Living with Forgiveness
Based on Psalm 51 and Luke 5
From sermon delivered on March 6, 2016 by the Rev. Pamela A. Canzater
My sisters and brothers, how do we live with the forgiveness of Christ?
Hold onto that question as we recall how God was gracious to a man of the ancients. A man said to have inherited a handsome face, athletic body, a voice of song which was so pure, it gave sweet relief to those who were in pain.
This man, King David of Israel, had everything one could want, or hope for – his very title, "King of the Jews" broadcast to the known world that God was pleased with him. Yet, he fell from God's grace so utterly completely, lusting after another man's wife: the beautiful Bathsheba. As a result of his, rather their, adultery, she was at risk of dying for the sin of pregnancy with another man's child. It did not matter if the man was the "King of the Jews" – what mattered was the death sentence Bathsheba and David earned.
The sin of adultery was not enough for David. He added on murder as he had Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, killed in battle. Uriah was dead and the couple could marry, keeping their sin a secret. But there are no secrets from God. You can run, but you can’t hide! As their baby, conceived in sin, died, the prophet Nathan confronted the king with the litany of his sins, known to God. David then sought God’s forgiveness in the manner he knew best, in song. I share this contemporary reading of Psalm 51, David’s plea for forgiveness of adultery with Bathsheba:
Generous in love – God give grace! Huge in mercy – wipe out my bad record.
Scrub away my guilt, soak out my sins in your laundry. I know how bad I’ve been; my sins are staring me down.
You’re the One I've violated, and you’ve seen it all, seen the full extent of my evil. You have all the facts before you; whatever you decide about me is fair.
I've been out of step with you for a long time; in the wrong since before I was born. What you're after is truth from the inside out.
Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life. Going through the motions doesn't please you; a flawless performance is nothing to you.
I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don't for a moment escape God's notice.
How do we live with the forgiveness of Christ? Perhaps we recall one more from our Bible who has come to symbolize the common, everyday person who knew Jesus as a leader, teacher and giver of grace. Perhaps on our walk to the Cross during Lent we recall one who stumbled, and fell, into awareness of the greatness of his Rabonni.
Look at the story from Luke. Simon Peter heard the teachings of Jesus from the very lips of the man – still, when Jesus gave him a simple order to drop his nets, Peter doubted. He doubted, but he did it anyway. Jesus then gave Simon Peter and all who were there that day a tangible lesson on what it means to follow Christ, with nests full of God’s bounty so they could feed their families. Overcome with the enormity of his deeds, Peter declared himself unworthy of the attention, and fullness of God’s grace.
"Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!" Yet, Jesus loved this sinner anyway. Jesus knew the full scope of Peter’s cry, "I am a sinful man!" This would not be the first and only time Peter would fall short of living through his doubts in the power and love of God in the person and works of Christ Jesus – Peter would need the forgiveness of Jesus for the rest of his natural mortal life – for the rest of his life he would need to confess his sins, and be forgiven of them anyway.
And won’t we need to be forgiven of our sins? How do we live with the forgiveness of Christ? We pray. We hope to make our very lives a living, breathing, functioning prayer to Christ. In all aspects of our lives with one another we pray to be worthy of the cleansing, forgiveness of God’s grace, who sent His only begotten Son, that we might have everlasting life. We pray to be worthy of the days of Lent, as they unfold with the opportunity of added time of prayer. We acknowledge we all stand in the need of forgiveness – like David, and Simon Peter – every day of our lives, and here is a miracle of our faith: God loves us anyway!
We all stand in need of forgiveness of past promises we were unable to keep –God loves us any way!
We all stand in need of forgiveness for past impressions we acted upon – God loves us any way!
We all stand in need of forgiveness of for not following through with our best intentions – God loves us any way!
We all stand in need of forgiveness of being human, plain and simple – but God loves us any way!
We all have doubts that the work we do for the ministry of Christ may not succeed, but like Peter we learn this fact, doubt, but do it anyway! God WILL provide, in ways we may not comprehend, we do not need to fear, for Jesus is with us. Jesus, in the person of God, promises to all who trust him forgiveness and fullness of grace. As it says in the Statement of Faith of our Beloved Denomination, the United Church of Christ; we are promised “courage in the struggle for justice and peace, and the presence of Christ Jesus in trials and rejoicing, and eternal life in the realm of God, which has no end.