Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Forgiveness Is Key



Forgiveness Is Key is our worship theme for the third Sunday in Lent, March 3, 2013. Our focus scriptures are Psalm 103 and Isaiah 55:1-13.

In Lent we are exploring the foundations for peace as we find them in the lectionary readings for each Sunday. This week, the readings from both Psalm 103 and Isaiah 55:1-9 directly promise God’s forgiveness. And since Jesus teaches us that we should be like God, who makes the warm sunlight and blessed rain fall on both the good and the bad alike, we know that we should follow God in forgiving others. In fact, Jesus goes further, teaching that we should forgive one another “not seven times, but seventy times seven.” And he advises that before we bring our gift to the altar to present it to God, we make peace with any brother or sister with whom we are estranged. We apparently cannot truly be at peace with God if we are not at peace with one another.

There are selfish reasons why forgiveness is good for us. Frederick Buechner puts it succinctly in his book Wishful Thinking, A Theological ABC.
Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back—in many ways it is a feast fit for a king.
The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.

Forgiveness is good for our souls. It is stressful to hang on to bitter grudges. But hanging on to past grievances and refusing to forgive or even talk to those who have hurt us creates a logjam that is bad for society as well. Think of the interminable and hurtful impasse between Israel and Palestine. Or North and South Korea. Or Iran and the United States. Or between gangs of young men in our cities. Or between estranged couples with children. Or… you name it. The sunlight of forgiveness is necessary to melt the ice jam of hatred and suspicion and create the conditions where foundations for peace can be carefully laid.

Here are two Calls to Worship based on Psalm 103 and Isaiah 55:6-13. Please use or adapt anything helpful to you.


** Call to Worship    From Psalm 103

L: Bless the Lord, O my soul.
          P: All that is within me, bless God’s holy name!        
          L: Bless the Lord, O my soul.
          P: Forget not all the benefits of the Lord!
          L: Who forgives all your sins and heals your diseases.
          P: Who redeems your life from destruction
               and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness.
L: Who satisfies you with good as long as you live,
               and renews your youth like an eagle’s.
          P: The Lord is full of compassion, slow to anger, rich in love.
          L: The Lord does not deal with us as our sins deserve.
          P: For the Lord knows how we are made.
          L: God remembers that we are dust.
          P: Bless the Lord throughout all creation!
       All: Bless the Lord, O my soul!


    **Call to Worship   From Isaiah 55:6-13

L: Seek the Lord while God may be found, call while God is near.
     Let the wicked change their ways, the unrighteous their thoughts.
P: Let them return to the Lord, for our God will have mercy on them.
     God will abundantly pardon.
L: For God says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts.
     Nor are your ways like my ways.
P: For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways,
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
L: For the rain and snow come down from heaven to water the earth and make it bring forth an abundant harvest.
P: And likewise, the Word that I speak shall not return to me empty.
It shall accomplish my purpose and achieve my objective.
L: Your destiny is to go out in joy and return in peace.
The mountains before you shall burst into song,
and the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
     P: Cypress and sequoias will grow in fields once choked by thorns.
     They shall stand as a memorial to my promise, an everlasting sign that shall never be removed.”                                           
  All:  Thanks be to God! Let us worship God!

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