We come to the topic of forgiveness this week and we will stay there for some time. Two weeks ago we heard Peter confess the Christ and Jesus said that He would build His church on that confession. But last week we heard that Peter got Jesus so wrong that Jesus called him “satan.” Apparently confessing Jesus is not all that is involved. I would posit for you that doing Jesus is also involved here and this week and the next several weeks we hear Jesus speak of forgiveness. Could I dare say that when Jesus builds His Church forgiveness is baked right into that Church? Could I dare say that forgiveness is essential to the Church? It doesn’t sound terribly controversial, but I have to admit that most of the parishes of which I have been a part cannot say that forgiveness is the first, second, or even the third thing that comes to mind when you think of them.
I don’t think this is just an LCMS problem, I believe it is a Christian problem. We have forgotten how to forgive one another, how forgiveness is a promise to remember that hurt and the person who did it covered in the blood of Jesus. I call it “remembering it red.” I won’t forget about it – I probably cannot. God never asks me to forget about it. He does that, removing my sins and not remembering them, but He never asks me to do that.
Yet, as I see congregations act and speak, I do not hear them solving problems with forgiveness, but with the ways of the world. We turn to the self-help books and consultants of the world to fill our pews, but do not trust that Christ is building a community which is marked by radical forgiveness, love, and hospitality. Stanley Heuerwas has long said that if Christians would just start doing what they preach, their services would be full. We don’t need more advice, we need obedience to the loving rule of Christ, to the Gospel of life (Romans 1:5). This is not the begrudged and hateful obedience we think of when that word gets used, but the joyful obedience rendered to someone we love. We need to re-learn that. Sermons, the apparent weakness of the Word, the foolishness of the cross is how we do that. Preach it. Stand back and watch what God does with it.