We are all Brothers and Sisters

I am delivering the following sermon at my church tonight.

Readings for this sermon are at the bottom this posting.

Listen to this sermon here.

 

Brothers and Sisters,

Fourteen years ago, a terrible event happened in our country. A group of men turned airliners into weapons, killing their sisters and brothers here in our United States. Their method may have been new, but the story is as old as the fall of mankind. For far longer than our recorded history;
we have killed our brothers and sisters,
we have enslaved our sisters and brothers,
we have purposely forgotten an essential truth about our existence in this time and in this place.

All humanity, indeed, all that is alive on this one jewel of a planet all alone in the vast emptiness of space; is related to all other life on this world. We are all brothers and sisters on this planet, breathing the same air, drinking the same water, cherishing our parents and our children. Worshiping our Creator, who made all of us in His image:
shapers and makers,
singers and artists,
engineers and writers,
each of us created; with one spark of the divine light in our being: the light that shines in the darkness, which the darkness does not overcome.

We all are truly brothers and sisters not only in our creation but also in our failure, our brokenness, and in our enslavement to our brokenness: our sin.
We have failed to live on this good Earth as we should.
We have failed the Lord God our Creator to stay in relationship with Him.
We have failed our sisters and brothers in fellowship, and in community.
We have a great deal of reconciliation to do. And forgiving our brothers and sisters in Christ, within our church is the least that we should be doing.

From our gospel lesson, Peter asks Jesus how often he should forgive his brothers and sisters in Christ, as many as seven times? Peter is thinking that seven times is pretty generous, surely that is enough. And Jesus responds with not seven times, but seventy seven times, meaning that our forgiveness should be without limit. Our sisters and brothers in our church family should always, always have our forgiveness and our love.

When I first read this parable: The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, in our gospel lesson as I was writing this sermon; I felt some despair about how I was going to find something in this parable to preach about.

This is not an uplifting, fun parable about the kingdom of God.
This parable is about the broken world in which we live.
This parable demonstrates how we fail,
how we fail to be good to each other,
how we fail to be kind to each other;
how we return evil to others instead of passing on the blessings we receive freely from our Creator.

In this parable, God our Creator is the king, who has just forgiven a man of his sin. This man had a huge debt in sin: a debt that he could never repay. This man is our brother, and he is also every one of us. We each receive this forgiveness for our sins: the collective debt of our mistakes and failures in relationship with our Lord God and with each other. And just as we Christians receive this forgiveness from our Lord and God what do we do?

We turn to our brother,
we do not forgive the small debt our brother owes to us,
we do not ask our brother if he is able, or has the money to repay this small debt,
we do not even ask our brother in a nice way to repay this small debt,
we demand immediate payment!
We wring his neck, we have him arrested, and we have our brother thrown into prison!

This is the world we have made. It is like the old adage, our world is the bed we have made, and now we must sleep and live in it.
Our God or the Devil do not make us hate each other.
Our God or the Devil do not make us hurt each other.

I personally, do not believe in the common conception of Satan or the Devil: a creature of pure evil that tempts us to harm and hurt each other. We human beings have both the divine light and the darkness of sin in our nature. When we feed the darkness within us we are fully capable of all the evil that gets committed in our world. I believe that our brothers and sisters who languish in darkness are the devils of this Hell that we have made for ourselves here on this good Earth.

Our suffering, the intentional pain, and the fear we cause each other is all so unnecessary!

Jesus Christ demonstrated to us a new way to live, to break the cycle of violence and retribution we wage against each other. And we Christians are not alone, nearly every religion from every people on the face of our good Earth, has received this wisdom from the Creator who made us all.
We are all brothers and sisters on this small and delicate world.
We do not have to strike out violently when we suffer violence.
We can forgive each other.
We can care for each other.

All of us who seek the Truth, who follow the path of Light, whatever the religious system we practice, must lead our sisters and our brothers out of darkness and into the light.
There is Hope; our world does not have to be this way.

On June 17th of this year, a terrible event happened in our country. A man attended a bible study at a church in South Carolina, and afterward he killed nine of his brothers and sisters in that church. The man was caught, and two days later on June 19th at his bond hearing; a delegation from that church, including survivors of the attack and relatives of his victims; publicly asked God’s forgiveness for this man, their brother. Their example is the light that the darkness does not overcome.

Reconciliation: an acknowledgement of the evil that has been committed, but also the recognition that retribution and revenge only spread that evil to others who had nothing to do with the original terrible event. It is only in our reconciliation one to another, that we will someday hope to establish the new Jerusalem foretold by the prophet Isaiah.

they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.

 

Isaiah 2:1-4

1 The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
2 In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
3 Many peoples shall come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
4 He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.

Matthew 18:21-35

Forgiveness
21 Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25 and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26 So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31 When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35 So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”