Friday, 30 September 2011

The Words of my Mouth

Peter Lockhart

The final words of Psalm 19, if nothing else, should cause us to fall into silence more often than we do. How does one speak in a way acceptable to God?

For about 5 years I have regularly used the words of the Psalm as the opening prayer for my sermon.

A plea to God that the words I say, the words I have crafted, the word I have considered and prayed over may be acceptable to the One who made me.

Yet despite praying these words each week I usually describe my preaching, a little cheekily, as a different heresy each week.

The words of my sermons are limited by my human frailty yet become unlimited in possibilities because of what the Holy Spirit can and might do as I seek to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.

Whilst this is the way I use the words of this Psalm most often these words are not simply meant to be applied to a sermon delivered by a minister. These words are a plea to God that in all our speaking we might find ourselves using words and language acceptable to God.

Imagine for a moment that during the times of anger or frustration before blurting out those grating and hurtful words you asked yourself, ‘are these words I am about to say acceptable to God?’

Imagine for a moment that during those times filled with pride in a personal achievement before shouting out and boasting of your success you asked yourself, ‘are these words I am about to say acceptable to God?’

Imagine for a moment that during those times of darkness and depression before moaning about life or degrading yourself you asked yourself, ‘are these words I am about to say acceptable to God?’

Words – spoken quietly or loudly.

Words – full of colour, rich with meaning.

Words – trite or serious.

Words – building up.

And words which destroy.

Words are such powerful things.

Of course the reality is that the words which we speak day by day moment by moment are most likely to be not acceptable to God.

Whether the words are spoken in ignorance or the words are spoken wilfully it is not hard for us to know so many of them, in fact probably most of them, do not give honour to the one who gave us our voices.

So where is our hope?

Paul in writing to the Philippians reminds them of the relationship between the law and faith

“If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ.”

What is being suggested here by Paul is that even if we were able to form each word and thought perfectly these would be meaningless in terms of our relationship with God because of Jesus Christ.

Yes, Jesus who walked among us and gave voice to God’s own thoughts in human words.

Jesus: who in his life, death and resurrection made us right with God!

Jesus: who promised the sending of God’s Holy Spirit, to make us one with God and each other.
Whilst our words may not be acceptable to God Jesus words were. To quote Peter in John 6, in the midst of our imperfect and incoherent babblings, we go to Jesus because he has “the words of eternal life.”

It is in listening to Jesus that we can listen to one whose words are acceptable to God and we can learn how to speak again. To borrow a phrase from Stanley Hauerwas we can learn to speak Christian: to speak of the good news knowing that whilst the words we might say will be inadequate expressions of God’s grace to trust that the Spirit will help us in our weakness as we both articulate and listen to the words of hope.

We trust that the Spirit will transform our fumbling attempts to speak Christians and to proclaim God’s love for us in Jesus day by day into a meaningful and purposeful witness. We pray that through the Spirit our words will transform others and so become acceptable to God.

To learn to speak Christian takes time and energy, the same time and energy we would put in to learning another language and another culture.

To learn the language of prayer as we read the Psalms. To discover how to tell stories as we read the parables. To discipline ourselves to prayer and meditation aware that before a word is formed on our lips God knows it.

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians Paul compares himself to an athlete pursuing a goal – the prize being the heavenly call of God in Jesus Christ.

When I think of the finely tuned machines of modern day athletes with their training programs and rigorous discipline, with their vitamin supplements and diet regimes I think we begin to get a picture that what Paul was talking about was throwing ourselves head long into learning the way of grace.

Disciplining ourselves to prayer and worship, committing ourselves to reading the scriptures and serving others, not to earn our salvation but to pursue with thanksgiving in our hearts the one who has saved us and maybe as we do these things to learn to speak Christian, just as Paul did, who said:

“I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.”

Let us meditate on what God is saying to us on this day. Amen.

Coveting & Consumerism

Peter Lockhart

Not so long ago I watched a movie called “Keeping up wit the Joneses”. The premise is based on the idea of planting a fake family in a community and then providing them with all the latest gadgets and fashions and foods. It is marketing genius and plays right into one of our weaknesses - coveting.

Despite the commandment not to covet, coveting has become integral to our culture and our lives.

Our desire to own more things and the constant bombardment of advertising seduce us into lifestyles in which our lives are becoming more defined by what we posses than ever before. Consumerism drives us and it drives our economy with its insatiable need for growth.

The consequences of our over consumption are difficult for us to fathom but the scriptures suggest that whilst we know God to be a merciful God our sins do have consequences.

On the “Make Wealth History” Website this week it marked the 27th of September as the day on which humanity had used 100% of the resources that it we produce within the year. In other words by the time we reach December 31 we will have used at least 130% of what was produced in 2011.

The website admits the date is a little arbitrary but it is making a salient point about the rate at which we as human beings are using the world’s resources. It is interesting to note that this week I also heard a report that Australians hospitals are holding less than one month’s supply of many important medicines – including penicillin, of which there is already an shortage.

The “Make Wealth History” Website also has a link to help calculate your personal footprint. It calculates how many planet earths would be required to sustain everyone on the planet with a similar lifestyle to your own. For me that is 3.4 planet earths.

Of course these figures need to be taken with a grain of salt but when I consider that commandment not to covet maybe all I can say is that Paul was correct when he suggested in Romans 5 that the law was given so that sin might be revealed. Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ and the promise of new life and hope in him!

May we too like Paul seek to “keep up with Jesus” and not “the Joneses”, pressing “on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:14)

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Grateful for Work & Reward

Peter Lockhart

(The following sermon is designed to be interactive with members of the congregation participating in a reenactment of Jesus.)

Each week as a congregation we prayer in the words of the Lord’s Prayer, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”.

I often wonder what it is we are praying for when we pray these words and whether or not we can actually say them with the sincerity with which we ought.

I imagine you have idyllic images of what heaven is floating around in your head – what image comes as strongest to you.

Angels with harps on fluffy clouds. Re-union with loved ones who have gone before. A place where there is no suffering or sickness.

Jesus tells many stories about what the kingdom of heaven is like and I want to retell one today with your help.

Jesus says the kingdom of heaven “is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the labourers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.”

This is one of those situations where a little congregation involvement might help us understand.

If we could have a group of prospective workers to come and wait here – image you are waiting in the village square for a day’s work.

And here now comes a landowner, a vine grower, looking for workers.

Now if you were the vine grower selecting workers at the break of day who are you going to choose?


They agree to the pay for the day’s work.

I wonder how those who are left over feel. What do you think happens if these people don’t get work?

A few hours later the landowner returns, it’s about 9 in the morning now. He chooses yet more workers to go and labour in the field.

Who will you choose this time? Why?

How do those who are left feel now?

Hours pass again and at midday the landowner returns.

Again more are chosen.

Then once more at three o’clock the landowner comes.

I wonder how it would feel it face the prospect of a day without any income, a day without money for the household.

How do you who are left feel?

Then just before the end of the day the landowner returns one more time.

It is 5 o’clock with barely any hours left to work.

What sort of people do you think might have been left over? Who would it be that were refused work by the local landholders? What type of people might be left?

Yet the landowner makes a decision to give them work too.

Now before I push on into the story how are we feeling about this landowner at the moment.

Let’s ask those who have been given work.


The thing that strikes me is that even at the end of the day the landowner is willing to take workers on, workers whom when ask tell the landowner no one else had given them work.

There is a generosity and persistence in the landowner who comes again and again to seek workers.

So what is the kingdom of heaven like?

It is a place in which God persists in generosity seeking people to be included and to get involved in the work of the kingdom.

So far, so good?

But now it is time to line up and receive your pay for the day’s work.

Can we have you in order from those who began last to those who started early in the morning.

Now the agreed days wage was this amount. (money?)

How do those who have worked just a little while feel about this?

What might those who have worked longer expect?

So let’s pay everybody else.

Now how do those feel who have worked the whole day and been given the same.

(Upset, as if they have been done an injustice.)

Jesus tells us that the landowner said

‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

So we pray for the coming of the kingdom of heaven a place where all share in the generosity of God regardless of the effort they have put in.

Whilst we might sit fairly comfortably with the idea that the kingdom of heaven is like the landowner who keep returning to seek workers and give them a go, I suspect most of us would struggle with the idea of the equality of reward at the end.

How many of us consider those words “Well done good and faithful servant.” As an indicator of long service and commitment to God – this is service which deserves recognition.

But the parable tells us it is not about how much we have done but about God’s choosing.

How many of us think that “A fair days work for a fair days pay is how the world should be.” But do we really live that. Consider for a moment where so much of what we buy in Australia comes from. Consider who makes and how poorly they are paid. We all know about the issues of child labour, even slavery, in some industries. We know about how much of our manufacturing industry has been taken offshore.

The kingdom of heaven is like this – all are rewarded, given the dignity of work, rewarded with life and hope, rewarded with a future, rewarded for a great effort or a little labour at the 11th hour. Who are we to be envious?

We pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. Heaven, God’s rule, is a rule that promises generosity in life that for us living in a market driven world is almost unfathomable – yet this is the kingdom we pray for. A kingdom in which the priority is provision for the lives of all people with no distinction as to how much we think people have offered.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Embracing the Wilderness Experience

Sandra Jebb

The reading we have this week from Exodus tells part of the story of the children of Israel complaining as they are moved out of their comfort zone into the wilderness. What strikes you as they yearn for the “good old days in Egypt” is that Egypt had been a harsh place for them living under an oppressive regime and yet they called out to go back to Egypt rather than to go forward into the wilderness with God. Their comfort zone, Egypt, was not a good place to be and yet it was preferable to the risk and insecurity of the wilderness because it was familiar and known.

We at Kairos are facing challenging times as we seek to discern and move forward to where God is calling us to be. Perhaps you might feel we are in some sort of wilderness and you might well yearn to be back in the “good old days” when people came to church, it was just the thing to do, and there were lots of people to help in ministry. Yet our Christian faith has never been about security but always about risk, never about certainty but always about mystery. We too can complain and yearn for the past or risk moving forward into a future that is not clear and might feel uncomfortable.

To take up God’s challenge to us we need to embrace the wilderness experience and allow God to renew and remake us. Some of that renewing will mean letting go of some things and learning to trust God more. The children of Israel had been in Egypt for over 400 years and God had to move them into the wilderness in order to prepare and train them to be God’s people. God provided for them but that provision came with testing. The wilderness experience eventually led to the Promised Land.

We don’t know exactly what the future shape of Kairos will be like but we need to trust God and not be afraid to move forward. Even if we feel we are in the wilderness and things are not at all clear and becoming uncomfortable. We are called to seek God in this Kairos time we find ourselves living in knowing that God will provide but will also test us along the way. The children of Israel eventually did get to the Promised Land. The community of Kairos Uniting Church will also get there but hopefully it won’t take quite as long!!

Friday, 9 September 2011

An Ordination Sermon

Peter Lockhart
For Suzy Sitton!

What sort of person does the risen Christ entrust his church to?

As the curtain closes on John’s gospel, Jesus says to Peter, “feed my lambs” “tend my sheep” “feed my sheep”. Jesus entrusts the future of his church to Peter.

Of course the whole notion of the Petrine office and its link to the ordering church and so also ordination is much stronger in some of our sister churches.

Yet, on this night when we come to ordain Suzy reflecting on Jesus call to Peter may give some insight as to ordination and to the sheep that he is called to. To do this I want to do 2 things:

First: To consider who Peter was and what his cv looked like, and in so doing ascertain some of the qualities and challenges for those called into ordination?

And, second: to consider who the sheep that Peter was entrusted with were, so that we might know who it is we are called to care for as well.

To discover a bit about Peter’s background I began reading the gospel of John backwards to see what kind of person Jesus was willing to send out in his name.

I limited myself to discovering who Peter is in John’s gospel because this is where the story comes from. I have not included every reference to Peter in John’s gospel but certainly I am including the majority.

Jesus conversation with Peter is taking place on a beach. Why? At the beginning of John 21 just after the risen Jesus has appeared to the disciples for a second time in the locked room, Peter somewhat mysteriously decides to go fishing.

Peter’s decision to go fishing has always been perplexing. Maybe in the moment of confusion and misdirection after the resurrection of Jesus Peter is lured back to his old life. We know from John Chapter 1 Peter is a fisherman and maybe going fishing simply seems easier than dealing with the death and resurrection of his master.

In terms of ordination maybe this a reminder that each of us who is ordained has another background, another vocation, from which we have been called and which at times we may also feel lured back towards. This could be at times in which we find ourselves confused or confronted by our encounter with the risen and crucified Jesus. What are we meant to do with that? Going fishing may be easier!

Now I am going to skip back over Peter’s mini-Olympics, running to the tomb, and travel back prior to Jesus crucifixion.

In John 18 Peter’s triple denial of Jesus is set against the backdrop of Jesus being questioned by the High Priest Caiaphas.

Three times Peter is asked whether he was one of Jesus followers and three times Peter denied the association. Of course there is a clear connection to the threefold questioning of Jesus about Peter’s love in the story that we heard tonight. But it also grates against Peter’s assertion of John 13:37 when he said “I will lay down my life for you.”

As followers of Jesus, as his disciples, all of us will find that there are moments that we forget whose we are and we too will deny Jesus. Ordination is not reliant on an unwavering faith but is done in midst of the honest struggle that any of us have to hold true to Jesus. It is more than likely that like Peter it will take the cock crowing for us to realise with shame we have denied our Lord.

Now John 18 is not the best of Chapter’s for our prospective candidate, for in John 18:10 we also hear the story of Jesus’ arrest and how Peter drew forth his sword and struck the high priest slave, Malchus, ear off.

Now Jesus automatically intervenes, despite his commitment and the best intentions Peter has got it wrong.

The sword reminds me that there are times that as people who follow Jesus we may be tempted to support violence against other people in the name of Jesus or even commit violence against people. Not necessarily physical violence but the violence of judgement or exclusion or manipulation or hatred or simply apathy and inaction because we believe in doing so we are defending our Lord, but the question does Jesus need to be defended?

Retreating backwards through time and the confrontation in the garden we find Jesus in John 13 with a towel tied around his waist and Peter refusing to have his feet washed.

The towel could just as well be bound around Peter’s head. His blindness to Jesus teaching and misunderstanding seems to reach dizzying heights.

The setting apart of people at ordination is not because those ordained listen and understand Jesus any better than Peter did at this moment. To jump out of John and to quote Paul for a moment “we see through a dark glass”. The best any of can says is that we have glimpsed the Christ and gleaned some understanding of his way, as narrow and misguided as we might be in that.

Given all of these issues, thankfully, one of the aspects of Peter’s call is that he isn’t in it alone.

We know that Peter does not follow Jesus alone; he was fishing with 6 other disciples when the risen Lord came to them. As misguided as they may have been at times the disciples did support one another and encouraged one another as they followed Jesus. We know too that it was not simple this rag tag 12 that followed Jesus and got involved but many others as well.

It is far too tempting to see ordained ministry as a private and personal crusade as if we are lone rangers riding off into the sunset. This is not the case. And the presence of the minister’s from the Presbytery tonight and people from many congregations reminds us of this. We are all in this together.

Skipping back, right to the beginning of John now, in John 1 we hear about the call of Peter and of the other disciples.

And I want us to pause here for a moment because this really is what it is all about. Jesus calls Peter to be his disciple and in the encounter on the beach in John 21 Jesus determines to send Peter as his shepherd. In John 15 Jesus reminds all of the disciples, “You did not choose me, I chose you”

As much as anything this is what ordination is about not the quality of the person being called but of the faithfulness of he that calls us. We might go fishing, or deny Jesus, or commit violence in his name, we might misunderstand his teaching or simply think that we can do it alone yet it is in the grace of God which calls to us and it is his faithfulness that we celebrate tonight.

It might be even said that the fallibility of the ordained ministry of the church is a parable of the kingdom of God, because as ordained people our failure to be all that we can be is a reminder that God’s grace extends even to the ordained.

So this is the person who Jesus called, Peter, whom despite his failings Jesus believes in and trusts to feed his sheep.

Who are these sheep that peter is feed? I do not want us to simply make the assumption that the sheep are congregation members but looking again to the scriptures to think about whom it is that Jesus, himself fed.

I am going to do this in short, but again want to invite some people to help me build this picture.

In John 3 it is Nicodemus – a man who represents deep and long thinking about who God is, he is a Pharisee, a person of faith who assumed he had it all worked out, but was in fact far from the truth.

In John 4 we encounter the Samaritan woman at the well. Someone from a different religion, a person ostracised by her own community, a woman with questionable morals: a woman who thirsts for living water.

And again in John 4 the royal official whose son had died. He was a wealthy man with power and influence whom Jesus reached out to in love.

In John 5 a paralysed man and in John 9, a man blind since birth. People coping with disability found at the fringe of society, in need of healing and hope, in need of community.

To step briefly out of John’s gospel “tax collectors and sinners” and “the lost sheep of the house of Israel”.

Beyond his own followers these are the sheep that Jesus fed. Yes we are responsible to the flock of our congregation but our congregations are ministers of the gospel as well and together we are called to all of these whom Jesus loved.

“Feed my sheep”. Indeed they are Jesus’ sheep, not ours, but we who called to follow Jesus, ordained and lay alike, are called to follow Jesus by serving those whom he loved. Our very own lives are not hypocritical failures but signs of the grace of a God who in Jesus would call even us to share in his ministry, not because we are worthy of the call but because Jesus reaches out in love and faithfulness declaring God’s peace us and constantly inviting us also to follow him.

Living to the Lord!

Peter Lockhart

“If we live, we live to the Lord. If we die, we die to the Lord. So whether we live or we die we are the Lord’s.”

As some of you may have noted I do have a tendency to reflect fairly deeply on things, especially in matters of what we claim to know.

It will come as little surprise to those of you who know this that I started reading a book this week called Longing to Know by Esther Meeks. The book explores the question “Can we know God?”

In her first Chapter Meek says, ‘So much is at stake in this question because, if people can know God, the next obvious question is what in fact we know about him. If God is, what he [God] is has far-reaching consequences for our lives – who we are, how we live, and what happens after death. Perhaps the simplest what to say it is this: If God is, and he [God] is master of all, then he [God] is master of you and your world. If he [God] isn’t, then you are. You might see one or the other alternative as preferable one. But it’s impossible to be indifferent about the choice; it hits just too close to home for comfort.” [end quote]

At the heart of what Meek is saying is this – with your decision about God you simply can’t sit on the fence. Now, given that you are church today, I would want to make the assumption that you have at least nominally decided that there is a God.

And more specifically that you believe in the God revealed in and through the man Jesus of Nazareth.

Whilst we may not all exactly agree on who Jesus was and what he is currently calling us to do as people, and whilst we may have different gifts and different levels of faith, what is implied in what Meek says is that if you decide for God it should then shape your whole existence.

This brings me back to the quote from Paul’s letter to the Romans at the beginning.

“If we live, we live to the Lord. If we die, we die to the Lord. So whether we live or we die we are the Lord’s.”

If God is, then all that we do, everything we are should be impacted by this, even when we disagree on things.

You see Paul wrote these words in the midst of clarifying some issues of conflict for the Christians in Rome. There were differences in opinion about the eating of meat, which probably meant the meat offered to idols. There were also differences in opinion about observing Holy Days. It must be remember that the first Christians were Jews who observed the Sabbath, which is Saturday, whereas later Christians came to celebrate together on Sunday, which is the day of resurrection and the first day of the new creation.

Paul acknowledges that the reasons for the disputes arose out of people being weak in the faith or maybe being overconfident in their faith. But weak or strong what was vital to remember in the midst of the difference was that people lived to the Lord and died to the Lord.

Paul’s statement comes to us as a source of comfort that in the midst of the human struggle to know God and respond we remain God’s, even whether we live or die.

Our ability as a congregation to live together in the midst of our own differences is conditioned not so much by the nature of our own weakness or strength, nor about the validity of any particular issues, but of our life held together in Christ: we are the Lord’s!

Our ability to know, remember and live in response to what Paul says, means not only that we should not engage each other in debate for the purpose of spiritual point scoring, but that we should also remember that at the heart of our faith is the reconciliation of all things in and through Jesus Christ: a reconciliation which is born out of God’s mercy and forgiveness.

So in the midst of the community of faith in Rome having differences, as any church does, I believe the ability to show forgiveness and accept that forgiveness is paramount.

Today’s gospel reading brooches this very topic as Peter asks Jesus how many times should I forgive another member of the church who sins against me – as many as seven times? Jesus answer seventy-seven times is more or less a euphemism for infinitely. You are to forgive as many times as you need to forgive.

Jesus explains the premise of our forgiveness to one another through a parable. As you know parables reveal something of God and who we are and we are to live. In the parable God is represented by the King who forgives the debt of 10 000 talents. The magnitude of the debt cannot be overstated – maybe we speak of it as 10 million dollars. What Jesus is trying to help Peter understand is how much God loves us in the midst of how wrong we get it.

It doesn’t matter how good a person we think we are we still need God’s forgiveness – it doesn’t matter how many prayers we say a day, or how righteous we think our worship is; it doesn’t matter what issues of justice we fight for - poverty, abortion, inequality, peace. All of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God but here is the good news God forgives our debt. Paul writes to the Romans in Romans 5:8 “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”

It is this forgiveness of God for us that determines how we live with one another. Yet as the story indicates the slave whose debt was forgiven found it difficult to forgive others and so in seeking what seems a trivial amount from another slave is unable to forgive. As the story indicates there are consequences.

Now I am not entirely content to take the fire and brim stone approach at this point and say turn or burn but I think there is a serious warning for us here about the consequences of our inability to forgive.

As an interesting aside in the movie “What dreams may come?” people are trapped in hell because of their inability to accept the forgiveness offered to them. They cannot forgive themselves and this is what tortures them.

Forgiveness is no easy matter for us who often find it hard to truly forgive the smallest of indiscretions even once. Often rather than seeking reconciliation we harbour those things which like some cancerous sore eat away at us festering often unknowingly to re-emerge at the most inappropriate of moments.

More often than not these things occur in arguments and sometimes these arguments reveal how elephantine our memories can be.

“I remember in 1953 when my brother did this to me?” or “When I was growing up my mum forgot to pick me up from school one day?” or “You didn’t send me a birthday card in 1972?” or “Don’t you remember last week when I said hello and you ignored me.”

As funny as these little imaginary comments are, it is amazing how many little, barbed memories most of us carry. I have heard them come out in pastoral visits, in confrontations, in family arguments and out of my own my mouth. I remember a true story told of two elderly sisters who attended the same church one sat at the front and one at the back and they never spoke to one another. They had done so done decades. There had been a dispute between them in the past and they had never reconciled to one another. This was not only sad for their lives but a contradiction of their very presence in church. Yet before we get too critical we need to recall our own behaviours on a personal level and at a denominational level- is not our separation as denominations a contradiction of the reconciliation we are called to live.

In the context of our human relationships our ability to be a community, to be God’s people, is constantly compromised by the grudges we carry. Our witness to God’s love and forgiveness of us as individuals and as a community is tarnished by our inability to live as forgiving and reconciled people.

The scriptures teach us clearly that is our responsibility to act and seek this reconciliation. As I have already said forgiveness precedes repentance but reconciliation does not occur until that repentance takes place.

So important was this in Jesus’ mind that in Matthew 5 he instructs people “When you are offering a gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar; first go and be reconciled to your brother or sister.”

There is urgency in this – seek the reconciliation, forgive and be forgiven. This is captured in the Lord’s Prayer when we pray; forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. In saying this we condition God’s forgiveness of us on our ability to forgive others.

The reality of our imperfect human lives is that in this matter we are imperfect and an integral part of our weekly worship and no doubt our daily prayers is not simply the request that God forgives us but that we might be empowered to accept that forgiveness and live out the mercy and grace we have experienced by forgiving others.

This can be represented for us most poignantly when we share in communion. The institution of the sacrament by Paul includes the words “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you”. Many ministers enact this as they receive the bread and wine before the congregation and then share it with others. But this is what should shape our whole life as Christians we receive God’s forgiveness and so should pass it on to others.

Ultimately if we believe in God, if we believe that God is the God revealed by Jesus Christ then living in the midst of our difference and difficulties as a forgiving community is important. It reflects our witness to the truth that we believe “If we live, we live to the Lord. If we die, we die to the Lord. So whether we live or we die we are the Lord’s.”

As you consider God’s grace and mercy to you in the silence this day may God reveal to you those in your hearts that you are still to be reconciled with and ask for the strength to seek that reconciliation whether that means accepting your own faults or forgiving another for theirs.