Scripture: Romans 14:10-12; Matthew 18:21-35
Yes, I know these are the same readings as last week! And that you've already heard a sermon on them!
But ... anytime we start talking seriously about forgiveness in the church, our ears perk up, questions start to emerge, and serious discussion begins. So when a member invited me to consider staying with the subject and pushing it (or following it) a little farther this week, after some initial hesitation it seems I cannot but say yes in some way.
Not because I am an expert on forgiveness; rather, precisely because I am as unschooled in it as anyone.
I doubt this is uncommon in the church. How often have I heard -- and you felt, that the church can be a fairly unforgiving place? That we're not always practiced at forgiving one another when it really counts? That any one of us can sometimes go for a long time without feeling forgiven ourselves?
I suspect it's always been this way. Why else would Paul be so direct in his letter to the earliest church in Rome: "why do you pass judgement on your brother or sister?" he asks. Why else would the first-century church tell so many stories in the Gospels (like the whole of Matthew 18) about the disciples having to learn the fullness of forgiveness, if not because the church that followed them needs to learn that, too?
So, even though the sermon this week will not be a return to the readings above, I assume the liturgy will in some way carry echoes of some of my own questions and un-knowing about forgiveness, and my desire for us all to grow more fully into its mystery. I hope you bring your questions and desire as well -- not only to the liturgy, but to everything we do as church. Maybe it will be the start of a beautiful, faith-renewing, life-renewing, church-renewing conversation.