Prayer for September 22, 2020

Prayer for September 22, 2020: Please pray with me. God who softens hearts, boy do we need you. While we face multiple things that have exposed our brokenness – a pandemic, climate catastrophes, racial injustice, and economic problems – we still ignore another deep problem, our stubbornness. How much has our stubbornness contributed or been the cause of these other problems? I’m not sure I want to know. Throughout Scripture you call on us to harden not our hearts, but when I look around it seems as though there are many hardened hearts and minds. I weep over this. I don’t understand the willful stubbornness that contradicts the two great commandments – to love you and to love our neighbor. Why must humanity be so very stubborn? Soften our hearts. Amen.

Stubbornness

Stubbornness is defined as “dogged determination not to change one’s attitude or position on something.”

Other words associated with stubbornness are: obstinate, unreasonable, unmoving, difficult, hard, stiff, fixed, and set. When I hear these terms I think of boulders – unmoving and unmovable – not alive. Things that are alive move. Things that are don’t move or can’t on their own.

Stubbornness seems to have reached epidemic proportions in America. I can’t recall a time when there was so much stubbornness over so many things. Frankly, it’s extremely frustrating and exhausting. And when I encounter stubbornness, I don’t have many nice thoughts about the person being stubborn. The whole love my neighbor thing certainly gets put to the test when I encounter someone who is stubborn. That’s why Jesus’ call to discipleship is costly. It’s not the easy people Jesus was talking about – but rather the one’s we know we are going to struggle with.

Scripture has a good amount to say concerning stubbornness. This actually helps.  It tells me that there has always been stubbornness – willful stubbornness.  And yet, the Gospel persisted anyway, stubbornly.   When I think of the stubbornness throughout history, I am relieved to remember that it isn’t new and that there will be more stubbornness after I am gone. Scripture also reminds me of how I am to deal with someone who is stubborn. Scripture also reminds me of how God deals with stubbornness too. When I read how God deals with it, I have to laugh – apparently God gets frustrated with stubbornness too. Psalm 81:11-12 (see below) is a great example.

So if God gets frustrated by stubbornness, then why should I expect to fair any better?

Proverbs 29:1- He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing.

Psalm 81:11-12 – “But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels.”

Romans 2:5 – But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

Acts 7:51 – You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.

Isaiah 48:4 – Because I know that you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew and your forehead brass,

Exodus 32:9 – And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people.

Zechariah 7:11-12 – But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the Lord of hosts.

Isaiah 46:12 – Listen to me, you stubborn of heart, you who are far from righteousness:

Jeremiah 7:24 – But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.

Hebrews 3:7-12 – Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’”…

2 Kings 17:14 – But they would not listen, but were stubborn, as their fathers had been, who did not believe in the Lord their God.

Ezekiel 2:1-4:17 – And he said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.” And as he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. And he said to me, “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them. …

Jeremiah 11:8 – Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone walked in the stubbornness of his evil heart. Therefore I brought upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but they did not.

Psalm 78:10 – They did not keep God’s covenant, but refused to walk according to his law.

Nehemiah 9:17 – They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.

Deuteronomy 31:27 – For I know how rebellious and stubborn you are. 

Jeremiah 5:23 – But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; they have turned aside and gone away.

Psalm 95:8 – Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,

Ephesians 4:18 – They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.

Hosea 4:16 – Like a stubborn heifer, Israel is stubborn; can the Lord now feed them like a lamb in a broad pasture?

Proverbs 28:4 – Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.

2 Chronicles 30:8 – Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lord and come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever, and serve the Lord your God, that his fierce anger may turn away from you.

Deuteronomy 15:7 – If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother,…

Deuteronomy 10:16 – Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.

Deuteronomy 9:13 – Furthermore, the Lord said to me, ‘I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stubborn people.

Judges 2:19 – But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways.

Deuteronomy 9:27 – Remember your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Do not regard the stubbornness of this people, or their wickedness or their sin,

hebrews 3:15 – As it is said,
‘Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.’

Prayer for September 21, 2020

Prayer for September 21, 2020: Please pray with me. Patient God, you are very patient with us. And by us, I mean all of humanity throughout time. Very patient. Thank you for you patience. We can be very trying as you know. We can be very stubborn too. And we are pretty demanding as well. Forgive us when we think we can control you. Set us on the right path. Get through our thick skulls and hardened hearts with your love. Melt us and loosen us so that we can be embraced by you. Amen.

Do you get angry?

(Here’s my sermon that I preached yesterday. You can find the full service on our church website – www.ststephenlc.org).

A 2015 Psychology Today article titled: “Anger’s Allure: Are you Addicted to Anger?” offers a fascinating look at anger.  The very first sentence caught my attention – remember, this was written in 2015.  Here’s the first line of the article – “Anger is a public epidemic in America.” That was in 2015!

The article stated four things – 1. In the moment, anger feels good.  The body rewards it.  You know this – anger offers a warm feeling and gives an adrenaline rush.  2. Anger is similar to other addictions.  In anger you get a hit of dopamine, which is like a reward for the brain and can make us want more of it.  3. Anger can make people temporarily feel like they are in control.  And 4.  Anger can actually offer something to help some people avoid unresolved emotional and psychological feelings and issues like fear and emptiness.  

Do you ever get angry?  I do.  There are certain things that will trigger me.  Now, I will say that it takes an awful lot to get me to the point of anger though.  It’s usually something around abuse or exploitation of someone – maybe that comes out like when I see purposeful hypocrisy designed to mislead for personal gain, or narcissistic behaviors and attitudes.  I can get pretty angry over these type of things and I don’t have much patience for these kind of behaviors.  

That first line of the article though.  “Anger is a public epidemic in America.”  Would it be fair to say that this has gotten worse since 2015?

I mean, just think of the list of things that people get angry over.  Some of these might apply to you.  There are things that directly relate to us – People get angry if they have to wait too long.  People get angry driving.  People get angry over bills they have to pay – especially if the amount is wrong.  People get angry over relationships, work, medical procedures and test result.  People get angry at family gatherings.  People get angry at sporting events.  People get angry over poor service.  

Other things that cause anger speak to larger issues and touch our very identities and beliefs.  People get angry when their identity and beliefs are touched.  People get angry if what they define as politics is talked about in church, while others get angry because difficult topics too often are avoided all together.  

People get angry over racism and the death of black men and women and others get angry over the protests that rise up over.  People get angry over the destruction of property and others get angry because it seems as though human lives are worth less than property.  Just in the last couple of days people have gotten angry over whether a vacant seat on the Supreme Court should be filled or not and the rules around that.  People get angry over wearing masks and angry over those who refuse to wear them.  People get angry over election politics, how money is used and abused, and people in positions of leadership.  People get angry over the wildfires in California and the Hurricanes in the Gulf region and what their cause is and how they are handled.  I’m sure you can come up with an endless list of things to get angry over.  

Is it ever alright to get angry?  Or is getting angry always wrong?  Good question.  I don’t think there is a nice easy answer for this.  And I don’t think the lessons for today are about trying to say that getting angry is a sin and should be avoided at all costs.  That’s not healthy either.  Anger is a part of what it means to be human.  There are things to get angry about after all.  The question is really what we do with that anger.  And anger is not a blank check though either.   

In the midst all of this, I find it comforting to know that humanity hasn’t changed in literally thousands of years when it comes to anger – anger has been around for a long, long time, and it has been a problem for just as long.  And it’s not going away anytime soon.  

In our first reading, we hear the end of the story of Jonah.  Jonah was the unwilling prophet sent by God to go to Ninevah to proclaim God’s warning to the Ninevites.  Jonah didn’t want to go because he knew that God would relent and save the people if they repented – we hear that right in his prayer to God.  He didn’t want that.  He wanted them destroyed.  Ninevah was the capital of Assyria – the empire that conquered the northern kingdom of Israel, where Jonah was from.  

We’re a little over a week past September 11.  Imagine God calling on you to go proclaim a message of repentance to the people responsible for the destruction of the towers in New York – that’s the equivalent of what Jonah was facing.  

Why on earth would Jonah want to willingly go and proclaim a message of repentance to these people?  They were his enemies after all.  He was angry with them for what they had done to his homeland. 

We hear at the end of chapter 3, “When God saw what the people of Ninevah did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.”  And then chapter four starts – “But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry.”  And it goes on how he complained to God, and pitched a fit and pouted because God wouldn’t play by Jonah’s rules.  Jonah didn’t think that what God did was fair.  And it wasn’t by Jonah’s standard.  They didn’t get what they deserved!

In our Gospel reading, we hear Jesus tell a parable – the workers in the field.  The workers are hired throughout various times of the day, and at the end of the day, it’s time to be paid.  And in the end, they all receive the same wage, regardless of how much they worked.  And we are told that when the first workers received their pay and it was equal to the last workers who only worked a short bit, they grumbled against the landowner.  Grumbling is complaining about someone or something in an annoyed way.  It wasn’t fair by the workers’ standards.  The late workers go what they didn’t deserve!

When we are angry it is often because things are not the way we think they should be – the way we expect them to be.  Someone else isn’t getting the punishment we think they deserve.  We aren’t getting the reward we think we deserve.  We become angry because things and people are not doing what we want.  We come up against an unpleasant reality – that we are not in control.  We don’t get to set standard.  And boy, we don’t like that.  

God isn’t doing what Jonah wants done.  The landowner isn’t doing what the workers want.  

And so, they become angry and grumble because they aren’t getting their way.  They are trying to put God into a box.  To set the limits of what God can and cannot do, what God is allowed to have a say in, what God gets to touch in our lives and the lives of others.  Putting God in a box means that we get to control God, we get to tell God what to do and how to do it.  

We get to tell God if and when and how God has a say over our anger, but also other things in our lives – our money, our politics, our relationships, our work, how we use our time, how we use the materials we have, and more.  

But God doesn’t fit into a box.  God is so much bigger than that.  Look at the Psalm again.  It’s a psalm of abundant praise.  “Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised.” Says the psalmnist.  “There is no end to your greatness.  One generation shall praise your works to another and shall declare your power.  I will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty and all your marvelous works.”  And on it goes.  

God doesn’t fit into a box.  That’s already been tried.  Jesus was killed and put into a tomb.  And that box couldn’t contain him.  The anger that put him there couldn’t keep him there.  He rose from the dead.  He touched the topic that is most uncomfortable for us – death.  The thing we certainly have no control over.  And he overcame it.  

Here’s the good news from these Scripture lessons – God was big enough to handle Jonah’s anger – God didn’t need to squash it.  Jonah’s anger was real and God met Jonah where he was in his anger.

Jesus was confident enough to tell a parable where people grumbled and to have the landowner meet the grumbling workers where they were and still talk with them in their grumbling. 

And God is big enough to handle our anger too, especially when we are in the midst of anger.  God is there to acknowledge it and to set us free from it.  God isn’t fair by our standards, and that’s a good thing.  Because our standards are lacking.  We don’t know the whole story with people.  Often, we want to ignore the unpleasant parts of our own lives.  The things that we expect would anger God.  

God isn’t interested in what people deserve.  We should be really grateful for that.  Because if we got what we deserved, it would not be good.  Instead, God is a God grace and mercy.  God gives us what we don’t deserve and holds back on what we do – no different than the people of Ninevah, or the late workers in the field. 

God isn’t fair, but God is just.  God is consistent with what is morally right.  That’s another way of saying God is righteous – concerned with right relationships.  We see it in the example with Ninevah.  God relents because God is more concerned with a right relationship with the people of Ninevah, not with what they deserve.  The landowner pays the late workers an equal amount to the early workers because the landowner is generous and just, giving abundantly, not based on what they deserve. 

God is big enough to hear and handle our anger.  God accompanies us in our anger too – not avoiding us like so many others would.  And God is big enough to do what is right anyway in spite of our anger.  

You see, God is on a mission – a really big mission.  A mission that will anger some because God doesn’t play by the rules of this world.  Jesus talked about this all the time.  Love your enemies, see the image of God in others, live the way of peace, care for the poor and undeserving, welcome the stranger, serve your neighbors – especially the unsightly ones who the world says don’t deserve it.  

God is on a mission.  And God’s mission has a church.  And it’s bigger than the church.  And it’s bigger than each one of us.  We don’t deserve it.  And that’s great.  Because God isn’t fair, but God is just, and abundant in grace and mercy.  That’s true for everyone – those we get angry with and think they don’t deserve it and with us too.  Thank God for that.  Amen.  

Prayer for September 16, 2020

Prayer for September 16, 2020: Please pray with me. God of forgiveness, thank you. In our confession, we speak words that scare us – that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. Humans don’t like this – we want to believe we can free ourselves. But we can’t. Thank you for freeing us. Thank you for taking that stress away. Thank you for the sabbath you give us from trying to break free on our own. Free us so we can hear your good news. Free us so we can be in community together. Free us so we can serve. Free us. Amen.

Sin

Martin Luther defined sin as the turning inward on oneself. I think that’s a pretty good definition. When we turn in on ourselves, we turn away from God and from everyone else. By Luther’s definition, sin is narcissistic in nature, which is pretty fitting actually.

When we talk about sin, we often think of it in terms of individual actions. And those can definitely be sins. We sin when we do certain things to other people. But I wonder if we get the full extent of sin when we limit sin to just some things that we do to other people.

When sin is limited to some actions that we do that we shouldn’t, doesn’t that marginalize sin?

As Christians, we claim that sin is more pervasive and dangerous than that – Sin is something we are in bondage to. But if sin is only based on what we are doing, are we really in bondage to it?

But what if sin were bigger than that? What if sin was also the things we didn’t do? What if sin went beyond human relationships? What if sin went beyond our own individual actions? Well, it does.

In the Lutheran tradition, we say a Confession at the beginning of worship. It goes like this:

“Most merciful God, We confess that we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves. We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name. Amen.”

This isn’t just an individual confession. It is corporate in nature. We confess this together in worship. It speaks to the individual sins that we commit, but also to the larger corporate sin that we are a part of. When I say corporate, I’m not talking about business. I’m talking about people as a whole. Too often we want to forget about this type of sin. I think part of the reason is because we think we have some kind of control over our individual sin – even though our confession says otherwise.

But corporate sin is different – we know we don’t have control over it. We are victims of it, whether we are committing the sin or not. In some circles, we call this type of sin systemic sin. It’s the sin that shows up in our systems – often buried deep beyond our touch. Racism is a systemic sin. But there are others – just as pernicious, just as dangerous, just as deadly.

I think we would be better off if we stopped pretending we could control sin and instead took the words of the confession to heart – we are captive to it and cannot free ourselves. Do you know how freeing that is?

Sin, at its core, is about a broken relationship – with God, with others, with ourselves, with the rest of creation. And only God can fix it. Again, that is freeing. The pressure is off. The stress is off too. The confession and forgiveness of sins may be the most important part of worship as far as I’m concerned because it frees us from the bondage to sin. It frees us to we can hear the Good News. It frees us so we can be in community together. It frees us so we can eat the meal together. It frees us so we can be sent out into the world with the Good News and to serve. It frees us. Thank God for that freedom.

Prayer for September 14, 2020

Prayer for September 14, 2020: Please pray with me. God of forgiveness, thank you. Thank you for giving us forgiveness. Thank you for not basing forgiveness on whether we earn it or not. We’d all be screwed if you did. Change our hearts because of your forgiveness – melt them so that we offer forgiveness to others. Forgiveness is so essential right now in the midst of deep divisions over politics, race, sexuality, and more. When we approach these divisions from hard stands about others, we become cold hearted and unforgiving. We replace mercy with revenge and violence in our words. We stop seeing the image of God in others and start seeing inhumane enemies that we want to destroy. This is not your way. If we are truly your followers, then please transform us, soften our hearts, and let us give out forgiveness freely. Amen.

Forgiveness

(I preached this sermon on Sunday, Sept 13, 2020 in response to the Gospel reading – Matthew 18:21-35 – where Jesus tells Peter to offer forgiveness 70 times 7 times. You can see the entire service or skip to the sermon by visiting www.ststephenlc.org)

Chris, a man in his 50’s, called his pastor.  “My father is dying.” He said.  “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that Chris.  What can I do for you?”  “I don’t know.  But I needed to call.  I need to talk,” He said.  “Ok. Then talk to me, I’ll listen” came back the response from the pastor.  

Over the next several minutes what transpired was a confession of sorts.  Chris started talking and the longer he went, the deeper it got.  He shared many things about his father – things that had been stored up inside for a long time.  Things that he was afraid to talk about before now.  Things that had kept him in a sort of bondage of fear and anger.  He was a person who liked to feel like he was in control.  Yet, often, this was nothing more than an overcompensation for a part of his life that had never been in control.  

“My father is an alcoholic” he said.  He talked about what that it was like growing up with an alcoholic father – the fear that was always present.  He talked about living above the bar that his father would go and drink at.  And then come home drunk.  Tears were flowing now.  

The pastor sat and listened.  And when Chris finished his confession, he stopped and asked this question – “What do I do? My father is dying, I can’t continue to hold onto all of this.  It is too much of a burden.  What do I do pastor?”  

There was a moment of pause.  A deep breath.  “There is only thing to do.  It’s time to forgive your father.”  

“But pastor, how can I do that?  You heard all the things he did, the way he acted. He doesn’t deserve my forgiveness.” 

“You’re right, he doesn’t deserve it,” said the pastor.  “And neither do you.”  

Chris responded with shock, “What? What do you mean?”  

The pastor explained, “Chris, forgiveness isn’t earned.  If it was, none of us would deserve it.  Forgiveness isn’t about excusing away wrongs.   It’s about looking at those wrongs for what they are – hurtful beyond measure. 

Forgiveness is about freeing us from the bondage someone holds over us, and from the feeling of revenge for something that has happened to us.  Forgiveness flies in the face of it all.  Forgiveness is about no longer allowing someone else to control how we are going to feel about ourselves, about them, or about anything else in life.  Forgiveness is one directional – from the giver to the receiver.  And it doesn’t matter if the other person wants it or not, and it really don’t matter if they deserve – because they probably don’t.  At its core, forgiveness is about life, death, and resurrection.  All of the things that are holding us in bondage die with forgiveness, so that new life can rise.  New possibilities.  New ways of being in relationship become possible.  Even at the moment of death.”

Chris thought about this silently for a long moment.  “That all makes sense Pastor, but…I don’t know.  I’ve been hurt pretty bad.  Scarred.”  

The pastor responded, “It certainly sounds like it.  This isn’t about saying what happened was ok or right.  It wasn’t.  It’s about you being released from holding onto any longer.”  

“Do you remember worship on Sunday?” the pastor asked.

“Yes, kind of,” responded Chris.  “Why do you ask?  What does that have to do with this?”

“Well, Chris, let’s take a stroll through the service for a moment.  Maybe it will help.”  

“Ok” was his response.  

“What happens at the beginning of the service?” asked the pastor.

“Well, let me think about that for a minute. You usually greet everyone, give some instructions and make some announcements and then the organist plays some music.”

“Yes, go on a little bit.”  Said the pastor.

“Ok,” said Chris.  “I don’t remember what happens next.  It all kind of just flows together.  There’s some prayers, readings, the sermon, songs, more prayers…”

“Do you mind if I walk you through it?”  asked the pastor.  “Sure” was the response.

“The first thing we come to when the service starts is the Confession.  Remember that?” 

“Yes,” said Chris.  

“Good.  So why do we do that Chris?” asked the pastor.

“Well, because we are all sinners I suppose.”  Said Chris.  

“Yes, very true.  But it’s even more than that.  Listen to the words we say together.  ‘Faithful God, have mercy on us.  We confess that we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves.  We turn from your loving embrace and go our own ways.  We pass judgment on one another before examining ourselves.  We place our own needs before those of our neighbors.  Make us humble, cast away our transgressions, and turn us again to life in you through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.”  

“Do you hear those words Chris?  What do they mean?” Asked the pastor.

There was a pause.  Then Chris responded, “Well it certainly means that we are sinners, that we are broken.  But when I hear these words now, they also tell me that I don’t deserve God’s forgiveness either.  That I have done things that have hurt God because I’ve ignored what God wants me to do and how I’m supposed to treat other people.” 

“Yeah,” said the pastor.  “You’ve got it.  That’s all of us.  Not just your father, but you and I, and everyone else we care about too.”  

“Sounds pretty hopeless doesn’t it?” asked the pastor.  “Yeah, so much for the pick me up pastor,” Said Chris.  

“Funny,” said the pastor.  “But let’s not forget what happens after we make this confession.  We hear words of forgiveness.  Listen to the words Chris, ‘God hears the cries of all who call out in need, and through his death and resurrection, Christ has made us his own.   Hear the truth that God proclaims: your sins are forgiven in the name of Jesus Christ.  Led by the Holy Spirit, live in freedom and newness to do God’s work in the world.”

“Wow,” said Chris.  “Those are powerful words.  I have to admit, I never really paid all that much attention to this part of the service before.  I always felt like it was filler until we got to sing and hear the readings.  But hearing it now…it’s like I’m hearing it for the first time.  I hear the release from bondage – bondage to sin, of course, but more than that.  Bondage to fear, anger, hurt and so much more.  Forgiveness is like someone coming up to you and cutting off a huge weight that you’ve been carrying – a weight that has been exhausting and painful.”

“Great image.  You’ve got it Chris,” said the pastor.  “and that’s just the beginning.”  

“What do you mean?” asked Chris. 

“Forgiveness runs through the entire service.  We hear it over and over again.” Said the pastor.

“Really?  Why” asked Chris.

“I suppose if everyone else is like me, because we need to hear it over and over again.  We need to be reminded how badly we need it and how much we should be offering it.  Because we aren’t going to hear it out in the world.  We’ll even talk ourselves out of it.”  Said the pastor.

“We hear it in the Kyrie – “Have mercy on us Christ, and wash away our sin.  Pour out your grace and make us whole that new life may begin.”

“We hear it in the Prayer of the Day – ‘you are the inexhaustible fountain of forgiveness.”

“We hear it in the story of Joseph forgiving his brothers after they treated him terribly and sold him into slavery.”

“We hear it in the Psalm – Bless the Lord, o my soul, and forget not all God’s benefits – who forgives all your sins.”

“We hear it in Paul’s letter to the Romans about refraining from judging one another. That’s a message of forgiveness and releasing people from our own onerous expectations.”

“We hear it in the Gospel where Jesus tells a parable about forgiving debts that cannot be paid – what a release that is.  Thank God that God’s standards for forgiveness are so much better than our human standards.”

“We hear it in the Hymn of the Day – “Let us forgive each other’s faults as we our own confess.”

“We hear it in the Apostles Creed – We believe in the forgiveness of sins.”

“We hear it in the prayers of the church – Teach us to forgive.”

“We hear it in the Eucharistic prayer – After supper, he took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it for all to drink, saying: this cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and all people for the forgiveness of sin.”

“We hear it in the Lord’s prayer – Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

“We hear it in the Lamb of God – O lamb of God, you bear the sin of all the world away; you set us free from guilt and grave, have mercy now we pray.”

The pastor stopped.  Chris took a long pause.  “wow, that’s a lot of forgiveness.  I’m grateful for it.  Thank you pastor.”

“You can thank God, that’s where it comes from.  So what are you going to do Chris?”  asked the pastor.

“You forgot the ending pastor,” said Chris.  

“oh, what’s that?” said the pastor.

“When you say the words that send us out into the world after we’ve heard everything in worship.  The words send us out with a sort of marching orders.  We hear what we need to hear so that we can go and live as followers of Jesus.  I know what I have to do – I’m going to visit my father now.  He doesn’t have much time.  It’s time to let go of all of this.  I’m going to forgive him.  I’m going to release him.  I want to be released too.  I want to say goodbye free from anger and fear.  I want to say goodbye in love.  I want him to know that I love him.”  

“What you are about to do is not easy, but you already know that.  You’ll be in my prayers Chris.” Said the pastor.

“Thanks.  I’ll take all the prayers I can get.”

Amen.  

Prayer for September 10, 2020

Prayer for September 10, 2020: Please pray with me. God of grace, you grant us the privilege of grace and mercy. We didn’t earn these things. You give them to us anyway. And they are a privilege. A privilege that comes with responsibility. When you give us grace and mercy, you expect us to use them – use them to help unfold the Kingdom of God. Use them to move us towards shalom wholeness. Use them to help us see the image of God in others. Use them to build community and trust. Use them to advance your will. Amen.