Pastor Nelson Bonilla: 9-10-23 “Forgive as you were forgiven.” 

denrob14Events, News, News & Events, SermonsLeave a Comment

Matthew 18:21-35

          There are moments in history of humanity that should have never happened… and September 11th, 2001, is one of them. That fateful day just because of hate, 2,997 lives were lost. And today, a day before the 22nd anniversary, we read in the Gospel of Matthew Jesus telling Peter to forgive 70 times 7. Scholars divide this gospel in five great speeches of Jesus: The Sermon on the Mount (chap. 5-7); the commissioning of the disciples (chap. 10); the parables of the kingdom (chap. 13); life in the church (chap. 18); and the end of times (chap. 24-25).

The passage for this Sunday is part of life in the church speech. Here Jesus speaks on forgiveness. This chapter begins with a discussion of who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, followed by the parable of the lost sheep which underscores the truth that in God’s eyes even “one of these little ones” has such value that the shepherd leaves the ninety-nine sheep and goes after the one that has wandered off. This is followed by instructions to the church on how to deal with a brother who has sinned against another. It’s in this context that Peter asked Jesus how often he must forgive those who have sinned against us. Jesus told Peter to forgiver 70 times seven and for them to understand the reason of such a great number of times, Jesus told them the parable of the unmerciful servant.  

In this parable, the king -who represents God- forgives an impossible to pay debt to a servant who seems grateful, however later he did not forgive a fellow servant. In this parable the king was expecting the forgiven servant to follow his example and because he did not, he was punished.    

When I think about God’s forgiveness toward us, I think in a 15th century Japanese legend. The legend says that a person named Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa broke his favorite Chinese ceramic tea bowl and he sent it back to China for repair. They got it fixed using metal staples. Shogun Ashikaga did not like what he saw, and this inspired him to find a better and more elegant way to amend the ceramic, and as a result Kintsugi was born.

Kintsugi is a 500-year Japanese art of repairing broken pottery and transforming it into a new work of art with gold, which is the traditional metal used in Kintsugi. The name of the technique is derivative from the Japanese words “Kin” (golden) and “tsugi” (joinery), which can be translated as “golden repair.” The scars and cracks of the broken ceramic become the focus and turn the broken object into something beautiful, unique, and exquisite. The intention is for the later state to be better than the previous one.

The image of this art of repairing goes very well with the scripture the gospel presents us this morning, because I believe that when God forgives us, he practices with our lives the art of kintsugi. He takes the broken pieces of a fallen creation and makes something better, something beautiful as the hymn says. John 21:15-20 gives us a great example of how Jesus took the broken pieces of Simon Peter who left him die alone and denied him three times and made something beautiful out of him. “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Jesus asked and Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” “Take care of my sheep”, Jesus said. Jesus asked the same question three times; the same number of times Peter denied him. With this simple question Jesus show his mercy and love and Peter felt he was restored and forgiven. His later state was better than the previous.

 Luke chapter 8 talks about some women who had been cured of evil spirits and disease and after they were healed, these women were helping to support Jesus and his ministry out of their own means. Their later state was better than the previous. When God practice kintsugi to repair our broken life instead of gold, he uses forgiveness. Divine forgiveness: he forgives and forgets and gives us the opportunity to begin anew and our later state is better than the previous.        

             Forgiveness has never been an easy task; Jesus gave his life for ours. Revenge is the first response of our humanity. When that happens, when our humanity wants to go one way, and God is asking us to go the other way, we can understand the disciples when they said to Jesus, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” John 6:60. To the question, who can accept it? Jesus replied, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.

            September 11 and events like that had taken our world to the condition we are right know, we live in a broken world and God wants us to do something. Remember what Jesus says: The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. The words Jesus gave Peter and now to us, “forgive 70 times 7” are full of spirit and life; love your neighbor, are also words full of life;bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you, are words full of spirit and life, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, are also words full of spirit and life.

            The forgiveness Jesus expects from us when someone sin against us, is a forgiveness that will transform broken lives, broken relationships into a better life and better relationship, if that does not happen, we have not forgiven as Jesus forgave us. That forgiveness is exemplified in the parable of the unmerciful servant. If we forgive as Jesus wants us to, we forgive and forget and we start from scratch and we will love and respect even more than before.

            You may be asking, and what about justice? Yes, forgiveness also involves justice. However, let us remember, God’s justice is limited to “eye for an eye, tooth by a tooth.” No eye for a head or tooth for a mouth. According to God’s word, justice without limits is a threat to peace. Justice without limit is injustice and will promote discord and separation.

            The image of kintsugi allows us to see that there is a different way, a better way to heal a broken relationship and that is God’s way. When a relationship is repaired using the principles of kintsugi, the “injury” or the cracks do not in any way disappear. They are highlighted by the lines of gold. Scars are still part of the story, but they are no longer sharp, ugly, or painful. They are covered with the gold of love and mercy; they are covered with spirit and life.

We will never forget is the slogan many people display for this occasion. Yes, let us not forget the pain of the families who lost loved ones, so, no other family has to go through that pain again. Let us not forget, so, events like 9/11 never happen again in our world.

Loving God, we remember before you today those whose lives were lost in the catastrophic events of September 11, 2001, all those whom we love but no longer see.  We give thanks to you for the selfless courage of those brave souls who ran into burning buildings and who labored in the rubble; may their courage be to us a witness of what is possible when we are guided by love and dedication to our fellow human beings.

We pray today for the continued healing of all those suffering emotional and physical scars.  May your spirit breathe new life into troubled minds, and new warmth into broken hearts, so that all may feel wrapped in your loving embrace.  May we move from suffering to hope, from brokenness to wholeness, from anxiety to courage, from death to life, from fear to love, and from despair to hope.

Guide our feet into the way of peace.  Inspire us with hope in the gifts of peace and harmony. May we receive these gifts, so that we might become instruments of your peace in this world, knowing all people as equally loved, lovingly created children of God. Amen.             

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *