the tentmaker

daily thoughts on the common lectionary

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Location: Sharpsburg, Georgia, United States

"...because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together — by trade they were tentmakers." Acts 18:3. Tentmaker is a title taken by bi-vocational pastors. As such, I am both a pastor and a project manager. I am a pastor of a local congregation of moderate, accepting and affirming people who worship in the Baptist tradition. We call our church "Hope Memorial Baptist" and we are about 40 in number. I am also a project manager of major construction projects for the State of Georgia. My home and church is in rural Coweta County, between Peachtree City and Newnan, with a mailing address of Sharpsburg, Georgia.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Sunday 9/11/05 - Year A - Proper 19

Note: I was completing this post last night. When I went to publish it, the board was down for maintenance and I lost all of my thoughts. From now on, I'll probably compose in my text editor then copy and paste here. That way, I won't run the risk of losing my creative work. What you see here is an attempt to recover and recreate what I lost last night.

Matthew 18:21-35

Forgiveness. How it rolls off the tongue. How easy it is to say, how hard it is to have for someone who has done you wrong. Hardness of heart is a state that takes an enormous amount of energy to sustain, yet we'd rather hold on to our grudge than relax, let go and let God...

I have a friend, or rather he has one and I do not. I hurt him. I violated a sacred trust that he had in me and he now refuses to forgive me. I feel the guilt for the deed done. But I feel the hardness of his heart more.

I have a former church member, who hurt me. I did not forgive him while he was here. I find it so very hard to say his name and the word love in the same sentence.

Hardness of heart is a lump in the throat. It is a pain in the pit of the stomach. It is common. It is rampant. And it ought not to be.

The Lord has given us a very plain example. While on the cross, after being beaten, mocked and crucified, he said "Father, forgive..."

In his exuberance, Peter, who wanted to please his Lord, asked how many times he should forgive his brother. The Mosaic law required three times. I'm sure Peter thought he was being very generous to more than double the height of the bar. Jesus was not impressed, and he answered, "Seventy times seven."

Then he tells this parable about forgiveness. If we want to be forgiven ourselves for our own transgressions, we must be willing to forgive others their transgressions against us. How does the Lord put it? "Our Father... forigive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."

Holding a grudge eats into the very soul of a man. It spreads it's poison throughout his system like a cancer. He grows iritible, hateful, impatient, rude.

To ask for forgiveness means that, first, we must admit we are wrong. "Of course I'm not wrong! Why, the very idea!" It's true. We don't want, or we can't, admit we are wrong. It's that old pride thing.

This Sunday is the anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center and its surrounding neighborhood in New York city. Since that event, the heart of the nation, both corporately and individually, has been turned toward revenge, not forgiveness.

It seems unpatriotic, almost un-American, to suggest that we should forgive those people who committed such a horible act of violence against us. But if the statistics are to be believed, we have inflicted much more death and destruction on Afghanistan and Iraq than was inflicted on us on September 11, 2001.

Our national heart has turned to hatred, not just at the radical few, but at the Muslim community as a whole. The progression of emotion from fear to hatred is sinful, even if it is natural. We can't help it, of course, because we are human. But we can ask God for forgiveness. And God is, and will be, forgiving. And that brings us back the parable, doesn't it?

In Matthew 5:38-42, which is part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells his disciples, as he also tells us:
38"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' 39But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

But we are more prone to the old way, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” Our first reaction is revenge. But, among other things that God did not give the lower creatures, He gave us discernment. He gave us the ability to stop and think. We are not bound by instinct. We have the power to choose our response.

Jesus goes on to say in the Sermon on the Mount,

43"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The choice is yours, Revenge or Forgiveness, You Choose


Blogger Joshua said...

A terrific thought for me for today. A national move to forgiveness, on many different topics, both internal and around the world, seems so far away. I know that all things are possible with God. Yet - can we?

Thanks for sharing.
P.S. - I found your blog through

9/11/2005 9:41 AM  

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