bank and tells his banker that he has had a run of real bad luck. He and his wife both lost their jobs, the kids needed braces, and the transmission went out on their car. They really intended to pay the bank back for the mortgage and the car payment and the loan they took out for their vacation in Hawaii, but they just didn’t have any more money. They were spending the rest of their savings for the private school tuition and the new clothes they needed to go on job interviews. He begged the banker for just a little more time so they could get back on their feet.
Well, the banker thought for a bit and decided that he would cut the guy a little slack and he forgave all their debts…nearly half a million dollars…so the family could breathe easier while they got it together.
As the man left the bank, he ran into a friend who owed five dollars from last week’s poker game. He demanded the money and, when the friend couldn’t pay, he beat him up and took his watch.
A bank employee saw everything and went to tell the banker what had just happened outside. The angry banker had the man arrested and brought to the bank. He said, “How dare you come in here and ask me to help you out! I forgave you half a million dollars in debts and you couldn’t let your friend get by with owing five bucks!” With that the banker foreclosed on the man’s house, re-possessed his car, had him arrested for fraud, and left his family homeless and living on the street.
This little parable ought to sound familiar…you will find an alternate version of it in Matthew 18…The point is that God has forgiven us of every ugly and rebellious thing we have ever done in our lives and continues to forgive us every time we repent and turn back to him…Is it really too much to ask for us to forgive another human being?
- Ephesians 4:32: “Forgive each other just as in Christ God forgave you.”
- Colossians 3:13: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
- Matthew 6:12, The Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
- Forgiveness OF us and BY us are linked…
- Jesus continues in Matthew: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
It is pretty clear that our ability to receive God’s forgiveness is directly linked to our willingness to forgive others…That’s one more of those things we’d rather not talk about.
Is there someone in your life who you should call and ask for forgiveness? Is there someone you need to forgive? Do you need to process forgiveness for someone who has died? Then claim that forgiveness to God. Maybe the person you need to forgive is yourself. This may be the hardest thing of all to do. Remember our communion liturgy: “Hear the good news: in the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven!” We must break the chains that bind us in bitterness, guilt, fear, and unforgiveness…God’s forgiveness is indeed a gift, but like any gift, you must receive it and open it…The only way to open the gift of forgiveness is to give it away yourself. This we believe, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…Amen.