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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sermon 11042012 All Saints Sunday 22nd Sunday After Trinity

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

Let us pray!  Lord Jesus Christ, one of the only things You never modeled for us while You were here on earth was asking for forgiveness for Yourself or Your actions.  This was because You were perfect, sinless and did Your Father’s bidding perfectly and modeled what we are to do.  Enable us as the imperfect creatures we are to confess our sinfulness so we may rely upon You and the perfection You create in each of us through our baptism into Your life, death and resurrection, for all of mankind including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

From the movie “Facing the Giants” that we have been exploring for the last few weeks we have explored issues of trust, leaving everything on the field, preparing for rain and a new philosophy.  But today, the day we celebrate All Saints Day and remember the saints that have entered their eternal home, we need to talk about ‘Forgiveness’.  There is a scene in the movie where one of the players of the team, Matt, clearly and blatantly disrespects his father in front of the team and the coach.  Later, Coach Taylor, ‘shoots straight’ with Matt and confronts him on the issue of his relationship with his father and how he is so disrespectful.  I’d love to show this clip as well as the follow-up to the clip, because it epitomizes a sacred truth that we need to hear clearly here at Emmanuel.

The follow-up clips are where Matt fully convicted by the Holy Spirit confesses his wrong to his friends and God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit enter into his world in a life changing way.  After his acceptance of God’s grace in his life, and reconciling with his heavenly Father, Matt realizes he needs to make things right with his earthly father.  And Coach Taylor after embracing the new man he is takes him to his Father’s office where he confesses his wrong and makes a commitment to making things right from that moment on with his father.  This scene so profoundly impacts the relationship between father and son that no longer are they antagonists, but are active participants in and for a positive way in the life of Coach Taylor.  If you can’t remember what I am referencing, re-watch the movie.

This part of the movie epitomizes what we have the opportunity to do here at Emmanuel.  From the moment I arrived here at Emmanuel you could cut the tension that existed between people and from past events with a knife.  There is so much bitterness under the surface and in hushed conversations or over the phone concerning events of the past from previous Pastor’s, prior and current members and prior disagreements that this congregation is bitter about how we have been treated, how we have treated others and how we ‘think’ that we have been wronged by the greater church and each other.  It has even contributed to our leaving the ELCA.  Nowhere in this conversation here at Emmanuel has this concept of forgiveness within the congregation been clearly expressed, articulated or acted upon.  This congregation has lost a lot of people coming to worship God here at Emmanuel long before I arrived in October of 2010. 

For a lot of us sitting in the pews, we either expect someone else to apologize, we ignore people because they were on the other side of an issue and haven’t come to us or we hold onto the past and live in the days where this church had two services, full pews, full offering plates, or the exact opposite of barely two pennies to rub together and bills were put off until the funds were available.

But the truth is, today as we celebrate All Saints Day, we need to act upon the forgiveness that Jesus Christ offers us on the Cross of Calvary and just like Matt with his earthly father, to make things right.  This is going to require us to step up in three different ways.

First, it is going to require us to go to our brother.  We as a society have taken the mantle of the ‘victim’ mentality.  Unlike Hurricane Sandy that slammed into the coast of New Jersey where the state was a victim of the storm, West Virginia that has had over 2 feet of snow, Pennsylvania that has endured tropical monsoon rains and New York that has flooded from the high tides and storm surge, our human tendency is to always believe we are the party that has been hurt or the victim.  But the truth is when we are in relationship and that is exactly what this is, we are not victims, but participants in relationship.  And relationships are messy because we are sinful creatures that no matter how we might try to act, all of us fall short of the glory of God. 

Thus we need to go to our brothers and sisters and confess.  Let me say that again, we need to go to the people that we have had disagreements with, even if we were in the right and confess that we have wronged each other in the relationship by letting the relationship suffer and become damaged.

There is no perfect biblical example of someone doing this.  This is because the Bible is about the relationship between God and Man and how Jesus Christ repaired the fractured relationship between God and Man.  What we get to do is apply this perfect model found in the life of Jesus Christ to our own individual lives.   It will require something of and from us in order to go to our brother.

The second thing it is going to require is for us to be humble and obedient.  Our obedience and humbleness towards our brother requires us to confess not the specific sins, because we cannot recount every sin as Martin Luther reminds us.  But it does require us to in true humility go to our brother and confess that we are not perfect, like Jesus Christ.  And that we need the forgiveness only each of us can offer.  This is our collective opportunity to reach across the aisle, the pew, the street and ask for forgiveness.  For in humbling ourselves, we are following the obedient model of Jesus Christ Who in true humility and obedience suffered the torture of the Cross, was obedient to death and offered Himself in order to set all of mankind, including all of us free from sin, death, the devil, hell and damnation.  For that is truly what we deserve if we are not humble and obedient, we deserve the punishment Jesus endured, but that He suffered in order to set each of us free.  It is the freedom we enjoy as we partake of the Holy Supper around the altar of the Lord.  It is the opportunity to receive the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation through Jesus offering of His life for us on Calvary.

For the final opportunity is that we can have and should show mercy to one another.  Just as our Gospel from this morning clearly showed the ruler showing mercy to the wicked servant, we have the opportunity to show mercy as well.  We can rationalize away that we should be shown the mercy, but when we do that we turn the focus away from what God can do and does do for each of us through the forgiveness of sins and turn it towards our own sinful selves.  In the Holy Supper we are about to receive God reaches down and offers us the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation that we do not deserve, but God shows us mercy and grace that we clearly do not deserve.  This is our opportunity as well.

The clearest and best opportunity each of us individually has is offered to each of us every time we come to partake of the Lord’s Supper.  Before the actual communion liturgy takes place and even before the offering is received the words after the prayers spoken say, “The Peace of the Lord be with you always”.  As God’s ‘go between’, I as Pastor by my office speak God’s peace to each of you here in the congregation.  This opportunity is for each of us to share the peace.  It has become for some a mere formality or a break or opportunity to ‘stretch our legs’ or greet only our ‘friends’, but in actuality, this is the opportunity for each of us to search out our brothers and sisters in Christ that we have not made peace with and in true humility and seeking forgiveness offer a heartfelt ‘Peace of God’.  That heartfelt peace is the same peace Jesus Christ offered to His disciples who had scattered when He was betrayed.  It is a forgiving peace, a reconciling peace, an opportunity for all of us to make true peace with each other, because of the peace that God has made with us through His Son Jesus Christ.

This is the culmination of forgiveness and preparation for all of us to commune with the saints who have gone before us to be in God’s Kingdom.  We seize the opportunity to not only connect through this meal where we receive of Jesus Christ precious Body and Blood.  We also can feel the forgiveness that only Jesus Christ can offer for all of mankind.  For it is this peace and forgiveness that Jesus calls us to truly share with one another and with all of the saints who have gone before us that we share with one another as we gather here at Emmanuel to receive life and salvation through the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, that is given and shed for us for the forgiveness of sins.  May we share in the forgiveness of sins and be enabled to understand this is for all of mankind, especially all the saints who have gone before us and who still remain here at Emmanuel.  AMEN.
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