Receiving the Spirit: forgiveness

Pentecost3“Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Many scholars see a parallel between v.23 and Matthew 18:18: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” The parallel becomes clearer when we know that the words “forgive” in John 20:23 are the Greek words aphiēmi and krateō which mean “send away” and “hold” respectively [EDNT 2:314]. But even with the parallels aside, the meaning, extent and exercise of the Matthean and Johannine powers has been a source of division with the post-Reformation Christian community. Continue reading

Faithfulness: forgiving

The SendingWhen to Rebuke, When to Forgive?

3 Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.”

The disciples are warned to be on guard lest they become like the Pharisees. Several translations take the term adelphos as “disciple” but our translation does well to let it be literal as “brothers” [and sisters], retaining the communal kinship brought about by their common faith and service. Jesus is stressing that even individual sin has a communal element in that the sin of one may lead others astray. This sense of community is made clear in the Matthean parallel: Continue reading

Asking Forgiveness

forgivenessThe Family Leadership Summit is an annual affair that promotes its conservative Evangelical Christian identity and values around the family. Given that it is Iowa based, it is no surprise that in 2015 the Republican-Party hopefuls were on the podium and present at “town hall” meetings. Given the audience and agenda, it should come as no surprise what kind of questions you are going to face – and, as any good speaker would pay attention to, what kind of language the audience is waiting to hear in any response. The questions came as no surprise: “What is your relationship to Jesus Christ? Are you saved? How does your faith form your political world view?” Continue reading

Which came first?

Simon-Sinful-WomanJesus turns to his host, Simon and says, “So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven because she has shown great love.” – and later Jesus tells her that her “sins are forgiven.”  When I ponder that short verse in the gospel, I have often pondered it as though it were a chicken and egg question. You know, which comes first love or forgiveness?  I think the answer is, it depends.

Scripture is clear that in the relationship between God and us, love comes first. Listen to the words of 1st Letter of John: “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins… We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:10,19) That seems pretty clear. As regards forgiveness, it is there for our asking, because God already and always loves us. Continue reading

About healing

Jesus-healing” Bless me Father, for I have sinned….” So often people confess anger as a sin which plagues them. But often their description leaves me wondering. “You mentioned anger, but it sounded more like exasperation.” The person agrees and in the discussion mentions that they said nothing to the other person, we’re not uncharitable to them, and it did not affect their relationship. I offer that perhaps that moment is one of the most Christian of moments. They faced a choice: do what their inner emotion would have them – perhaps say a harsh word, sever the relationship, etc. – or choose what God asks and act in charity. But… Continue reading

On the Sidewalk

forgivenessSunday is a day when it is easy to find a priest if you want to mention, ask, or chat about something. Most topics are simple and straight forward, but once in a while someone asks a question that is very different from the others. It is then that the conversation is too important to have on the sidewalk but is better suited to a moment when time is more available and others are not waiting to chat or to simply offer their greetings.

Some time ago, a person asked if I thought there are “times we need to forgive God?” My first reaction was, “Sorry, could you repeat that?” Definitely one of those “can we talk about this in the office?” questions. That is when the person let me know they were a visitor. The best I could offer in the moment was, “I will have to think about that.” Continue reading

Pentecost: forgiveness

Pentecost3“Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Many scholars see a parallel between v.23 and Matthew 18:18: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” The parallel becomes clearer when we know that the words “forgive” in John 20:23 are the Greek words aphiēmi and krateō which mean “send away” and “hold” respectively [EDNT 2:314]. But even with the parallels aside, the meaning, extent and exercise of the Matthean and Johannine powers has been a source of division with the post-Reformation Christian community. Continue reading

Father, forgive them…

Giotto_Lower_Church_Assisi_Crucifixion_01“Father forgive them, they know not what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) This is the first of the traditional “last seven words” of Jesus. Jesus has just endured the long night of scouring and is abandoned, mocked, and spat upon. He has been stripped of all human dignity and now hangs humiliated upon the cross: “so marred were his features, beyond that of mortals; his appearance, beyond that of human beings” (Isaiah 52:14). Yet his first of his last words are of forgiveness. Continue reading

Scandal, Faith and Forgiveness – forgiveness

Calling disciplesThings That Scandalize.  1 He said to his disciples, “Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the person through whom they occur. 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.

These two sayings are connected by the words skandala (v. 1) and skandalizo (v. 2). The original meaning of this word group skandal- was “trap;” or, more specifically a trap’s tripping mechanism. The word group is sued to translate the Hebrew próskomma, meaning both “trap” and “stumbling block” or, “cause of ruin.”  In the latter sense, this transferred to the religious setting to mean “cause of sin.” But is “cause of sin” the best translation here?  Paul says that “Christ crucified is a stumbling block (skándalon) to the Jews (1 Cor 1:23) and describes the cross as a stumbling block (skándalon) (Galatians 5:11).   Continue reading

Scandal, Faith and Forgiveness – context

Calling disciplesLuke 17:5-10   1 He said to his disciples, “Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the person through whom they occur. 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. 3 Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.”

[The Sunday gospel reading begins here] 5 And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” 6 The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to (this) mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. 7 “Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’? 8 Would he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat. Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished’? 9 Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’” Continue reading