24th Sunday of Ordinary Time

by Rev. Corein Turbak

Imagine for a moment that it is a weekday morning – maybe a Tuesday or Wednesday. Maybe your alarm clock wakes you up or maybe it is the kids. Perhaps it is neither of those; maybe it is the birds singing on a crisp, sunny morning. Maybe it is worries of your own mind, clouding your sleep and waking, that arouses you. Imagine those first moments, however it is that you wake. Your eyes are open, at least a bit, and your day is beginning.

Imagine your first thoughts…

Maybe it is the things you will need to do for the day.

Maybe it is the task of getting your kids to school.

Maybe it is figuring out what you are wearing.

Maybe there is nothing and you wonder how you will fill the day.

However you come awake that morning, with your eyes opening to those first waking thoughts, imagine that you hear a calm, familiar voice saying, “You will be okay.”

I have too many meetings. You will be okay.

What do the kids have going on? We will be okay.

Do I have anything to wear this morning, that will fit me? It will be okay.

What will I do today? You will be okay.

Now take it one step further. Instead of hearing “You will be okay”, what if it was, “You are loved”?

How will I get everything done? I love you.

Am I a good enough mom? You are. I love you.

Why do I never look as pretty as everyone else? You are beautiful, I love you.

Does anyone know I am even here? I do. I treasure you. I love you.

What would our mornings, our days, our lifetimes be if we woke up deeply immersed in the knowledge that we are loved, seen, cared for, adored?

Our readings today seem to have an obvious theme, right? One of forgiveness. The theme is woven deep in our first reading, our psalm, and our Gospel.  And yes, these readings are about forgiveness, but further within these messages, within these stories of debts and debtors, there is a love letter.

A love letter from the Creator to the creation.

I am not going to talk too much about forgiveness today because before we can contemplate forgiveness and act in forgiveness, we need to believe in love. And not just the concept of love, but deep, abiding, never ending love.

I suspect that very few of us, and perhaps none of us, take time to simply enjoy the fact that we are loved. That we are glorious, gorgeous, desired, precious treasures. But this is the truth. This is who we are in the Creator’s eyes because we are created by that Creator. The God who made sunsets; the Holy that forged mountains through glaciers; the Love that blooms flowers; the Majesty that dances on the autumn trees; the God who we know both as Mother and Father, who made crystal clear lakes and deep blue oceans; that Creator – that same one – formed us. That God created us in that same beauty, and counted us not only among his beloved creation, but also named us, named us daughter, named us son, named us child of God.

This knowledge, this deep love, is the foundation of forgiveness. Forgiveness is not another thing we should do. Forgiveness is not another feat for us to achieve in our pursuits of Christian discipleship. Forgiveness is simply the consequence of love. Forgiveness is grateful love in action.

And this is why I don’t think we need to spend much time talking about forgiveness. Instead, we should simply rest in the love that our Creator has for us.  If you hear anything this evening, I hope you simply hear that you are loved. You are loved. You are adored. You are wanted.

The first debtor in our Gospel owned an unfathomable amount to the king. If we were to translate it to modern terms it would be the salary of 1 million days labor. The debtor owed an amount that could never be repaid.  The debtor carried an unimaginable weight of debt, he would never, ever get out of that debt. And the ruler completely, 100% forgave it and send him on his way.

If I think back to my own life, the lack of love that I have shown is insurmountable, I could never pay it back or make up for what I’ve done. If I simply counted the number of times I yelled and felt intense anger toward another person in traffic, it would probably be about 1 million days wages. We all carry this. There’s no escaping the fact that we have each make our fair share of mistakes. We have turned away from love and chosen so many things instead. We have used the most delicious words to tell someone off, the decadent feelings of knowing that we are better than another, the delightful feeling of judging another person, and, if we are lucky, having another person to agree with us, and enjoy the feast of judgment, anger, jealousy, and vindictiveness with us.

We have all been there. We have lived in the dark places. We have carried a debt and promised, just like our debtor in the Gospel, that someday – oh someday – we will turn things around, we will be better, we will repay.

But you and I both know that we cannot. We are finite beings. Our days are limited. Our time is limited. Our energy is limited.

But, this is where the most glorious twist comes into the story. We were created by the Infinite.  We were loved into being by the Limitless. We were given breath from the One whose breath never ends.

And so we, just like the debtor, are told, “You are okay. Your debt is wiped clean. Forgotten.  Done. Gone. Vanished.”

What do you hold onto?  What’s that one piece of dread that you wake up with in the morning? For me, it is my demanding perfection. I think the world should be perfect. I think I should be perfect. I think my family should be perfect. And each and every day I see the imperfections. I see my fleshy stomach. I see unclean dishes. I see passive-aggression. I see it all. And I get mad. I get so mad. I clench my fists. I hug my rage like the people in the first reading. I feel it, I grip it, and fuel it.

But you know what? God does not ask me to do better. God does not ask me to have a better prayer life. God does not tell me to “Let go and let God.” God just says over and over again, “It is wiped clean, your debt is cleared, It is forgotten. You are free.”

This week I am not going to challenge us to be more forgiving people. Instead, I want us all to say these two things to ourselves, whenever our debt feels insurmountable, whenever we grip our own rage:

I am loved. I am free.
I am loved. I am free.

I believe that if we start here, if we wake up and fall asleep in our Creator’s love and vast freedom, then we will begin to forgive. We will not cling to rage or anger. We will open our hands and open our hearts to God, to ourselves, and to our neighbors. And then we will freely forgive, just as our Creator does.

My friends, you are loved and you are free. You owe nothing.

Loving God, as we gather together tonight, open our eyes, our hearts, and our minds to your presence.  Increase our awareness of your your love for us and the freedom you give us.  And in that freedom and love, may we live lives of forgiveness and grace. We offer this prayer in your name, one God, forever and ever. Amen

Loving God around this table, we offer not only this bread and wine, but all of who we are.  And in you, with our hands, this bread and wine becomes your body and your blood. We become love, transformed and multiplied. Gather us together within this gift and let it become the practice of our lives.  We bring you this prayer, in the confidence of your Spirit, for you are one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Gracious God, you remind us today and every day, that we are loved; that we are called to nothing more than to accept that love, and share it freely with others. Give us the awareness, the grace, and the courage to accept and live in that love. Let us carry forth your loving presence into the world.  Let us go courageously to share your Good News and your words of freedom with all we meet.  In your Spirit we pray this night, and forever and ever. Amen

– Rev. Corein

Photo Credit: Divine Reflections, “Forgiveness”.  Some rights reserved. Available at www.flickr.com.