When I work with congregations experiencing conflict the Matthew 18 reading is one of the primary lessons we reflect on. Everyone acknowledges both the importance of forgiveness and the challenges of forgiving. One of the key aspects of forgiveness that needs to be upheld is accountability. It is one thing to love as God asks us to love and to forgive as Jesus describes. Yet neither love nor forgiveness mean failing to hold ourselves and others accountable for reconciliation, for changing behavior, for growing in maturity. True love includes holding myself and others accountable for hurtful words and behavior with the expectation that efforts will be made to make amends and behave in healthier, more mature ways that respect the dignity of others. It’s heady, heartfelt, difficult, and potentially transformational work when one strives for reconciliation. IMG_0024

There was, of course, no reconciliation between the Hebrews and the Egyptians in that race through the desert and the parted waters. And a pretty heavy dose of punishment from God, drowning the Egyptians as the waters rushed back. No conversation there about learning, growing, forgiving, reconciling, just protection and punishment. Last week I mentioned how people remember and tell different sides of the same story – how those who perpetrate violence, oppression, and injustice, remember what happened one way, while those who were the “victims” of oppression and injustice remember what happened another way. Who doesn’t want a punishing God reacting to oppression? I know I do. Every day since the late evening of Nov. 8 I have cried out for God to BE GOD!!!

Alas. God works through us. We have to do the hard work of containing and eliminating injustices and working to reconcile the wrongs of this world.

So. None of this is where I am actually going this week. What about you? Are you preaching on the RCL or the Narrative Lectionary? What readings are speaking to you? How is God speaking into your ear, your thoughts, and prompting you? Have you had the time, the space, the energy to listen this week?

This is the 11th Hour Preacher Party. We’re here all day to help, listen, pray with you, support you. Pull up a chair, grab a mug, and let’s party.

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The Rev. Terri C. Pilarski is an Episcopal priest serving in Dearborn, MI. A member of the RevGalBlogPals and blogger since 2006, she blogs at seekingauthenticvoice.blogspot.com

 

RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

 

31 thoughts on “11th Hour Preacher Party: Forgive

  1. Hello fellow partying preachers! Thank you Terri for hosting. I have to attend a presbytery meeting two hours away tomorrow so I finished my draft today. I’ve had several people ask me if there is conflict in the church because of the recent conflict, conflict resolution, and forgiveness themes. I am starting out with a bit of a refresher on what the lectionary is and why we use this tool. My sermon is here ( http://randomrevhd.blogspot.com/2017/09/forgiveness-can-you-imagine.html?m=1 ) and I’m sure I will tweak before Sunday.
    Praying that the Spirit speaks to us all!

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    1. I’ll be over to read your draft soon. I am always amazed at the long Presbytery meetings held on Saturday. Could they not be held on another day? I’m sure if that were possible they would be. But, still. At least your week afforded you the space to get a good draft in.

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      1. Presbytery meetings include both ordained clergy and ordained laypeople. Holding them on Saturday is undeniably inconvenient for clergy, but allows laypeople to attend without missing work, typically. At least that’s the intention and ideal.

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  2. We have a baptism tomorrow and somehow I got confused and did not use the RCL reading when I got the bulletins printed but I had John 3:13-17. In some ways that works – john 3:16-17 at a Baptism where I expect about 50 extra folk works. I wrote my sermon on Thursday and was quite pleased with it- I am a Saturday sermon writer but knew that I had a full day yesterday and Messy Church today.

    But I forgot to save it!! The computer updated overnight thursday night and didn’t autosave. This morning I am up early to try to rewrite before I prepare Messy Church Worship. I hope it all comes back to me. It’s too early in the morning and I am not feeling motivated. I’ll come back later in the day when I am hopefully feeling more positive.

    I will be saving every 2 minutes today!!

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    1. I just recently discovered an auto save function in PowerPoint and Word. This helps to circumvent the ‘I forgot to save and lost everything’ problem. I’m not sure if it is a new feature or if I’ve just been unobservant in the past.

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  3. Saturday evening and trying to wrangle some thoughts on the binding of Isaac into a coherent sermon, that is not too much of a history lecture.

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    1. Although some history on this world at that time can be useful in trying to understand this challenging text…..hoping the Spirit inspires and the writing comes easy, especially since it is Saturday night where you are.

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  4. Forgiveness: Charlie Brown and Miroslav Wolf. I finished last night, which is late for me, but this week has been and continues to be packed, with a most-of-Saturday presbytery workshop on church renewal and a session meeting tomorrow at which many of our conflicts will come to the fore. I am going to need extensive renewal if this pace continues!

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    1. I’ve used Miroslav Volf’s “drama of embrace” in wedding sermons the past two weekends … completely different congregations, so I hope I got away with repeating myself! Glad to see you also use his work!

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    1. Just thought of another thing with the Abraham and Isaac story – mountains are where God speaks to people. Don’t know what to do with that.

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      1. Well, God spoke in other times too, like with Hagar in the wilderness. I wonder if, though, when one experiences God speaking to them if it FEELS like a mountain top experience, awe and a little frightening? And, neither Moses nor Jesus stayed on the mountain, they both had to “come down” to do the ministry God called them to…?

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  5. Second week of stewardship here and I am using the First Fruits text from Deuteronomy. I made a quick trip to see my sister this weekend and when I left on Thursday I had 700 words. Found another 300 somewhere along the line. It is what it is. I have a seven hour drive ahead of me today so if worse comes to worse…I’ll at least have something on paper and let the Spirit do what the Spirit does.

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  6. In progress. Working on the conspiracy in the text to normalize violence: against the Egyptians, Jesus’s use of “slave” as a normative category. Seeing the ugliness in our heritage and monuments like church windows that show only white people as God’s people.

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    1. There are serious problems with the portrayal of violence in the Bible, with Jesus’ use of the word “Slavery” and with the Gospel portrait of “Jews”. Sometimes I change the text when I proclaim it. Although done imperfectly because I am a white woman, I consistently tackle the racism in this country in my sermons… I can only learn if I put myself out there and in the conversation with as much respect, dignity, and willingness to listen as I am able…well, even more than I think I am able, to stretch. Thanks Wil, for holding up the mirror and making me look hard. Blessings on your preaching, I know the Spirit will fill your words because you speak truth right from your heart.

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  7. I am recycling a sermon from three years ago, because it fits perfectly in the “Discipleship 101” series I’m doing this fall. I thought it was going to be a 4-week series, but it is looking like it needs to be six, because we are still working through conflict wounds from years ago. The forgiveness theme also hits me between the eyes: spent the first half of last week driving 12 hours down and 12 hours back to work through some business for my 92-year-old mother. The process included discovering some secrets she has kept from us five kids for many years, and their revelation has stirred up some family of origin issues. Once again, I find myself preaching to myself as much as to my congregation this week!

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  8. I’m tackling the Romans passage from the RCL. The youth of our Presbytery have chosen this very same passage as the theme passage for their conferences in January, which I’ve been invited to keynote. I’m hoping to come up with something in this sermon that might be adaptable for parts of the keynotes. However, as I currently have a blank page and insistently blinking cursor, that’s not looking too promising at the moment.

    If you have some spare motivation, send it my way!

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  9. I awoke this morning with ideas in my head and jotted them down immediately. Since then, I’ve watched a MLB baseball game, cleared off stuff from the top of the dryer that–I kid you not–has been there 10+ years, pulled a bunch of books out of my son’s bedroom for my husband to sort through, taken the dog on a 3 mile walk,and vacuumed out 2 large pantry cupboards. If not for preaching procrastination, I’d never accomplish anything!
    Ideas are more on asking forgiveness than on forgiving. Why is it so hard for us? Not just because we want to be right, but maybe also because, as in so much else, we see being forgiven as a limited quantity economy: if you forgive me, then I’m beholden to you. Gospel once again turns this on its head, with abundant forgiveness. Struggling with the challenge of being called not to judge others in Romans and yet the imperitive to call out evil. Anyone have thoughts on that? Where’s the line between speaking out and judging?

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  10. I’m going with forgiveness, moving at the end toward forgiving ourselves. “Forgiving from the heart” isn’t possible unless we have forgiven ourselves from the heart. Along the way I’ll quote my favorite medieval mystic, Mechtild of Magdeburg, who said the only unforgivable sin is believing we are unforgivable. But I really wish it were Sunday afternoon.

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  11. Coming late to the party as usual. I chose Romans earlier in the week and really haven’t felt moved to write anything until I decided to put it with Matthew and think about how much easier it is to judge than forgive some people…I’m also thinking about St. Louis right now and how easy it is for people to quickly condemn black men and forgive white officers and wondering if saying forgiveness is harder than judgement is doing right by that particular situation.

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    1. Forgiveness can never be removed from accountability. Police Officers, like most people in this country are quick to react with violence choosing to NOT see people as people, but rather see humans as criminals, as dangerous, as perpetrators, as violent. There is a need for judgement, for each of us to employ judgement on ourselves and the way I fail to see a person as a person but instead immediately react by blaming, shaming, name calling, dehumanizing them as a category or word or an object. Seeing humans as human beings with lives and loved ones and families and friends should stop us all short and call us take a moment to figure out the best way to be with a person, even, or especially when trying to de-escalate a situation. I never ever think that shooting to kill a person is ever the right response. Surely, surely, police officers can learn other responses? I will pray for you today and your preaching. I am sure the Spirit will fill your words, speaking from the heart always carries the potential to reveal God.

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