March 2022 – A Letter from Pastor Lori

Forgiveness is the healing stream flowing out from the crucified Christ over a world that does not know how desperately it needs the healing (From the introduction of the book Forgiveness-A Lenten Study by Marjorie J. Thompson)

We focus on people’s feelings when we talk about forgiveness. And I admit that our emotions are often involved whenever we go through a situation in which we are asked to forgive someone. We know that remorse is not repentance; repentance requires a change in behavior. But what is forgiveness? And where does reconciliation come in?

Forgiveness is not the absence of anger at being injured. I think it is normal for someone to be angry when they have been injured in some way. Nor is forgiveness the willingness to release someone from experiencing the consequences of their actions. Our God is just, and justice requires that offenders experience the consequences of their choices. What, then, does it mean to forgive?

Forgiving others and humbly asking for forgiveness are central disciplines for all Christian believers.  During Lent, Pastor Lori and Dean will be preaching a sermon series on Forgiveness.  Asking the age-old questions,

  1. Is forgiveness a Christian duty under all circumstances?
  2. Are there situations when Christians do not need to forgive?
  3. Is forgiveness a matter between individuals or is it meaningful only in the context of communities?
  4. Is forgiving the best route to healing for the injured?
  5. How do we get past emotional barriers to real forgiveness?

By using biblical examples and real-life situations, Thompson illustrates each chapter’s theme in an informative and engaging way. I pray this sermon series provides clarity, insight and in an engaging way assists you in your forgiveness journey. 

Let’s go back to Matthew 18. After Jesus gives the disciples a process for resolving differences, including an outcome in which a member of the community is ejected from the community, he goes on to talk about the power of community.

It is here where Jesus says to his community of followers, “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

I hear the last sentence quoted most often when a small group of people gather to worship. But Jesus is not talking about worship; he is talking about making decisions about forgiveness within the community of believers. He is promising that God will open their eyes and hearts to what God wants them to do and give them the power to do it. He is also promising that God will hold them accountable for their decisions.

This passage is followed by the parable of the unforgiving servant. Jesus makes his meaning crystal clear: you have been forgiven everything and so you are to forgive everything. But Jesus does not expect an emotional shift; he expects an action.

Forgiveness is neither focused on the victim, nor on the perpetrator. Forgiveness is focused on God’s grace freely given to us through Christ and the Holy Spirit.

We have been forgiven. Completely. Forever. And in joyful recognition of that realization, we are committed to living the way Jesus wants us to live – willing to love others enough to give them another chance every time. And that means we will lift our anger and hurt up to the Lord 10,000 times a day, and ask for him to carry us through. Forgiveness offers the offender a chance to receive God’s grace through us.

In Christ’s Service,

Pastor Lori Stevens