Message for Sunday, January 10, 2021
From the Revs. Megan and David Collins
Each of you have something you hope we will say today. The message we have is something that will make us wildly unpopular with almost everyone.
The only way out of the mess we are in is forgiveness.
We know what you might be thinking. “I don’t want to forgive. I am too angry. There is no going back. What’s done is done.” Let’s take a minute to pause here to voice all the reasons forgiveness can’t possibly be the answer. We get it. We are struggling too. And you’re right. We don’t want to forgive. We are angry. There is no going back. What’s done is done.
But the only way out of the mess we are in is forgiveness. We are divided. We are broken. We are angry. We have yelled and we have fought. Now we find ourselves at a fork in the road. We must, right now, make a decision on which way we will go. On one side, there is the path that we are all on right now, the path that takes us further into this fight. Down this path you can stay angry. You can quench your anger with the knowledge that you are right and that the other side is wrong. It’s more posturing and more fights. It’s more weeks and more years like this one. Down this path not only does the division in our nation increase but also the broken relationships in our neighborhoods, in our families, in our church.
Then there’s that other path. That other path starts with putting down our swords. Boy does that feel difficult. But that other path, it offers a promise of healing, of reconciliation. It leads to the way out of the mess we are in right now. It is the one where we forgive one another.
Forgiveness seems impossible right now. We know. Awful things, inexcusable things, have happened. Horrible things have been said. We know that too. But that other way, the way that starts with forgiving? There is already one set of footprints over there. And they belong to our Savior. CS Lewis wrote "to be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you." There is no cultural call for forgiveness. It seems weak. It seems like we are giving up. Maybe forgiveness makes it seem like we’re saying that the things we have seen, the things we have heard, that they are okay with us.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning things that are wrong. Forgiving the inexcusable doesn’t mean saying what happened is okay. It doesn’t mean erasing the past and pretending it never happened. It certainly doesn’t mean we don’t keep working to make our community look more like what God wants. Forgiveness isn’t saying what has happened is okay or that people shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions. It is choosing to make what happens next look different. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you no longer care about the things you cared about before. It might mean that you work for them differently. It might mean that you work for the things you care about in ways that could make an enemy an ally or even a friend￼.
We are at a crossroads as a community. We can continue down this path of anger and escalation. Or we can take the first step down that other path. It is certainly looks like the harder road to take from here. Forgiveness the inexcusable is hard. It is costly. Forgiving the inexcusable in us was the ministry of Jesus and it cost him his life. At the center of our faith as Christians is the cross. Jesus was perfect. There was nothing in him, nothing he said or did that was sin. All of it was good. When Jesus looks at us, he would have every reason to take the road of anger, to hold over us the things we have done, to make us pay for our mistakes, to remind us of our failures, to insist that we can never be in a relationship with him because of who we are and the sins we have perpetrated. Jesus would have every reason to say to us “I don’t want to forgive. I am too angry. There is no going back. What is done is done.”
But instead, as he hung on the cross, crucified by the people he was there to save, he said “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:24)." Jesus walked down that other path, the path of forgiving the inexcusable. And then he turned back, and he looked at you, and he said “follow me.”
The way of Jesus is the way of forgiveness.
In the gospel of Matthew, chapter 16 it says “ Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” The only way you can pick up the cross is to put down your sword. It is time to unclench our fists. It is time to lower our voices. It is time to put down our swords and pick up the cross. It is time to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and forgive the inexcusable. It is time not because the past can be rewritten but because it’s time to get to work on the future that God has prepared.
The only way out of the mess we are is forgiveness.
And church, it must start with us. It must start today.