Forgiveness is something we all encounter at one time or another in both directions, giving and receiving. This was an important part of Jesus ministry and is subject of one of his sacraments. If we know and realize that love is an important part of relationships and of our relationship with God, we can hopefully realize the importance of forgiveness. To quickly understand, let us look at a married couple in love. It is inevitable in living that two people living together are going to have disagreements and arguments as a normal course of living. But truly, living out their lives involves give and take and forgiving slights and differences, even large ones. Forgiveness is not a one time thing, but an integral part of life and love and relationships. Forgiveness looks to the future and has its own way of putting behind what was the dispute. To say, “I’ll forgive but never forget,” is not Christian and certainly not what we ourselves ask when we ask forgiveness. I ask where would we be if God himself said he would not forget? Yet the words of the sacrament are “I absolve you of all your sins.” His love is unconditional and so should ours be.
Each of us knows the weakness and failure that sometimes only we know and the many times we ask for forgiveness for our actions. This access to forgiveness we seek, is something we should be prepared to give and share to those who in any way need our forgiveness as we live our daily lives.
Today’s gospel is interesting and possibly misunderstood by many who read it. In context, Jesus is instructing his disciples about community. We must remember that in Israel and surrounding areas, the make up of was very tribal or community or family oriented. Within a particular village or town everyone was related in some fashion to others. Everyone knew everyone else and disputes would be worked out with the help of elders if needed. It is very different for Us to understand it completely in a time and different culture. But certainly, Jesus was speaking of reconciliation and the necessity of getting along if we are to follow his command to love one another. In a marriage, hopefully, a couple learns to settle disputes and disagreements before a wall is between them. Certainly this is what Jesus had in mind in saying those offended or offending should seek out and resolve hurts and things harmful to a person or the community. A second step would be to bring in two or three other to help. If that failed then bring it to the community. In many ways this works in a small community and in the early church that Matthew was writing for.
Matthew lived a long time ago and much has happened over the centuries to Christianity. Division, arguments, disagreements, and all other manner of human failure has proven that humans are far from perfect. Despite all this, Christ’s word is still among us and we are still called to live it out as best we can. We are still called to a community of faith and love and living as Jesus called us to do. That is why we as a church, welcome all who come and do not judge but embrace all who want to follow Jesus and journey with us. Let us pray we can invite and lead more to come and follow him.
As you can see this morning, we are all set up for a baptism. This can be a reminder to all of us of our own baptism and our own call to Faith and Love and service. All of us do this in our own unique way. One thing I have found in Cacina is the readiness and the actual participation of everyone in their own way in the works of the church. This is especially good in a small church. Attached to the bulletin today, and in copies in the back you received copies of Bishop Ron’s letter regarding vocation to the deaconate and priesthood. I would encourage you to read it to better understand how we get our clergy in Cacina. Basically, we have been blessed with parishioners coming forth and serving after undergoing a course of preparation. I know as I think back this week of my anniversary of many long agonizing hours torn apart as to what the priesthood was and what would be a lifetime of living basically alone. But a clerical vocation is not a selfish choice, but rather to choose a different form of service. Just let me say when the thought first comes, everybody says not me. But like the Apostles, Jesus doesn’t answer to why but only says follow me. To accept and do that is and act of faith, an act of giving without knowing the result. Surely in life we all make similar or life committing decisions, but are aware of the gravity of them. In answering our own particular call, there is always a peace and serenity around it. Having said that, I invite your consideration and most importantly your prayers for men and women to come forward to continue the work and mission of Cacina going forward and hopefully Growing. and hopefully growing.
Who do you say that I am? One Apostle replied, the one who spoke out and answered for all. His words were words of faith, words of belief in Christ, the Son of the living God. This faith was praised by Jesus and in fact he made it the foundation, the rock on which the faith and church have been built. To Peter and to the Apostles came the charge to be the Rabbis of Christ’s church, to watch over and mediate and bind and loose disputes in the name of Christ and his church. We can see Christ’s intent in how the early church and the apostles went about spreading and expanding the church. When major decisions were made, we see the apostles and their successors come together to collaborate and decide what was the way to go in Christ’s name. As time passed and the church grew, the structure changed and seemingly the way things were decided also changed, but still the coming together of the bishops(the successors of the apostles) still remains a key in the foundational faith of the church and the power of dispensing God’s love and mercy to the faithful. Certainly, in an institution made up of men, Christ ‘s admonition of binding and loosing comes through the many councils of the church with the inspiration of the Spirit over the ages. Christianity has failed in some respects as divisions and disagreements over the centuries has led to numerous divisions. Yet, Christ remains before the world and his word is present to that world in many ways. While as Christians we would like to see unity, recognition of Jesus as Lord and following him has always got to be paramount as we move forward to a union in a life ahead. Peter and the Apostles answered that call today, and so are we called to answer, to embrace the Son of the Living God and live out his message.