Each week Pastor Sarah offers a devotional reflection to connect with the South Shore UMC Family. Use this entry as a way to prepare your heart and mind for worship. See you Sunday!
Sunday's Scripture ~ John 17:6-19.
Devotional Scripture ~ Matthew 6:12.
This should come as no surprise - and yet it is still very much surprising - Jesus' words are powerful. Here, in the prayer that Jesus' taught when asked how we ought to pray he includes these words,
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
I like to be forgiven. We like to be forgiven.
And I like forgiveness to be swift...but geez...I sure can take my time in forgiving.
It is not my best quality.
And for that reason, Jesus' words are powerful...and shocking. Forgive me, Jesus. And Jesus responds - asking - expecting - And Sarah, how are you doing on forgiving others...because the second necessitates the first.
This is one of several times in the Gospels that we experience the power of Jesus' words and begin to grasp the power that we have through our relationship with Jesus. In a later conversation with Peter as Jesus presents him the keys to the Kingdom, our Lord says, "whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Mt 16:19). Whatever we bind - whatever we loose through our words, actions, relationships, investments - what happens here has eternal effects in heaven.
Friends, we have responsibilities. Our Jesus desires us to be responsible - for ourselves and in our relationships with others.
If we want to be forgiven, then we better be about the business of forgiving. If we want our world to be bound in kindness, generosity, and joy, then we better be about the business of curating those behaviors in our own lives. If we want our world to be free of judgment, bitterness, and divisiveness, then we better be about the business of culling those behaviors from our own lives.
Does this sound hard? Yes. Yes it does.
Can we do hard things? Yes. Yes we can. Because of the power of Jesus' Spirit with us and within us.
When we forgive and are forgiven, we come in contact with our God's refining fire that takes what was and turns it to ash - to dust - and then with God's Spirit beneath us, we rise from those ashes - that dust - redeemed and new.
I love these words from Rev. Jan Richardson describing this moment,
So let us be marked not for sorrow. And let us be marked not for shame. Let us be marked not for false humanity or for thinking we are less than we are
But for claiming what God can do within the dust, within the dirt, within the stuff of which the world is made...*
It is that space of God claiming and our re-claiming that we begin co-creating with God once more. It is then that the 'slate is blank' and we decide what we bind and loose. God is our guide and companion; God will not compel.
What we decide, we decide.
Because of our relationship with God, we can hope. Because of our relationship with God, God hopes we are responsible...and that what we decide - as a result of our forgiveness and being forgiven - will be for the good of all.
Reflection: How has God been gracious to forgive you? What area(s) in your life do you still need to ask for God's forgiveness? Write a prayer to God asking God to extend God's mercy and grace.
Prayer: "Crown him the Lord of peace, whose power a scepter sways from pole to pole, that wars may cease, and all be prayer and praise. His reign shall know no end, and round his pierced feet fair flowers of paradise extend their fragrance ever sweet."** Amen.
*Rev. Jan Richardson, Circles of Grace 89-90.
**”Crown Him With Many Crowns,” The United Methodist Hymnal 327.
***Devotional Resource: The Weekly Prayer Project by Scarlet Hiltibidal