Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Gospel Text for Sunday, 12 June 2011

John 20.19-23

When it was evening of that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with yu." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said the, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any,they are retained."


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  2. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven…..” Oh my, is that not what got Jesus is so much trouble with the religious officials in Mark and Luke’s gospels when he healed the paralytic and forgave his sin? And now he breathes the Holy Spirit onto the disciples, and us, and sends us into the world to do likewise. Who am I to forgive sins? Even when I try I’m not sure it really works.

    Jesus also asserted, “If you retain the sins of any they are retained.” I know more about that – rehearsing the sins of my transgressors, replaying offenses against my sense and sensibilities, re-experiencing old wounds, judging my neighbor’s splinter while forgetting the log in my eye. I hold onto the sins like a sledgehammer to wield my priority or power. The good news is Jesus gave us something else to hold onto. He sent the Holy Spirit with her various gifts and fruit that make letting go and forgiving possible.

    Given the Holy Spirit, there is every chance a person may “forgive the sins of any,” and act for the common good because it is the work of the Spirit. “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. (1 Cor 12:4-14.) “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [23] gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Gal 5:22-23)

    Even though forgiveness is not specifically cited in the gospel lists of the gifts and fruit of the Spirit, I believe it could be. I cannot free myself from the real and imagined hurts of my lifetime. I cannot free myself from the judgments that keep my loved ones and neighbors and enemies in prison. Thankfully the Spirit of God that works through all people (even me) softens my judgments, increases my patience, kindles my kindness and frees me to forgive. To forgive is to open my heart to that which has offended. To forgive is to extend hospitality instead of hostility. To forgive is to be the bearer of peace.

    When Jesus completed his work on earth he breathed God’s Holy Spirit into humankind so that we could continue his work of bringing peace to all the earth. Retaining sins is inimical to peace. Forgiving sins we may join Jesus saying, “Peace be with you,” and actually live it.