Here is the video for our worship service for September 13, 2020, the 15th Sunday after Pentecost.
The bulletin can be found here.
As we have been doing in past weeks, if you wish to participate fully in the worship service, please have a bowl of water, some small food and drink, and a lit candle in your space. These are all optional, but meant to help you in your worship experience. And you can find the full sermon manuscript below the video.
Have a wonderful week!
O Lord by the power of your Spirit, may our ears minds, and hearts be open to receive the Word you have for us this day, that our lives be fuelled by your grace, mercy, and steadfast love, through Jesus our Lord. Amen.
Every few months I update you all on how long this pandemic has been going, and today marks the 27th Sunday that we have been worshipping online. Twenty seven. That is pretty significant. Not just because 27 is a combination of 2 prime numbers, 2 and 7, and you all know that prime numbers make everything significant, but because we have just crossed the halfway mark of a year. It’s been exactly half a year since we’ve been at this. I know a lot of people out there would be like, well yeah, obviously it would go this long. But there are still a bunch others who would say “Still?!?” and had expected the pandemic to have been over months ago.
But whatever your thoughts are on the length of this thing, one thing seems clear to me, and that is that no one is happy about it at all. There are varying degrees of unhappiness however. I mean there are those who are just displeased with the inconvenience. There are some who are sad and perhaps scared with how the economy has gone and where it is going. There are others who are depressed because their whole life was thrown on its head, having lost their job or worse. But I think the most extreme case of unhappiness throughout this pandemic is that anger, that indignation, that absolute livid “the whole world is against me” feeling that comes from those who don’t think we should wear masks.
Do a quick search for “anti-mask” or “corona mask” or just “Karen covidiot” (which by the way, I don’t like the term nor do I like highlighting it, but just do the search and you’ll know what I mean). You’ll find story after story and video after video of people just absolutely out of their minds because they are so angry with being asked to wear a mask, or told to wear a mask, or as they put it, forced to wear a mask against their constitutional rights.
Many of us on this side of mask wearing might scoff and shake our heads and frankly would like to give their heads a shake. We might laugh and ridicule or in my case, actually feel physically sick with seeing how a human being can treat other human being for just doing their job. Or perhaps the worst case scenario, we might even secretly wish that the anti-maskers would get sick, catch this coronavirus and so maybe then they would finally get the seriousness of it all.
And I understand. I don’t agree, but I understand. Oh, actually I mean I understand the antimasker’s anger. Well, I understand the anti-antimasker’s anger too, but I’m just saying that I understand both sides of that angry coin, mostly because anger is anger is anger.
I mean really.
Anger is the same even though they have different roots. The feeling is the same even though they have different causes. The indignation of injustice is the same, even when they have very different rationales.
And what also is the same from this is the perhaps unrecognised need to forgive whatever it is that is angering you because really, that stuff will eat you alive.
“How often should I forgive,” Peter asks Jesus, “as many as seven times?” Embarrassingly enough, Peter was probably being generous here. He was probably inflating his max forgiveness count to make it sound like he was more gracious than the other disciples, also number dropping 7, that perfect number that is used in the bible so often (and also a prime number). And we might laugh at Peter’s short-sightedness, we might chuckle at how his question is made to look so silly by Jesus’ response, we might even think that we can totally forgive way more than that probably like 7 and a half to 8 times, if they were sorry enough.
The thing is that I think Peter’s very honest question here highlights something that is innate in many, if not all humans. I think that Peter’s question is only speaking honestly out of our human condition. Peter’s question here is a question that many of us are probably thinking but never had the guts to actually say out loud (because we’re probably embarrassed about it too). The truth is that deep down, we all like to be angry.
It’s not that we look for reasons to be angry, but many of us get angry because there is a lot to be angry about, especially during this pandemic. Many of us were disallowed to go to work, school, and of course, church. Many of us haven’t been able to travel, to visit family or friends, or even sit down at a restaurant for a bite to eat. Many of us had our summers ruined, travel plans cancelled or postponed, and even weddings had to be changed into something that the couple never would have imagined. And on top of it all, we have to wear this uncomfortable, dorky looking cloth over our mouths and noses that doesn’t even really do anything for us?
So yeah, I understand the anger. To a broad extent, I share it. The world never has a shortage of things that make us angry, even outside of this pandemic. And so we want to stand up and fight. We want to protest. We want to make those who we feel have hurt us to pay and at very least feel that same hurt that we felt. And if we are honest, that feels right. It feels right to be angry to the point of action. It feels right to be angry and exact revenge and retribution. It feels right to be angry when someone wrongs us.
But that kind of anger grows and festers and like I said, eats us up inside. That kind of anger, that if left untreated, will eventually turn into hate.
Hate, unless we forgive.
See, Jesus knows that we like to be angry. Jesus knows that to us, it feels right to be angry in the face of things that anger us. Jesus knows that it is all too easy to justify our anger in the face of injustice, oppression, and evil. But Jesus says that it is also right, imperative even, to forgive.
Continuing with his instruction from last week’s conflict resolution chat (which by the way, if you missed my sermon on it, you can just go back a week and check that bad boy out), Jesus tells his disciples and us that there shouldn’t be a limit to our forgiveness. The parable he uses is a man forgiven of an insurmountable debt, something like a gazillion dollars, and in turn is unable to forgive like a few hundred bucks. That man of course is thrown into the prison of his own anger, hatred and inability to forgive. Or perhaps, that prison’s walls are lined with the man’s own inability to recognise the amount or lavishness of the forgiveness shown to him, which as we just heard, was a lot.
I mean it would make sense that if you are forgiven of much, that you’ll be able to forgive much. But if you can’t, then maybe you haven’t seen how much you’ve been forgiven. Or perhaps even more sinister, you haven’t learned how to forgive yourself.
See that is the lesson that I believe that Jesus is teaching his disciples and us over these past couple weeks. Often we think that forgiveness is for the other, that the other is getting a benefit because we are being the bigger person, that the other should at least do something to deserve the forgiveness that we so graciously give them. But while some of that might be true, I think Jesus is saying that forgiveness is actually a lot more for ourselves than it is for the other. Forgiving the other brings healing within yourself. Absolving the other from that hold they have on your mind and emotions gives you space to patch that wound up. Forgiving the other is being able to recognise that we all make mistakes, we all mess up, we all fall short in some way. And while some of us mess up a lot worse than others, we all still qualify for God’s forgiveness, and thus should qualify for our own.
This isn’t to say that we should leave crimes unpunished or there is no place for law and order, but it is to say that we needn’t punish others with our grudges and public rants and meltdowns. It’s to say that forgiveness is the beginning of our own healing and the healing of our relationships. It’s to say that it isn’t just a benefit for them but also for us, and thus for all of society and community. For we are all connected and part of this mosaic of life and our actions will, in turn, affect others. And when we forgive, when we reconcile, when we make amends with those who have harmed us, the community is restored all we are all better for it.
What an incredible insight that Jesus gives us. What an incredible gift that has been given to us by God. What an incredible love, one that is abounding and steadfast, slow to anger and full of compassion and mercy, that has been shown to us and empowers us to reflect it on all whom we meet.
This season after Pentecost, may we continue to love and forgive our neighbours, friends, and even enemies, just as God has chosen to graciously love and forgive and welcome us, shortcomings and all, as God’s own beloved children. Thanks be to God. Amen.