Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Forgive us Our Trespasses


"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us"

When we pray to our Father in Heaven we pray ‘give us this day our daily bread.’  And in the very same breath we pray “forgive us our trespasses” – that is “forgive us our sins.”  Like food and drink, like shelter and safety, forgiveness is our need.  A need of both body and soul.      

There is no higher form of worship than to pray this simple petition, “Forgive us.”  But we do not live in a world that treasures this gift and takes hold of it.  We live in a culture of “positive thinking,” where asking the Lord for forgiveness simply does not really resonate anymore.  Asking anybody for anything is just not very dignified.  I am independent – independent minded and free thinking.  I want to focus on the good, not all that bad stuff – not all that sin.

Spiritually, we often prefer to be professional do-it yourselfers.  We much prefer a 10 ten step program to be a new and better you.  We are looking for the ‘best life now’ and the secret of happiness.  The world says, “you just need to forgive yourself first.”  You need to do whats right for you!  Do what you like.  You need to put yourself first.  If it feels good do it.        

We live in a culture that chooses to self-medicate for their sins, rather than medicate with the mediation of Jesus Christ.    We are often concerned more about self esteem than being redeemed in the merit of Christ.   


Many churches, even Lutheran ones have gotten rid of confession and absolution at the beginning of the service, because it is deemed an “emotional downer” for worship.  It has been replaced with worship styles that focus more on emotional zest and staying positive about ourselves.  You just got to be upbeat!

‘Can’t we just praise God and get on with the good stuff!’  I am not really a poor, miserable sinner.  I’m just not that bad.  Let’s get over that medieval stuff and get with the times.  I just can’t believe that I deserve death and condemnation.  “I just can’t believe in a god like that.”  The Pharisee in all of us rises up to plead his case.  Thank God I am not like them.          


No matter how pious and godly the community is around us, we cannot be free from the trials and temptations that come.  Even among the gathered saints – on this side of heaven – life is a dense web of trespasses.  Trespasses against us and trespasses against others - little hostilities and petty fights.  Bound up in a web of un-reconciled family problems, or having a dislike for someone at the workplace.  The little grudges and protests in our lives pile up to make a pretty ugly mess.  A mess of sin that brings on death. 
    
It was King David who cried “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all the day.  For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer” (Ps. 32:3-4).  David shows us that carrying around sin is exhausting.  It weighs down upon the soul, and mind.  It presses down into our bodies, into our very bones.  It makes us anxious and tired.   

We cannot self-medicate our lives with ‘positive thinking’ and new age popular spirituality.  We have real sin that requires a real savior.  We had a real sickness that requires a real anditote.  We have a condition that requires a true physician. 

Our Lord takes our sin very seriously.  And we should take it seriously.  For God himself is grieved in his heart, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem” and “Adam, where are you?”  He is saddened by the break in that blissful relationship that He desires with us all.  And what a passion he has to get us back.  
    
For each and every sin was placed on the sinless one.  Every trespass laid upon the one who never transgressed anyone.  The one who loved the whole world, loved the Father perfectly…asking that “His will be done.”  And Christ willed to step into our place and take that punishment and condemnation that we had rightfully deserved.  He steps in as the true doctor of body and soul.  The physician of mercy who bandages up every open wound.

In his prayer, He prays with us and for us, “Forgive us our sins,” though he knew no sin.  He steps down from heaven into our prayer and identifies with all the brokenness and pain in this world.  He looks up to the Father, suffering with all creation, and pleads with us “Forgive us our trespasses.”

When he breaks out from the grave on Easter morning, He says, “Peace be with you.”  Look at these wounds.  I have surely done it for you.  “Now go in peace and forgive others as I have forgiven you.”  This is the work that God loves to do – forgive sin.               

We can never get bored with this.  There is no lovelier way to give God glory that to say, “forgive us Father.”  This is how we praise God with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. Asking for forgiveness and receiving it is the highest form of worship on earth.  God delights in hearing this petition, for he has more joy in heaven over one person who turns and pleads, “forgive us” than over all the righteous saints in heaven or earth.”  For the sacrifices of God – that which he truly loves is a “broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart.” 

We give God the greatest praise and highest glory by confessing our sins before God and the whole company of heaven.  Here, the angels rejoice and the Holy Spirit descends upon our households.  The Son intercedes from the cross and the Father speaks, “You are mine with whom I am well pleased.”

‘I forgive you,’ He says.  ‘Forgive others as I have forgiven you.’  This is that Word which breaks out and is loosed upon the whole world.  Asking for forgiveness and receiving it here in our midst, trusting, that that Word is from God himself.  This is what breaks the power of death.  This is what makes us children of light and holy people.  Forgiveness is what binds us to those sitting next to us. 

Forgiveness causes wars to cease and makes peace.  In marriage between husband and wife there is nothing more romantic than “I forgive you.”  When Christ’s speaks to His church and forgives Her for all her sins, there are no words under heaven more wonderful than these, “I forgive you…for all your sins.” 

In this Gospel Word heaven is merged with earth – the dead are raised from their graves – and all those longing for peace have it in abundance.  Here is the greatest of daily bread – forgiveness – a gift that gives us all we need in our daily life.  Here, we have every good thing, and nothing is lacking.  This, is your ‘best life now.’  This is your happiness.  In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

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