Scripture: Matthew 6:9-15
Sermon: “The Forgiven Forgive” by Pastor Todd Buurstra

Happy Anniversary!  As I’ve done for the last TWELVE years, I want to sit down to talk as if we were at our anniversary dinner about where we’ve been and where we’re going.  In doing so, I want to recover the Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors sermon that Irene drenched.   That is appropriate because we began our relationship flooded with Floyd in 1999, but even more so, because relationships don’t last unless they’re flooded in forgiveness.

I have things I regret about the last 12 years, don’t you?  I regret things I did, and things I didn’t do; things I said, and didn’t say.  You must regret some things, too.  For instance,

1)    I regret being too unprepared for our 2007 church plant, Ignite, and that the church and Mojicas had to pay a price.  (Stay tuned we are envisioning another one in the near future for which we are much better prepared because it is critical that healthy churches birth new ones to reach today’s increasingly un/de-churched neighbors!)

2)    I regret coming to NJ with such a judgmental attitude about “church-lazy Easterners” that my attitude nipped some folks’ faith in the bud.  (I am spending much time tweaking our church so that we help folks grow from unbelief to faith.)

3)    I regret being overly sensitive to criticism so that I flew off the handle to a few of you if you didn’t stroke my ego.  And yet, most of you are still here.  I’m forgiven.

Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Forgiveness recharges relational batteries.  Forgiveness is central to Jesus’ prayer since God sure added a lot of jerks to keep life interesting

Forgiveness distinguishes Jesus from all other religious leaders.  The Buddhists and Hindus focus on karma, which is basically the justice of reaping what you sow, so that you don’t kill a cow because it might be your drunk uncle.  Not much mercy there.  The Jews and Muslims talk about mercy, but focus more on justice, too, which is why they get bogged down in tit for tat legalism, so they can’t forget about 1948 and before!  To be fair, all four religions try to balance mercy and justice, but Jesus stands out.  Forgiveness outweighs justice for Jesus’ followers.

Take the Lord’s prayer.  Of the six petitions in the prayer, this one seems most important.  Why do I say that?   Because immediately following the prayer in Matthew, Jesus expands on  this petition,…  You can say that the forgiveness petition is the only one Jesus reinforced.

Then later in Matthew 18, Jesus tells the story of the servant who owed the king, roughly in our money, $10B.  Since he could never replay, the king forgave him.  Only to find that that very same servant went out to a guy who owed him our rough equivalent of $10K.  The forgiven servant got a lawyer and had his debtor thrown into jail?!  When the king heard about that he was outraged, and threw the forgiven in jail, as Jesus said God may do to the ungrateful among us.

But, Jesus’ supreme expression of forgiveness was on the cross.  There—for the leaders who had framed him, his followers who had stepped back to let the lies win, those soldiers who followed orders to nail him to the cross, for all of us—Jesus said,Father, forgive them…

So let’s start at Forgive us our debts. 17th century Puritan preacher, Thomas Watson, working from Jesus’ ch. 18 story, preaches that sin is the worst kind of debt for 4 reasons:

1)    We have nothing to pay—not a red cent—you cannot buy God’s love with good deeds;

2)    The debt is not against just anybody, but against the king

[of the universe]!

3)    And this debt keeps multiplying—

(So I feed the hungry, a selfless deed, but I do it because it makes me feel good—selfish!)

4)    Sin sends folks to the worst prison—hell.

But then the famed Puritan preacher gives 5 biblical metaphors to describe our forgiving God.

1) God takes away sin—God, the heavy lifter (Job 7:21),

2) God covers sin—God, the carpet layer (Psalm 85:2),

3) God blots out sin—God, the quicker, spill picker upper (Isaiah 43:25),

4) God scatters sin as a cloud—God, the cloud blower (Isaiah 44:22),

5) God casts out sin—God, the garbage man (Micah 7:19).

To the degree that we appreciate what God has done with our $10 B sin debt, we are

empowered to handle our $10K little debts.  Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

Scott Pontier from our Hope House gave me this neat article from Dr. Terry Hargrave entitled Balancing Concerns in Forgiveness.  From it I can simplify to say that there are two concerns that need always be balanced in forgiveness: love and power.  So if the abused daughter forgives Daddy but doesn’t tell an adult to hold him accountable, we have only love and no power.  On the other hand, if the angry son grows up to hit and steal from his elderly mother, we have only power and no love.  So forgiveness does not mean to let them continue to hurt you, and it also means that Jesus wants us to come to terms with the injustices done to us so that we don’t keep the cycle of injustice turning.  So the question to ask yourself in forgiveness is:

Have I let go of the pain enough to love, while hanging on to power enough to hold accountable?

You know how I know that I’m forgiven without you even needing to say it?  Our Last Supper with Zach, the night before we took him up to UMass, was at his favorite expensive restaurant, Char. In the middle of the calamari appetizer, of which I had none, he gets a call on his cell.  A couple of youth group kids want him to stop by.  They had a little, impromptu “going away party,” for him.  My heart was warmed.  Then over the next days several of you asked, How are you doing? You either have sacrificed your firstborn to the secular college gods, or can imagine what that must be like.  Here’s how I know I’ve been forgiven without you even saying anything, you love me.  I have said over and over over the last weeks/months leading up to this,

I couldn’t have picked a better church within which to raise my kids.

I mean it, and I intend to keep this church as great a place for you to raise your’s.  For as more and more kids are cut on the shards of broken community, Christ’s body stands as a community glued back together by forgiveness.  Thank you for your’s and I promise to keep extending mine.