Tag Archives: forgiveness

Monday in the Fifth Week of Lent

Two Cases of Adultery 

In today’s readings we have two cases of adultery, one concerning an actual case and the other a phony one. The circumstances are quite different in each one, but there is a commonality between them.

From the reading in John, a woman is caught in the act of adultery. The charges against her were true:

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”   (John 8:3–5)

The scribes and the Pharisees were up to their usual tricks. This was an attempt to trap Jesus. But as usual they fell into their own trap when Jesus said to them:

“Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”   (John 8:7)

Jesus forced them into a corner where they found themselves, grudgingly, showing mercy on the woman. Even though the woman had not asked him, Jesus demonstrated the mercy of God. He told the woman to “go and sin no more.” (John 8:11)

In the case of Susanna, the charges against her were false:

Then the two elders stood up before the people and laid their hands on her head. Through her tears she looked up towards Heaven, for her heart trusted in the Lord. The elders said, “While we were walking in the garden alone, this woman came in with two maids, shut the garden doors, and dismissed the maids. Then a young man, who was hiding there, came to her and lay with her. We were in a corner of the garden, and when we saw this wickedness we ran to them. Although we saw them embracing, we could not hold the man, because he was stronger than we are, and he opened the doors and got away. We did, however, seize this woman and asked who the young man was, but she would not tell us. These things we testify.”

Because they were elders of the people and judges, the assembly believed them and condemned Susanna to death.   (Susanna 34–41)

We have the trickery of the scribes and Pharisees and, in the case of Susanna, the falsehood of the elders, driven by impure motives. And then we have the motive of God which is to show mercy. Susanna looked up to heaven and put her trust in God. God then exposed the two elders:

Then the whole assembly raised a great shout and blessed God, who saves those who hope in him. And they took action against the two elders, because out of their own mouths Daniel had convicted them of bearing false witness; they did to them as they had wickedly planned to do to their neighbour. Acting in accordance with the law of Moses, they put them to death. Thus innocent blood was spared that day.(Susanna 60–62)

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Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C

The Love of the Father

Jesus was criticized by the Pharisee for eating with sinners. He responds to them with this famous parable of the prodigal son:

“There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”‘   (Luke 15:11-19)

The younger son realize that he had greatly sinned against his father and heaven. He felt so ashamed of himself that could not ask for forgiveness. He only hoped that his father would take him back as a servant. He was not prepared for the Father’s greeting upon his return:

So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.   (Luke 15:20-24)

This parable illustrates how eager our heavenly Father is to forgive us when we return to him and confess our sin. What could easily be lost here is that God not only forgives, but he removes our shame and disgrace.

There was a time in the wilderness when God removed the disgrace of the children of Israel. Reading from Joshua:

When the circumcising of all the nation was done, they remained in their places in the camp until they were healed. The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.” And so that place is called Gilgal to this day.   (Joshua 5:8-9)

We not only need God’s forgiveness. We need him to lift our shame and disgrace so that we might have a fresh start. How many of us today know that God will to remove our disgrace if we let him. We hear people say: “I know that God has forgiven me but I cannot forgive myself.” God does not want us bound by the past. He wants to circumcise our hearts so that we might start over. It is time to allow him to do that for us.

Let us look at another side of God’s love and grace. There was an elder son in the parable that had not rebelled against the father in the same way as the younger son:

“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”   (Luke 15:25-32)

The two sons were quite different, but they shared something in common. They had the same father, of course. But they both failed to understand the father’s love. His love was unconditional. It does not need to be earned. Had both of these sons had a deeper relationship with the father they might have understood that. We need to draw closer to God the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ. Now is the time look deeper into his heart. God wants to celebrate with us today. There may have been a time when we were lost, but now we have been found. Can we join in the celebration, or are we too busy keeping score on others? Let us move on from the old person to the new. The Apostle Paul wrote:

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.   (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)

Are we counting trespasses? If so, then we are not very good ambassadors for Christ. Paul goes on:

So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.   (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)

It is time to be reconciled to God. God will remove our sin and offer us righteousness by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us not look back. Let us go forward in newness of life.

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Tuesday in the Third Week of Lent

Mercy and Forgiveness

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were three pious Jewish youths who were thrown into a fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. We remember that they had refused to bow down to the king’s image as told in the Book of Daniel. God preserved them from harm. The king looked into the furnace and saw four men walking in the flames, the fourth like “a son of god”.

The following is part of the prayer of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from within the flames of the furnace:

In our day we have no ruler, or prophet, or leader,
no burnt-offering, or sacrifice, or oblation, or incense,
no place to make an offering before you and to find mercy.

Yet with a contrite heart and a humble spirit may we be accepted,
as though it were with burnt-offerings of rams and bulls,
or with tens of thousands of fat lambs;
such may our sacrifice be in your sight today,
and may we unreservedly follow you,
for no shame will come to those who trust in you.   (Song of the Three Young Men 15-17)

Israel was in exile. It was no longer possible to offer burnt offerings to God. Offerings were a way for the Israelites to acknowledge their sin-fullness before God – a way of approaching him great humility and thankfulness for his mercy. King David’s psalm speaks about the best way we can all approach God.

For you have no delight in sacrifice;
    if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.   (Psalm 51:16-17)

God performed a great miracle that day. The young men were spared. What is significant is that these they could approach God without any offering and God still accepted their prayer. God is full of mercy and abounding in steadfast love. Nevertheless, how we approach God is all important.

It is a matter of our faith, but also a matter of our heart. God takes sin very seriously. Israel was asked by God to make sacrifices to him, but nothing that we do can compare to the sacrifice that God made to us. He has given us his only begotten Son to die on a cross for our sins.

We remember the parable that Jesus told about the wicked slave who, once forgiven a debt my his master, turned around and was unforgiving to his fellow slaves. It concludes this way:

Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”   (Matthew 18:32-35)

We will certainly never be able to pay our debt to God. Jesus has paid our debt for us. What is our attitude towards God for so great a sacrifice? Do we have a grateful heart? If so, then how do we demonstrate that heart in our love for God and our neighbors?

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Saturday in the Second Week of Lent

Amazing Grace

How do we respond to God’s amazing grace? Scripture tells us that we have all fallen short of the glory of God. We are all in desperate need of his grace. Yet, the Pharisees had great difficulty with the fact that Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners. Such thinking suggests that there should be limits on God’s grace.

We are familiar with parable of The Prodigal Son. He wasted his inheritance on riotous living. When the Father accepted his return that was one thing. But when the Father had a great celebration for him and killed the fatted calf, then that was quite another thing for the Father’s eldest son:

“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends.   (Luke 15:26-29)

Where was the fairness? Do we become jealous of those of whom God has chosen to bless? None of us are worthy of his blessing. If Gos has forgiven us, are we to keep score on others?

One of the greatest blessings we have received from the Lord is the freedom to allow others to be blessed by God. Or are we to instruct God on how he should dispense his amazing grace?

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