FIRST UMC – NEBRASKA CITY
1ST SUNDAY IN LENT
SUNDAY MARCH 10TH 2019
TEXTS: LUKE 23: 32 – 34; MATTHEW 18: 21 – 35
THEME: FORGIVENESS – FIRST MILE MIRACLE
This year’s Lent season we will be working on uncovering Seven-mile Miracle which are the Seven words that Jesus taught us before he died. The seven miles also reminds us of the disciples who were going home from Jerusalem to Emmaus and Jesus joined them. They invited Jesus to their home thinking he was a stranger who needed a place to sleep overnight before he would continue with his journey the following day. But when this stranger broke bread with them their eyes were opened and the stranger was Jesus. Jesus disappeared but they took off to Jerusalem to break the News to the disciples and the distance from their home to Jerusalem was seven Miles. Seven is a perfect number (holy) in the bible (7 days of creation, 7 days of the week, 7 deacons….) We will be guided by a Lenten study by Steven Furtick: Seven -Mile Miracle: Experiencing the Last Words of Christ as Never Before. Published by Multnomah Books 178, Colorado Springs CO. Some of the small groups are studying the same you can join them at 9:00AM or 11:15AM every Sunday morning. On Wednesdays at 6:15PM after meal we are doing another Lenten Study which Dorthea and I are leading called, “Deeper Connections: The Last Days of Jesus” by Matt Williams (General Editor), Publ. by Rose Publishing 2016. I would invite you to join us on Wednesdays for this study.
Let us turn to our focus for today first mile which is forgiveness. Forgiveness does not happen easily or without pain. We forgive people because of many things that have happened. We forgive because people have wronged us, wronged the people we love, acted in ways that have hurt people and many more. Forgiving is a choice one has to make. It is never easy and it comes with cost. Our challenge this morning is to look at forgiveness using Jesus lens and find ways that we can live in the spirit of forgiving and forgiveness. The big question that I would like us to attempt to answer using our study guide is, “Why do we Forgive?”
- Forgive because it’s the right thing: People hurt other people for different reasons that they justify in their action. Other times people hurt others without intending to do that. In this case sometimes people say hurtful things without knowing those words hurts. Other times people say or do things out of ignorance. While on the extreme part people hurt others intentionally just to get their reaction or as a revenge try to get even. The human way of dealing with hurts regardless of what they are is to seek revenge but Jesus is teaching us a new thing. Forgive because is the right thing. Jesus tells the story of the man forgiven 10 thousand talents ($530,000.00) and yet the same person could not forgive the person who owned him hundred Denarii ($16.00) (Matthew 18:21-35). The important thing to point out here is the one forgiven much needed to have a greater obligation of wanting to forgive the one who owned him less. Mercy is closely related to forgiveness. When God has mercy on us His mercy moves Him to forgive us. It is God who knows when to seek revenge on our behalf. “Beloved, never avenge yourselves but leave the wrath of God, for it is written, vengeance is mine, I will repay says the Lord.” Romans 12:19. Forgiveness never calls for one to be a door mart or be misused in way. We have to stand for what is right and speak our mind. At the same times we must be willing to let go and move forward.
- Forgiving sets us free: When we choose to forgive, we are allowing ourselves to be free. As long as we have not forgiven someone, they will always carry power over us for they control our reactions whenever they show up. They can easily make us change our plans of when to come or even our actions when we come, sometimes even how we react to other people around us. sometimes it is easy for our enemies to play this card against us for their own gain. God ultimate call is for us to live in peace and harmony as his children. We have also to remember that when we sin sometimes it’s not because we don’t know but we have no passion to want not to do it. Steven Furtick has this statement in his study that I agree with; ‘Forgiveness is setting a prisoner free and finding out the prisoner was me” (P.13). In forgiveness then we act defensively as well as offensively. Defensively as we forgive, we are trying to win the war and offensively we are trying to win the bitterness in our hearts. Unforgiveness if it continued without being acted upon it has potential to derail destinies and rob us the person that God created us to be. Since Jesus forgive us then we can go forth knowing that we are set free. This freedom comes by the redemptive blood of Jesus on the cross. To witness the words of forgiveness from Jesus were two criminals one crucified on the left and the other on the right with Jesus at the place call the skull I am sure they could not believe their ears.
- Forgive because Jesus forgave us: God was moved by love to send his only Son on this earth to save humanity. Jesus quickly realized humans’ actions can be evil as well as deadly. They can plan and follow through with their plan to make sure they accomplish what they intended. Sometimes it is the powerful that ignore the voice of the righteous in an aim to protect their place. This was very clear when it came to the death of Jesus on the cross. The political leaders of the day and the religious leaders of the time joined effort to make sure that Jesus the son of God was crucified. They used all the unorthodox methods and unjust process to achieve this goal of having Jesus crucified. What surprises us people of God are the first words of Jesus that came from his mouth. “Forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” But seriously, is true that everybody did not know what they were doing? Even the religious leaders? But Jesus chose to forgive them all. The first mile our faith journey should be walked through our willingness to forgive. We all yearn for God forgiveness and therefore we need to accord the same to other. Never forget the words in the Lord’s prayer, “forgive us as we forgive those who wrong us.” As you walk this first mile this lent look at your closet of life and see if there is somebody who awaits your forgiveness. It is never too late to forgive even those we love dearly and have betrayed us. Leave God to work on the payback for you because he knows the measure and the time to do it. By Jesus willing to offer this forgiveness even to those who knew what they were doing he demonstrated his grace to his people. Jesus extends the same inclusive mercy to us today.
Let us conclude this morning with the three questions that Steven Furtick ask in this study. Let go think about these three questions this week.
- What does forgiveness mean to you?
- How can you experience the full extent of God’s forgiveness?
- Who is God calling you to forgive today?