The Lighthouse Keeper

Greetings from Pastor Kerry, former pastor of Spring City UMC. This blog contains my sermon outlines and/or manuscripts from my pastorate among the people of Spring City PA, from 2006 to 2011. Pastor Dennis is now the lighthouse keeper. Come and worship on Sundays at 10:00 a.m.!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

On Forgiveness

October 8, 2006
from Ephesians 4:17-24 and Matthew 18:15-22

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." – Ephesians 4:31-32

"Then Peter came and said to him, “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." – Matthew 18:21-22

My sermon outline:

• Teacher and student walking down road, come to a stream where there is a woman unable to cross. Teacher carries the woman across stream and sets her down, and teacher and student go on their way. A mile later the student says “Teacher, why did you pick that woman up? We are not allowed to touch women!” Teacher replies “I set her down at the river’s edge; why are you still carrying her?”

• Nation has been shocked and horrified this week by the shooting in an Amish schoolhouse some 40 miles away. Charles Carl Roberts IV shot ten Amish girls on Monday, killing 5 of them before taking his own life.

• Marian Fisher (13), Anna May Stolzfusz (12), Naomi Ebersole (7), sisters Mary Liz and Lena Miller (8 and 7). Charles Carl Roberts IV.

• Emotions went from shock to stunned as we learned how the community responded immediately with forgiveness, setting up memorial funds for the gunman’s family and even attending his funeral yesterday. (over $500K has come in since the shooting, matched by Blue Cross)

• The faith and forgiveness demonstrated by the Amish has been astounding. They live the words we read from Eph 4:32: “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”

• Oddly enough I believe they are able to forgive so well 1) because of their separation from culture, 2) because of their absolute trust in the sovereignty of God, and 3) because they practice it.

• 1) We are Gentiles to the Amish, just as the Romans were Gentiles to Jews... We are foreigners, and in order to preserve their faith, generations ago the Amish decided to not “live as the Gentiles live...” (as Ephesians tells us). Perhaps they recognized the potential that technology and material goods have for separating us from God and each other, so they took the Bible and drew a line on the ground and said “this line we will not cross... We would rather risk being different than letting something get in the way of God.”

• 2) There’s a trust in God the Amish have that is different than mine, that is different than many, a trust that says even a tragedy like this is God’s will, therefore they will abide by it and rejoice that their little girls have gone on to new life... because it is God’s will, they can forgive the killer. My own faith does not chalk this tragedy up to God’s will, for that would mean that God intended for this man Charles Roberts to be driven by the demons that tormented him, and that’s not the way I believe God works.

• 3) I believe the Amish are able to forgive so quickly and so well because they practice it... they learn it young and they learn forgiveness for small things so when big things come along their hearts already know how to forgive... Desiring all to know the fullness of God, they forgive all... the biblical maxim to “judge not lest ye be judged” is taken very seriously, as are Jesus’ words from our reading in Matthew today: “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven...”

• ...and that’s what forgiveness is, rather what it is not: forgiveness is releasing, is un-binding on earth...

• We can learn quite a bit from the Amish about what forgiveness is, and what it is not.

• Forgiveness is not condoning or approving of an action or behavior, but instead it is the conscious decision not to let said action or behavior come between a relationship. It is not saying “what you did is okay,” it is saying “I desire that not even this should separate us or cause me to treat you as less than human.”

• Forgiveness is unmerited undeserved grace; it can only be given and received, it cannot be sold or bought.

• Forgiveness is ceasing to feel resentment or anger towards the one who has offended you, it is ceasing to demand or maybe even desire the offender’s punishment (though it does not necessarily negate the sentence the offender may have to serve: Representative Mark Foley can be forgiven for his misconduct AND be kept from serving in public office or working with children) ... it is feeling compassion for the offender, recognizing their humanity.

• Forgiveness puts relationship first... it says “I will not allow this stumbling block to remain between us.” Unforgiveness fortifies the stumbling block, says “See? This shall be ever between us.”

Unforgiveness is a tumor, a cancer that eats at a person from the inside out. It hardens the heart and blackens the soul, and its fruit is death. Unforgiveness holds onto sin, holds it over the sinner’s head so that when you look at that person that’s what you see. Thank God that as forgiven sinners when God looks at us he sees Christ.

• In Matthew 5 Jesus says that forgiveness and reconciliation between people must come before we can truly offer ourselves to God: “So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)

• Forgiveness in this body the church requires that we get rid of grudges that keep us from embracing others and God fully... Christ the head of the body wants a whole body, not a body eaten by the cancer of unforgiveness...

• So in order that we might be able to fully embrace God and others, in order that we might be cleansed from every kind of impurity and be renewed in the spirit, let us examine our hearts and see what unforgiveness lies within, and let us “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday: Cool and clear. 66 in worship.


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