Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Who is this who even forgives sins?

Who is this who even forgives sins?
In our Gospel story for this morning I think we would like to think of ourselves as Jesus.
The truth is that far too often we are more like the Pharisees.
Too often we are the ones who are looking with judgmental eyes on those around us.
Too often we are able to see the grace of God in our lives but are unable to allow its possibility in the lives of others.
We seem unable to believe that Jesus forgives sins.
All sins.
Big sins and small sins.
What we end up with is a Church filled not with followers of Jesus Christ who are ready, willing, and able to see the wonder and beauty in God’s grace offered to all, but instead we end up with a Church filled with hypocrites.

Last week I was reading the book “what’s so amazing about Grace” by Phillip Yancey.
He tells the story of a prostitute who is down on her luck.
In desperation she goes to church to ask for help.
She tells the minister that she needs money so bad that she has been renting out her two year old daughter to men with sexual perversions.
The minister then suggest that perhaps she should come to church.
The woman looks him in the eye and says, “Church why would I go to church I feel bad about myself already.”
She knows that people at Church would judge her.
That Church is no place to find God’s grace.
That is sad to me.
And I know it is sad to many of you.

Jesus this morning teaches us by his actions and through a parable that there is no sin that cannot be forgiven.
In fact, the bigger the sin that is forgiven the greater the love one shows in their own lives.
“The one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”
This is what Church should be a place for sinners to come.
It is a place for the imperfect people of the world.
If you are perfect then you have no need to be here this morning.
This is the place we come to hear again that God forgives our sins.
However great they are God forgives them.
We have trouble with that because we like to play judge.
We like to have God measure up to our standards, and our idea of what is fair and just.
So grace gets put on the back burner for our righteous indignation.

I have a friend who was teaching and introduction to Christian history class at St. John’s University in Queens.
He asked me to come and give a lecture on Lutheranism.
I told the class that Luther’s great idea was that we are saved only by God’s grace and nothing else.
I asked the class to name some things that someone might do that would turn God grace away from them.
No I said God can forgive murder.
No God can forgive rape.
No God can forgive suicide.
I just want to be clear I am not saying that anyone should do any of these things.
I am not saying God wants us to do any of these things.
I am simply saying that God’s mercy and forgiveness does not conform to our view of what God should do.
Clearly the Pharisees thought that if Jesus was a true prophet he would have known what kind of woman this was that was washing his feet with her tears and hair.
But it was preciously because Jesus knew what kind of woman she was that he was welcoming her to the table.
Jesus was showing us the mercy of God.
Jesus was showing us the depths of God’s forgiveness.

After the lecture one of the students came up to me and said, “I think that was a bunch of hooey of course we need to act right for God to love us.”
I think that is often our reaction to the radical nature of God’s love that it does not sound right to us.
That it is just off of our “common sense”.

While at the synod assembly I was hanging out with some other pastors.
We were looking at the indoor pool at the Hotel we were staying at that was in the middle of the hotel rooms.
There was this sign that said if you went into the pool area between certain times an alarm would sound.
We started to wonder if that was true, or just a scare tactic.
When the security guard came around we asked him if it was true.
Then we started talking.
He asked us what it meant to be Lutheran.
We told him that it Luther believed that there was nothing we could do to earn God’s love.
That we didn’t have to do anything to be right with God.
That everything in our lives depended on God’s grace.
The security guard looked at us and said, “that ain’t right!”
Indeed it is so radical a notion that it does seem crazy.

It is the same reaction that the Pharisees had to Jesus.
Jesus who would eat with anybody.
Jesus who would allow a woman, a sinner, to touch him.
That Jesus would offer such a person forgiveness seemed out of whack.
It did not seem right to them.

I would say that to us to it does not seem right.
That our sense of what it fair and right is not always what God thinks about it.

We sometimes act like David.
Who is a sinner, and did a horrible thing, but cannot see it.
We act indignant when we hear of others sins.
How could they have done such a thing!!
Can you believe that!!!
I would never have done such a thing!!!
And yet it is Nathan saying to him, “you are the man!”
We are the people.
We are the sinners.
And thanks be to God that Jesus Christ forgives those sins.
Hopefully we who have sinned deeply also love deeply.
There is that old saying, “the church is not a museum for saints, but a hospital for sinners.”
We would do well to remember that we are the sinners.
We are the man or the woman!

Yes Jesus does have the ability to forgive sins.
Today if you are in hearing this sermon that is the message I want you to leave with.
God through Jesus has forgiven your sins.
Jesus Christ has shown God’s mercy to you.
And if you believe that then it is not such a far stretch to believe that Jesus also forgives those that are prostitutes, those that have cheated on the spouses.
Those who have committed murder, rape, or any other heinous crime.
Those who have done anything that you and I might find destitable.

I think that is a powerful witness in this world.
It is counter-cultural.
Because much of what we think and believe is based on the law.
It is based on results.
It is based on measuring ourselves against everyone else.
Here is the place we come not to measure ourselves, but to throw ourselves at the feet of our savior.
Here we come not to pretend but to admit who and what we are.
Here we come not as we ought, but as we are.
Here we come to have Jesus say to us, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Today let us go in peace knowing that our sins are forgiven and we are saved by Jesus Christ.
Let us offer that same grace to those we meet in the world, so that we might be a witness to God’s amazing grace. Amen

1 comment:

  1. It is written: A woman shall compass a man and create a new thing in the earth (Jer 31:22), the man is Satan(Isa 14:16), the new thing is turning the hearts of the fathers to the children. Satan has deceived the whole world (Rev 12:7), until the heel of time(Gen 3:15). Check out the bruising of Satan at or please read all posts to see the whole picture