Southern Heights Presbyterian Church

5750 South 40th Street - Lincoln, NE - 402-421-3704 Worship Sundays at 10:30

A loving and welcoming faith community located at 40th and Old Cheney Road in South Lincoln, Nebraska, Southern Heights Presbyterian Church is a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

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The Messiness of Repentance and Forgiveness

This past Sunday's sermon was a continued exploration of the forgiveness that we find in Christ. But this time, we took a look at what was, what is, required of us in return...and how often that's so hard, but healing, too. 

Since I am moving towards preaching "off script", the text you find below is a little more of an outline than a manuscript (maybe even an odd meld of the two), giving a general idea of where I was going as I preached. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts! 

 


The Messiness of Repentance and Forgiveness
Rev. Leanne Masters
Southern Heights Presbyterian Church
September 22, 2013

 

We’ve spent the better part of the last few weeks talking about the forgiveness that we can know in God, and the incredible healing that comes along with that forgiveness, reflecting a bit on what it means when we are told that, “anyone who is in Christ is becoming a new creation, the past is done and gone, and everything is becoming new.”

We’ve talked about how there is “nothing that we can do that can separate us from the Lord through Jesus Christ”, that we are never so lost that we can’t be found, and we are never so broken that we can’t be healed.

And with all of that, there comes an incredible feeling of peace and joy, knowing that, no matter who we are or what we have done, God loves us, accepts us, and brings us home.

Which is great and well and good and all...but now what? Are we to just bask in the warmth of the knowledge of forgiveness and go on our merry way? Or, in the light of all that we know in God, is there something more that’s required of us?

Now, before I go on, I feel the need to reiterate, and emphasize, that the grace of God is free, and available to all. There is nothing that we can do to make us “worthy” of God’s forgiveness...grace doesn’t come as a “Gift with Purchase”, there are no strings, there is no fine print...it is given, freely, and fully...

But, at the end of the day, I do believe that there is something that happens in us when we receive that grace, when we experience that forgiveness that does something in us...that urges us to react, to do and to be in response to what we have known and know in God.

And that something that happens in us calls us to repent, and also to forgive.  
We are called to repent:
We are called to recognize what it is that God has already forgiven us for...to name it and call it out in our own lives.
I have done this, I have said that, I have been this way...
Here is where I have found the great grace of God...

And I am sorry for what I have done.

But it doesn’t end there, because...truly repenting isn’t just saying, “I’m sorry...”
In 12 step programs, the 8th and 9th step speak of the process of repentance. The 8th step is becoming willing to make amends to those who have been harmed, and then the 9th step is actually going out and making those amends...where possible...where it won’t cause harm.

And that’s not just to God...but to others as well.

In repentance, to God and others, we find the healing of the forgiveness of God, in that we are able to let go of the past, embrace what is good...

As we are forgiven, we are called to “do right” by others, and seek their forgiveness.

And here’s where it gets messy...
Because the other part of that? We are called to forgive.
And forgiving is hard.
Because sometimes, we are profoundly hurt.
But in forgiving, we can find great peace.

Now, Must say: forgiving does not mean forgetting.
We cannot deny that things have happened. They have shaped us, and they are a part of who we are...
And forgiving does not mean allowing the person to hurt us again...

With those caveats in place... in forgiving those who have harmed us, we let go of the anger, the hurt, the resentment...all those things that build up inside of us.

Forgiving is part of the healing of the grace of God, in that we

It’s not easy, this forgiveness and repentance...and often involves tears and

But in the end, when we seek, and give, forgiveness, we see the face of God, the grace of God reflected in our words and in our actions, we see the building of the Kingdom, and we experience the peace of Christ in our lives and in our hearts.

Sisters and brothers, may you make amends for the harm that you have done, so that you may be healed from your brokenness...and may you forgive where you can the harms that have been done to you, so that you may be healed from your hurts and your injuries...and in all things, may you know and feel and experience the love and the peace of Christ.

“He has told you, human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.” — Micah 6:8 CEB