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March 27, 2022 Fourth week in Lent: Repentance and forgiveness, by the Rev Canon Fred Miller

Mar 27, 2022

In the Name of the Spirit among us Who is One, Holy, and Living within each one of us, drawing us into community, calling us to be one, and sharing love with us all.

Can you imagine being invited to eat with people who cheat and those who extort money from the vulnerable, and the others coming will be those who are known publicly to have committed wrongs of many sorts, thieves, etc.? Jesus was being criticized for welcoming those undesirable. 

Some of you have seen the movie Schindler’s List from 1993 almost 30 years ago. A person of business looking to make his fortune in Krakow, Poland from a war. WWII just started with the invasion of Poland. He joins the Nazi party out of political expedience. He seizes on an opportunity to wine and dine the Nazi leadership in Krakow to foster his business. He winds up the cheating military industrial complex, those Nazi officials who had oversight of munitions, but paying those same officials for their inconvenience of being cheated. It was nothing personal, just business. So Schindler is welcomed among the elite Nazi hierarchy and dangerous political, & military social circle. 

As business continues Schindler is transformed, realizing that Jews are being evicted from their homes, & all their worldly belongings stolen. Jews are violently abused, imprisoned, & exterminated. Schindler sees something he can do. He does not attempt to transform his company of Nazi officers into good people, instead he uses their greed & their hate to his advantage, and to the advancement of his cause to save people from death & peril. Schindler is in no position to outwardly oppose the Nazis, but he uses his position & influence in the midst of war, terror, & mounting death. One could say that Schindler ate with sinners & the worst of society, but the Jews whose lives he saved counted him a hero.

Jesus showed us how to draw others close at table fellowship because through table fellowship lives can be transformed. Jesus uses a story to demonstrate his point of transformation, but he also shows us the flip side of transformation. Those who chose not to change for the better, like the one son, or not to forgive, not to open their hearts to love like the other son, which left him literally out in the cold, left out of the party celebration, and left out of his father’s love who cared for him, his family who wished to embrace him. Amy in her sermon two weeks ago spoke of forgiveness and how we are forgiven even as we attempt to forgive others. That forgiveness frees us, leads us to how it is done. Forgiveness frees us to forgive others. 

This lesson brings to us how important it is to forgive. Forgiveness is a power of God to release the wrongdoing, the sin from humanity as a whole, and from individuals like me, like you.

This past week in 1967 Martin Luther King set out to march in protest of the Vietnam War and helped transform America to her moral center. America is still wrestling with how to forgive our leaders & the leadership of that country that sent so many to die. 

I used this story in my volunteer work at the YWCA not 20 blocks from here. Another Domestic Violence Advocate had a client on the phone crying feeling guilty because she could not forgive her partner, I don’t remember whether they were married, and it makes no difference when dealing with Domestic Violence, nor does gender. It happens, it is abuse, it needs to stop. Those who have heard me before might say, here he goes again, on and on about the YWCA. It’s how I spend my life, and how the love Jesus shares, enters my daily living.

As I said another Domestic Violence Advocate spoke to the client feeling guilty about not forgiving. This coworker knew it was well known by everyone that I am a pastor, so she asked if I would speak with her because the client keeps bringing up that she is Christian and Christians forgive. I used this story that I hoped she might remember, but I retold the story briefly to remind her. Afterwards I said the one son left and lived a life of self centeredness, taking advantage of others, taking all for himself. One day he turned around, that’s what the church calls repentance, he turned around acknowledging his prideful self-centered journey, and went back to where he might find compassion. While he was still in the midst of destructive behavior, the younger son couldn’t see his own harmful path. Your partner is still on that destructive path, to harm those near and dear as well as wounding himself. Should he turn around completely and this is where it gets tricky because so many claim repentance only to hurt others repeatedly. Many survivors of abuse need to remove themselves from that relationship entirely, and never go back. That is not our story, so please understand Domestic Violence, like the other violence of Sexual Assault & Human Trafficking is not being addressed here. I am addressing repentance and forgiveness. Our story is a story of one who repented, who turned around. His older brother could not forgive. His example is not one to follow. His younger brother who repented shows us we can also turn around from our destructive path whatever it may be. His father is the one who shows us the example of forgiveness of one who turns from a destructive path. Although the younger son still had a long journey to put his life in a good way, the father forgave the younger son and opened a vision for the older son to see. In these words we hear the words we so long to hear, along with advice in which to hold onto, “You are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. We had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.'”

May it be so.

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