From Pastor Pat: forgiving ... yourself
(Posted March 9, 2017) (Image above, a detail from a work by Heinz Geilfus.)
This week we start the first of two Sundays of “Spring cleaning” for the soul, by examining the concept of forgiveness. I’ve picked two Sundays for this topic for an obvious reason. While we most often think of forgiveness as something we “give to” someone else, the truth is, unless we start by forgiving ourselves, we’ll never understand the scope of extending forgiveness to others.
Perhaps the most heartbreaking times I’ve had as a pastor is standing at the bedside of a dying person to give them the Lord’s Supper, and to have them tearfully refuse because they are sinful, unworthy to receive communion.
How ironic it is to be one of three in that dying room – the patient, myself and God—and to realize that the only one incapable of forgiving is the broken, dying person. Only after assuring that person that if they are sorry God has forgiven them and they are worthy. Only then does a sense of peace descend on them. The fact is, our Creator’s greatest act of forgiveness is the very one mentioned in this Sunday’s Gospel: For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. God so loved the world…. those words right there are the key to understanding forgiveness. Love is not the smarmy, temporary love of a Hallmark card. Love only takes place in relationship to another. It’s not accidental that, when you ask people to point to where they think their soul resides in them, they point to the heart. God extended divine love to us with the gift of Jesus long before we were around to start our own journeys of mistakes and missteps.
What’s fascinating is the number of very important people in the Bible who seemed to have a black belt in sinning, and yet with God’s grace became the saints we needed to emulate. The passage above from Psalm 51 is a song of repentance that King David himself sung, after he sinned with Bathsheba. So we in this time of Lent call upon God to help us launder ourselves a clean heart, so that we may be placed in right relationship with God. That forgiveness starts with us. Next Sunday we will be joined by Scarlett Lewis who, as a Sandy Hook mother who lost her son Jesse, will discuss with us her book and our topic, Forgiving the Unforgiveable. Please plan on joining us for both Sundays. --- Pastor Pat Kriss
“No one is innocent in the tide of history. Everyone has kings and slaves in his past. Everyone has saints and sinners. We are not to blame for the actions of our ancestors. We can only try to be the best we can, no matter what our heritage, to strive for a better future for all. -- Diana Peterfruend, author