Forgiveness | St. Margaret's Episcopal Church

The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 13, 2020

St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church, Emmaus, PA

Reflections on The Season of Pentecost

The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 13, 2020

By Rev. Jane Bender

Dear St. Margaret’s Family,

Greetings to each of you!  My prayers for safety and solace continue for each of you during these strange and unusual times of the ongoing pandemic.  

In this week’s gospel reading from St. Matthew, Jesus addresses the profoundly important subject of FORGIVENESS.  What forgiveness means and doesn’t mean – and points to the unimaginable forgiveness we each have received from God.

Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.”

Forgiveness | St. Margaret's Episcopal Church

How do we even begin to take this seriously?  Is this just Jesus giving us impossible goals?  But that is exactly what Jesus calls us to do in today’s Gospel reading. We are to forgive those who sin against us. We are to forgive as God has forgiven us. Our lives are to reflect the nature of the God we worship, a God who is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 103:8).

Now, there are some important principles to keep in mind. First, forgiveness is not license for continued injustice, abuse, or oppression. An unrepentant sinner (or an unjust system) cannot be allowed to continue to harm others. There is need for repentance and reform in many societal systems and in our own lives.

Also, forgiveness does not erase consequences. Forgiveness may heal a relationship, but it does not erase all the consequences.  Forgiveness never says “oh, it didn’t matter – it wasn’t so bad.”  That’s the whole point – the sin DID matter and it WAS bad and it DID hurt.  

Forgiveness is hard, really hard. But the good news is that, as we know, where God calls, God also equips. God gives us in Christ the gift of forgiveness and helps us to share that gift with others.

Another point is that, while reconciliation is conceivable, it is not always possible.  Also, forgiving does not mean forgetting.  God gave us minds to think, and the memory often remains.  There definitely can be healing of memories by God’s grace working in allaying this pain.  

And in doing so, God opens doors that are shut. God opens a future that is shut. By forgiving those who have sinned against us, we do not allow the past to dictate our future.

Forgiveness breaks the chains of anger and bitterness and frees us to live new lives.

May it be so for you and for me.  

God bless you and keep you in God’s loving embrace,