ice cream cones, beer mugs, and grudges – forgiveness. Sermon on Matthew 18.15-35

I used to be proud of this talent I had as a kid. My first job was making soft serve ice cream cones at Dorney Park in Allentown. I was good at it. Pretty quickly I learned how to hold and fill 5 ice cream cones in one hand. But then a few years later, I saw this. This is a beer mug from the Hofbrau Haus in Munich, and I saw ladies in dirndls carrying filled beer mugs 2, 3, 4, 5 and even 6 of these in one hand.

Do you think there’s something in my, in the German heritage or some genetic trait that has gifted myself and others with this amazing ability to grab and hold on. Now-a-days, I don’t have too much use of my ice cream cone grip, but I think that talent still runs through my veins. You see, while a name can easily slip from my mind, I don’t forget the slightest slight or insult. I don’t let go of when someone’s done me wrong. All sorts of past hurts are locked up here safe and sound, tight and bound — like steel trap. Don’t worry, almost none of the sins against me have gotten out. They are all safe right here, as long as I don’t bring them out, as long as I don’t talk about them. I’m too good of a Lutheran for that.

For Jesus, he was not a Lutheran. The proof is right here. We read it in the Gospel this morning. When someone hurts me, sins against me, Jesus wants me to talk about what happened.

I can do that. Actually, I’m pretty good about talking about who hurt me; I have absolutely no problem picking up the phone, I have no problem sitting down with someone and telling them all about what so and so did to me, or said to me, or said about me. Maybe that’s why I keep such a firm grip on all these incidences. After all, I have to have something to talk about. Didn’t some wise person say if you don’t have anything nice to say–no wait that’s not right. Anyway, I think it’s a good idea to keep those injustices and injuries at the ready, so that I can reach deep into the recesses of my heart, I can grab a hold of that hurt, pull it out and show it off.

So yes, I can talk about the person, but to talk to them. Well, Jesus that’s a whole other matter. And Bless your heart Jesus, but that’s just not nice. And I am way too nice to ever actually say anything face to face. That could cause all sorts of uncomfortable conflict. Nope definitely not nice, and although I wasn’t raised in Minnesota or Wisconsin, I was raised to be nice.

So no Jesus, I think I’m just keep on holding to all that hurt. It may make my raise my blood pressure. It might make me bitter, and some may call it being stubborn or pigheaded. Like I said at the beginning I’m pretty good at holding on.good at it. I call it being safe. You see, if I let go any of that stuff. I just don’t know what could happen. I know what it’s like to be angry, I know how to be sad, and resentful. I know how to hold onto and carry a grudge, and I am so talented not just one, but I can handle a bunch, lots and lots of them. Jesus wants me to let it go, just like that song from Frozen, Let it go, let it go. But I’m not Elsa or Olaf, and I don’t like the cold. I like the warm heat of my anger, the little furnace of fury that can get lit in here. Like I said, I know how that feels. It’s comfortable, it’s what I’m used to, even if it doesn’t feel good. Even if it’s not good for my soul.

I have read the story, the parable Jesus tells, I know the 70 x 7 means not a real mathematical number, but a way to say to completeness–. I know Jesus and your church is all about not the base but the grace, bout the grace.

But forgiveness well that’s hard, and deep in my heart well, I think I’m maybe a bit too lazy, or I’m a bit too scared or weak. Forgiveness is for the strong.

Forgiveness is real for this man named Hector. Hector has shared his story several times. I don’t know if Hector is still alive. He served in WWII, then in the 60’s he and his wife and daughters moved to Atlanta to be part of the Civil Rights Movement. There he met this little girl named Patricia. Patricia didn’t have a great home life, and so she turned to Hector and his family. After awhile Hector and his family claimed Patricia as part of the family, and she moved to Tennesee with the them. Years later after Patricia graduated high school, she moved back to Atlanta. It was there that a man, robbed, assaulted, and killed Patricia. I could hear the pain, the heartbreak in Hector’s voice as he told the story of her murder. He recounted how he swore he would kill the man who hurt his daughter. He talked about years after still being plagued by visions of what had happened to Patricia. When the man was being sentenced Hector as the victim’s father spoke about his pain, but he also prayed for the peace of God, for himself, his family, and even for Ivan–that’s the name of the man who had killed his daughter. It wasn’t till years later In fact, in the story he shared he told about how he and his wife eventually sent the man, the perpetrator a Christmas package. It didn’t happen overnight, and we can not and should never say that the murder was forgotten. The man will be in prison for the rest of his life. Hector even thought questioned what, why in the world. Hector and his wife would visited Ivan, and eventually come to hug and hold the man who murdered his daughter. It didn’t come easily, but as a Quaker Christian forgiveness was real to Hecto. IAnd when Hector realized that he was forgiving Ivan, he said it felt like a great weight was lifted from him.

Years later Hector attended a group meeting of families who have been victims of violence. He remembers hearing a woman tell the story of her brothers murder. He remembers how angry she was, how although the crime had happened over a decade ago, her anger was fresh and hot and burning. Hector remarked that to him, that was no way to live. And it is true that forgiveness does not mean to stay in an abusive relationship. God desires reconciliation and not victimization.

I could say that my pains, pale in comparison to Hectors, but they are still mine. Or maybe I am still their’s. maybe it isn’t me that’s holding them; maybe they are holding me. Maybe I am letting the pain, the anger, the hurt hold me down, instead of allowing God’s grace to really grab a hold of me, and free me. Maybe I shouldn’t be so proud of what I can handle, but proud of the hands that hold me, and more than that proud of the hands that hold us all. It may not always feel good, it may be scary, but it is why we are here and it is as Jesus tells how we are to be here, how we are to be the church together, how we are to relate to one another–not by anonymous surveys, not by some people are saying, but by actually sitting down, being and talking together, that is being the church, being with one another–to speak with and not about one another with love and forgiveness. Let me be the first to say it may not feel nice and easy. But true strength doesn’t come from holding on. It comes from the love of God that Jesus gives and shows us. Forgiveness forms us, forgiveness frees us. If there is anything for us to stubbornly hold on to it is that the heart and soul of our faith is forgiveness; and that’s what we should never let go, because God never let’s go of us. Amen.

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