Top of Page ILLUMINATING AND THINKING ABOUT THE SERMON
Jesus’ kingdom ethic is too radical for them—or us—to accept it easily. It flies in the face of everything that James and John had been taught from childhood on, and of what we ourselves have learned. When we are hurt or attacked, our desire to strike back is automatic. If we cannot retaliate now, then later on. We have been raised on movies and stories in which revenge/vengeance is the central theme—this includes almost all Westerns, as well as crime/detective stories. When a victim forgives a murderer, it is so newsworthy that wire services pick up and spread the story. Several years ago, when he forgave his would-be assassin, the Pope made the cover of Time magazine. This incident in Samaria should make Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan (found only in Luke) all the more remarkable. That he would raise a member of the group that had refused him hospitality above that of the pillars of his Jewish society—a priest and a Levite—what an incredible example of reaching out in love and forgiveness!
Jesus’ call to discipleship is so radical that it changes our very nature when we accept it. His declaration that we must enter his kingdom “like a child” is apt, because he calls us to throw away all our old adult concepts of hating enemies and getting even with them. In John’s Gospel Jesus says we “must be born again.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer agrees when he wrote “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” And so he does. James and John had to learn this through Christ’s giving himself up on the cross. They saw that even in his dying he refused to call down fire upon his enemies, but instead called out “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It is no accident that this cry of forgiveness is found only in Luke. Living in a culture that values violence and vengeance, we still need to break with our old ways as we embrace Christ’s. Who of us would want to join with James and John in receiving the rebuke of the Prince of Peace? The Cry for Forgiveness is something we all need to hear, but often we turn a deaf ear to such ideas. Forgiveness is to high a mountain to climb. We are too busy seeking justice against imagined hurts or too outraged to think of the other person as foolish and week. We are deaf to the idea and flavor of forgiveness.
Scholars have long pointed out that today’s passage marks the beginning of a new stage in the ministry of Jesus for Luke. Christ’s Galilean ministry has come to an end, and now Jesus has “set his face to go to Jerusalem.” The long section from 9:51 through 19:27 is usually called “The Journey to Jerusalem.” Most of the material up to 18:15 Luke takes from the alleged “Q Document” and from his own private source, labeled “L.” During the course of his teaching about the kingdom and his kingdom works of healing, Jesus has run up against opposition. This opposition will intensify as he journeys toward Jerusalem, culminating in the holy city in the events of Holy Week. As we see in today’s lection, Jesus and the disciples encounter opposition right at the start of his journey, but it is not from his usual enemies, the scribes and Pharisees.
To reach Jerusalem from Galilee, Jesus’ party must either pass around Samaria, as most Jews would do even though it added many miles to their trip, or go straight through, thereby risking the hostility of its inhabitants. Obviously, this time Jesus has decided to go straight through their territory, even though, as is stated in John’s Gospel, “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.” The hostility between the two groups is a long standing one, dating back five centuries to the days when the Jewish exiles had returned from their captivity in Babylon and found that the people in their former land had intermarried with pagan neighbors and mixed their idolatrous religion with the true faith. The Jews had rejected them completely; Ezra even commanded that anyone who had married a non-Jew should divorce that person. The Samaritans eventually rejected idols and accepted the Pentateuch as their Scriptures. However, they committed an act anathema to Jews by erecting their own temple on Mount Gerizimn, thus setting up a rival for worship at the Jerusalem temple. The long simmering hostility between the Samaritans and the Jews would erupt into violence a generation or two after Jesus when Jews attacked and plundered several Samaritan villages in retaliation for a Samaritan ambush of Jewish festival pilgrims.
In John’s Gospel Jesus stays in a Samaritan village as the result of his conversion of the woman at the well and wins many followers among the people. Neither Luke, nor the Samaritans to whom Jesus dispatches messengers to prepare for his party’s lodging, apparently know of this. When the Samaritans learn of Jesus’ eventual destination—Jerusalem—they want no part of him. Their refusal to grant him hospitality reveals how deep the rift was between the two groups, because according to ancient custom one’s duty toward anyone seeking hospitality, even if an enemy were requesting it, transcended all differences. Little wonder that James and John were so distraught.
Not just distraught! James and John are downright vengeful. They would have agreed with the modern maxim, “Don’t get mad. Get even!” Their (self-)righteous zeal moves beyond merely getting even. They would actually destroy the inhospitable villagers! In his New Interpreter’s Bible commentary on Luke, Dr. R. Alan Culpepper suggests that their request echoes the incident in which the prophet Elijah refused to heed the messengers that the king of Samaria had dispatched to summon him to court, calling down on them heavenly fire. Jesus, however, is not Elijah, but one far greater. He has moved beyond declaring the wrath of God to proclaiming the coming of a kingdom of love. Thus, Luke says that Jesus “turned and rebuked” his two vociferous disciples.
This is another instance of the obtuseness of the disciples, and it would linger, according to Luke, even unto the last when, during the Last Supper, they would argue among themselves over who should be the greatest in their Master’s kingdom. James and John had heard their Master declare: “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Lk 6:35-37). They had even witnessed him conversing with one of the hated Roman occupiers who had come requesting that his servant be healed. Thus far, none of this apparently had changed their basic values when it came to dealing with enemies. When faced with opposition they fall back on the old way of paying back in kind what one receives. (R. Alan Culpepper, “The Gospel of Luke”, New Interpreter’s Bible, V IX. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995)
Forgiveness does not have much place in our modern discourse. We are too busy finding and making enemies. From Cable News to modern social media forgiveness is not something to be even considered. We find the idea of forgiveness something that will no be good for the ratings of Cable News. Forgiveness is not a vote getter in modern politics. Forgiveness is not something that is part of our huge and costly justice system which barely recognizes the concept of pardon much less forgiveness. Jesus Cry for Forgiveness is as foreign to our thinking today as it was in Jesus’ time.
Top of Page ILLUSTRATING THE SERMON
Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. Generally defined by psychologists as a conscious and deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward someone who has harmed you, it is as difficult to practice as needed to achieved sustainable happiness.
When we feel hurt our organism release higher than the usual amount of different hormones and neurotransmitters, so our body gets overwhelmed with adrenaline and other chemicals creating a physical and impulsive negative rush to respond. When occasionally and under control, these feelings can be perfectly healthy, but when they turn particularly intense or long-lasting they can have drastic effects on the body, the mind, and the soul. When persisting longer than short-term, these changes start to affect all organs, digestion, sleep, mood, and a long list that goes on and on. Hate and hostility act on the detriment of physical wellbeing and emotional stability. It chips away at our happiness and clouds our ability to enjoy the present moment.
There is anyway a small but powerful stream of thought opposing forgiveness us such. On the premises of some adverse effects of it with regards to an abusive, manipulative or recidivist offender, forgiveness is understood as a symptom of weakness that just makes the transgressor stronger. But let's make some important huge remarks.
Forgiveness does not mean reconciling with the person who has harmed you. It is not about pretending that what has happened it is okay or re-establish any form of relationship with this person. You do not need to forget. Actually, you should always remember to ensure that this situation will not hit you twice.
It is also vital to see the difference between purposely and un-purposely offends. Sometimes forgiveness requires drastic measures. It needs to place someone out of our lives or even to change our daily routines for good. Most of the times, it just requires large doses of humility and good will.
Forgiveness this way does not exclude your right to seek justice or compensation as well as fair punishment for the aggressor. But far from the eventual negative effects that it can have for a treacherous offender, forgiveness is always a healer for the offended one. It does ensure emotional and physical health as it stops the cycle of sustainable negative anger effects. It helps to repair relationships as it allows us to see others' worth.
There is no way to achieve sustainable happiness when we are in an open or hidden confrontation with someone. Just to start, and according to a study conducted by Portland State University Institute on Aging surveying more than 650 adults over 2 years, prolonged conflict with other people is strongly associated with lower self-rated health and more health issues. What affects us emotionally, affects us physically too.
It definitely allows us to grow in character and leadership as it helps us to become a better person.
And is not this the ultimate reason what we are here for?
But how do we move forward now? How can we take all this pain, all this anger, and all these constant negative thoughts patterns and transform them into our personal opportunity to excel?
Everett Worthington, pioneer clinical psychologist in the field of forgiveness, propose the REACH method for all those willing to make an effort to try.
1. R is for RECALL de hurt as first step of the process.
Try to visualize the event while taking deep breaths to keep your emotions steady. Acknowledge your inner pain but make an effort to overcome it by trying to recall the incident as objectively as possible. It’s your anger, not you. Express those emotions in a non-hurtful way without yelling or attacking. Avoid judgment and focus on letting resentment go.
2. E is for EMPATHISE with the person who hurt you.
It is good to remember that we are all able of the most unthinkable behavior. Do not incur in self-pity and examine the context, reasons, and emotions that lead to this situation. Trying to empathize and understanding the event from the offender's point of view is essential. The more you replace anger with compassion, the less you will want to hold onto the hurt.
3. A is for the ALTRUISTIC gift of forgiveness.
Giving the free gift of forgiveness freely and not grudgingly is vital to ensure its healing effects. Try to remember every time you behave wrongly, and you were forgiven. Focus on the positive outcomes that the offense brought to your life. Focus on the positive results of freeing yourself from pain and bitterness.
4. C is for the COMMITMENT to forgive
Start always by forgiving yourself for your role in every actual conflict. Sometimes we are just not able to move forward because of our inability to condone ourselves. Put your forgiveness into words and action by performing the overt act of forgiveness verbally or in writing. These are not very simple actions but undoubtedly help you to work towards letting go of resentment.
5. And H is for HOLDING onto that forgiveness.
And when all those memories come back to your mind, be careful not to dwell on them. Interrupt any negative through and focus on the good flashbacks and all the good things that the offender has also brought to your life. Count on time. It always works as a very good ally. (https://www.forbes.com/sites/palomacanterogomez/2019/02/28/the-power-of-forgiveness-and-how-happy-people-manage-to-unleash-it/#617873aa448b)
Even if we forgive in sheer obedience to the Lord, we’ll experience amazing power and freedom when we do. Bitterness is mental prison. Just this summer, I knew I hadn’t totally let go of an offense by a co-worker. I wasn’t resentful per say, but I sure didn’t go out of my way to chat, or show kindness like I used to. I became less of a “light” at work, and it frankly squelched my spirit. There is so much weight, stress and exhaustion involved when you hold on to unforgiveness. Grudges weigh us down, deplete our energy, and it gives the person or circumstances control that shouldn’t exist in our lives. Forgiveness says to the offender,” I’m beyond your reach.” After becoming better at forgiving we actually learn to pity and have compassion for who offend us. And when you really attain Christlikeness, you’ll pray for them. Can’t say I’m quite there most times, but when I start praying for the loons that cut me off in traffic, then I’ll know I’m there. Forgive whatever’s holding you back. Hold a ceremony if you need to. Give it to God, and then never look back. If you still haven’t made peace with a person, or circumstance, the only option is to forgive. Jesus forgave the very men nailing him to the cross, and I think there’s a reason that detail remained in God’s Word. He knows the damage unforgiveness can bring, and he wants the world to see his power and mercy when we do let go and forgive. (https://www1.cbn.com/five-truths-power-of-forgiveness)
One way to get more comfortable with forgiveness is to practice small acts in everyday life, says Dr. Tyler VanderWeele, co-director of the Initiative on Health, Religion, and Spirituality at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. For example, if someone is rude or cuts you off in traffic, use that moment to recognize the wrong, realize it wasn't directed at you personally, and forgive him or her on the spot. "This way you also can learn to immediately stop the negative reaction and the feelings that come with it," says Dr. VanderWeele. (https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/the-power-of-forgiveness)
How could I forgive the woman who had gone after my husband and ultimately married him?
I thought about her. I dreamed about her. I saw her in every woman I met. Some had her name, Cathy. Others had her deep-set blue eyes or her curly dark hair. Even the slightest resemblance turned my stomach into a knot.
I felt trapped in my thoughts weeks, months, years passed. Would I ever be free of this woman? I couldn't go on like this. The endless rage, resentment, guilt, and anger drained the life out of everything I did. I went into counseling. I attended self-help classes, seminars, workshops. I read books. I talked to anyone who would listen.
I ran. I walked the beach. I drove for miles to nowhere. I screamed into my pillow at night. I meditated. I prayed. I blamed myself. I did everything I knew how to do — except surrender.
Then one Saturday in 1982, I was drawn to a day-long seminar on the healing power of forgiveness sponsored by a church in my neighborhood. After some discussion and sharing, participants were asked to close their eyes, then locate someone in their lives they had not forgiven — for whatever reason, real or imagined.
I did not want to forgive her next, the leader invited us to look at whether or not we'd be willing to forgive that person. My first thought was Cathy. My stomach churned again. My hands were suddenly wet, and my head throbbed. I felt I had to get out of that room, but something kept me in my seat.
How could I forgive a person like Cathy? She had not only hurt me; she'd hurt my children as well. So I turned my attention to other people in my life. My mother. She'd be easy to forgive. Or my friend Ann, or my former high school English teacher. Anyone but Cathy. But there was no escape. The name persisted, and her face grew large in my mind.
Then a voice within gently asked, "Are you ready to let go of this? To release her? To forgive yourself, as well?"
My unforgiveness was destroying me I turned hot, then cold. I began to shake. I was certain everyone around me could hear my heart beating. Yes, I was willing. I couldn't hold onto my anger any longer. It was killing me. In that moment, without doing anything else, an incredible shift in my perception took place. I simply let go!
I can't describe it. I don't know what happened or what prompted me at that moment to do something I had resisted so doggedly for months. All I know is that for the first time in four years I completely surrendered to the Holy Spirit. I released my grip on Cathy, on my ex-husband, on myself. I let go of the anger — just like that.
Within seconds, energy rushed through every cell of my body. My mind became alert, my heart lightened. I saw things I had not seen before. Suddenly I realized that as long as I separated myself from even one person, I separated myself from God.
How "righteous" I had been. How arrogant and possessive. How important it had been for me to be right, no matter what the cost. And it had cost me plenty — my health, my spontaneity, my vitality.
I had no idea what was next, but it didn't matter. That night I slept straight through till morning. No dreams. No haunting face. No reminders.
If it had been up to me alone, I don't know if I would have had the courage or the generosity to make the first move. But it was not up to me. There was no mistaking the power of the Holy Spirit within me.
The following Monday I walked into my office and wrote Cathy a letter. The words spilled onto the page without effort.
"Dear Cathy," I began. "On Saturday morning...," and I proceeded to tell her what had occurred.
I told her how I had deliberately continued to separate myself from her, to judge her for what she had done and, as a result, how I denied both of us the healing power of forgiveness.
On Wednesday afternoon of the same week, the phone rang.
There was no mistaking the voice.
"It's Cathy," she said softly.
Surprisingly, my stomach remained calm. My hands were dry. My voice was steady and sure. I listened more than I talked, which is unusual for me. I found myself actually interested in what Cathy had to say.
She thanked me for the letter, and she acknowledged my courage in writing it. Then she told me how sorry she was — for everything. She talked briefly about her regret, her sadness for me, and more. All I had ever wanted to hear from her, she said that day.
As I replaced the receiver, however, I realized that as nice as it was to hear her words of apology, they didn't really matter. They paled in comparison to what God was teaching me. Buried deep in the trauma of my divorce was the truth I had been looking for all my life without even knowing it — that God is my source, my strength, my very supply. He alone can minister healing.
For four years I had been caught in the externals, the reasons, the lies, the excuses, the jealousy, the anger. But now I had a clear experience of what had formerly been a stack of psychological insights. Now I really knew that no one can hurt me as long as I am in God's hands. No one can rob me of my life — unless I allow them to.
My life is mine, and every experience, no matter how painful or confusing, can serve my spiritual growth. Every moment has its purpose if I am serving the Lord.
Since then I have started over again in another city — free of the binding ties of jealousy, anger, and resentment, free to experience all that God has for me. "'For I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'"(Jeremiah 29:11-12).
God wants us to discover freedom and strength. He wants to be our leverage in living, empowering us to feel better about ourselves, more excited about our future, more grateful for those we love, and more enthusiastic about our faith. He made a personal relationship possible between Himself and us through His Son, Jesus Christ. (https://thelife.com/the-healing-power-of-forgiveness)
We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.
I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate, myself, and I’ve seen hate on the faces of too many ... Somehow we must stand up before our most bitter opponents and say: “We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering…”
If humanity is to progress, Gandhi is inescapable. ... Martin Luther King, Jr. The Words of Martin Luther King, Jr. Selected by Coretta Scott King (New York: Newmarket Press, 1987)
(Nonviolence must have its root in love. Its object should not be to punish the opponent or to inflict injury upon him. Even while non-cooperating with him, we must make him feel that in us he has a friend and we should try to reach his heart by rendering him humanitarian service whenever possible. Mohandas Gandhi The Words of Gandhi. Selected by Richard Attenborough (New York: Newmarket Press, 1982)
I heard Dr. W.E. Sangster preach one night about the “sludge ships” of London. He told of the sewer system of London being one of the wonders of the sanitary world. As sewage is processed one finally gets down to the irreducible and dangerous sediment called sludge. What can one do with it? London had four sludge vessels. They each had a 1,500-ton capacity. On every weekday tide, two of the vessels set out laden with this poisonous material. Down the Thames hey travel to Black Deep, a depression in the ocean fifteen miles off the coast. The valves are opened and the cargo sinks in the sea. Within an hour samples of water taken either from the surface of the sea or the bed of the estuary, prove
to be completely innocuous. The sludge has gone, all its power destroyed, and never to be seen again. So the city’s health is guarded. Our sin dumped and buried in the ocean of God’s love meets a similar fate. It is no match for the immenseness of God’s forgiveness.
“The act of forgiving can never be predicted; it is the only reaction that acts in an unexpected way and thus retains, though being a reaction, something of the original character of action.” Hannah Arndt.
“Forgiveness is the remission of sins. For it is by this that what has been lost, and was found, is saved from being lost again.” St. Augustine.
“This is certain, that a man that studieth revenge keeps his wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well.” Francis Bacon
“The best thing to give to your enemy is forgiveness; to an opponent, tolerance; to a friend, your heart; to your child, a good example; to a father, deference; to your mother, conduct that will make her proud of you; to yourself, respect; to all men, charity.” Arthur James Balfour [1848-1930, British Conservative Politician, Prime Minister]
‘’I can forgive, but I cannot forget,’’ is only another way of saying, ‘’I cannot forgive.’’ Henry Ward Beecher
John Dear wrote an article titled “The Soldiers At My Front Door” for www.CommonDreams.org (11/29/03). In the essay, Dear describes the harassment and threats he had to endure as a result of his commitment to nonviolence. He lives in what he describes as a tiny, remote, impoverished three-block-long town in the desert of northeastern New Mexico. Throughout that community and throughout the state, Dear is known as a priest who is committed to pacifism. Recently he’s made his position well known with regard to his stand on the war with Iraq, and for a long time he has advocated closing the Los Alamos nuclear facility. One morning Dear discovered 75 soldiers—members of the National Guard unit for northeastern New Mexico—running down the street in front of his church, screaming, “Kill! Kill! Kill!” The chanting went on for an hour, but at first the priest didn’t think too much about it, figuring that it was simply the military’s way of preparing the men for combat, since it had just been announced that the unit was going to be shipped to Iraq soon. At one point, though, the entire unit stopped right in front of Dear’s house, located immediately next to the church, and again took up the raucous chant of “Kill! Kill” Kill!” It was obvious to Dear that the officers were orchestrating what was going on, as they were standing right behind their men and egging them on. That was not the first time that Dear had been the target of harassment because of his commitment to peace. He says that he has been arrested at least 75 times over the years because of his participation in demonstrations in support of disarmament. He says that his phones have been bugged and tapped, that he has been searched at airports, and that he has been monitored by police. As Dear debated what to do about the scene that was going on in front of his house, he finally decided to go outside and speak to the men. He stood on his front porch and said in a loud voice, “In the name of God, I order all of you to stop this nonsense, and not to go to Iraq. I want all of you to quit the military, disobey your orders to kill, and not to kill anyone. I do not want you to get killed. I want you to practice the love and nonviolence of Jesus....Stop all this and go home. God bless you.” For a moment there was a stunned silence, but soon laughter broke out as they walked away. Dear concluded his essay by suggesting that his stance must be making an impact. The mere fact that army troops find it necessary to come to his front door and taunt him suggests to him that his words are challenging them. He hopes that perhaps his beliefs and his words will eventually make an impact on at least some soldiers and some leaders to change the direction that they are headed. By responding to violence with nonviolence, he hopes to accomplish that.
Instead of thinking of love in terms of helping injured people by the side of the road, many people think of love in terms of kissing. According to the BBC (1/12/04), nine thousand people in Chile set a world record by simultaneously kissing on a street in Santiago. The men and women, mainly in their 20s, gathered in Chile’s capital to kiss all at the same time and to hold the kiss for at least ten seconds. The kissing assembly in Santiago easily beat the previous record, which was held by 1,558 couples who kissed in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, in February of 2000.
When our love is rejected, the best thing to do is to find some other way to direct that love. In What’s So Amazing About Grace? Philip Yancey refers to an article in the Boston Globe that appeared in June 1990. A woman had gone with her fiancé to the Hyatt Hotel in downtown Boston to make the arrangements for their wedding reception. The two of them carefully reviewed the menu options, selected the china and silverware to be used, and chose the floral arrangements that would adorn the tables. Apparently they had rather expensive taste, because the bill came to thirteen thousand dollars. So the bride proceeded to hand the Events Manager a check for half that amount as their deposit. Shortly thereafter, though, on the day when the wedding announcements were to be mailed, the groom indicated that he was having second thoughts. When the young woman returned to the Hyatt and explained the situation, the Events Manager was quite sympathetic. However, the hotel indicated that they would not return any of the money they had paid for the banquet—the deposit they had made was non-refundable. As a result, the woman had the choice of either canceling the dinner and losing her money or else going ahead and having the meal without her fiancé. The jilted bride opted for the latter. Ten years before, she had been rather poor, spending quite a bit of time in and out of homeless shelters in the Boston area. So she had the wild idea of hosting a banquet for all the down-and-out people of the city. The night of the party, then, the ballroom was filled with bag ladies, addicts, and winos. They all came, not because they deserved to be there, but simply because they had been invited. The only change the woman had made to the arrangements was that she changed the main course to boneless chicken, which she said was being served in honor of her fiancé.
General Idi Amin seized control of the government of Uganda in 1971. Almost immediately he began a policy of repression, arresting anyone who was suspected of not supporting him. Hundreds of soldiers from the Lango and Acholi tribes were murdered in their barracks by Amin’s troops. About 55,000 Asians—primarily Indians and Pakistanis—were expelled from the country. Christians likewise were targeted for harassment and persecution by the authorities. A preacher who read a psalm that mentioned Israel on the radio airwaves was shot. Early in 1977 a small-scale rebellion arose against Amin, which he quickly stamped out, resulting in the deaths of only seven people. But because of the incident, Amin became more adamant about clamping down on dissenters. He began by killing thousands of people, including the entire village of Milton Obote, the prime minister he had ousted from office in his coup. Bishop Festo Kivengere proceeded to preach a sermon titled “The Preciousness of Life,” where many high government officials were present in the congregation. In the sermon, the bishop denounced the indiscriminate killings and accused the government of abusing the power that God had entrusted to it. The government reacted to the sermon by sending troops the following Saturday on a late night raid on the home of Archbishop Janani Luwum, ostensibly to look for hidden weapons. When the archbishop subsequently called on Amin to denounce the killings and terror tactics, Amin branded the archbishop as guilty of treason, having him and two other leading Christians arrested and held for a military trial. The three were placed in a Land Rover and never seen alive again. The government claimed that the prisoners had died when they attempted to seize control of the vehicle away from their guards, whereupon the vehicle crashed. Supporters of the archbishop, however, never believed that story. The government had placed the archbishop’s body in a sealed casket and sent it back to his hometown for burial. But before burying the casket, his supporters opened it and found the archbishop’s body riddled with bullet holes. At his burial, about 4,500 people gathered for the service. A separate memorial service was also held in Nairobi, where approximately 10,000 attended to show their support.
“All the hostilities in our personal and planetary life could be ended were we to allow the forgiveness of sins to act as a lightning rod grounding all these hostilities; if we were to say of ourselves, ‘The hostility stops here.’” (William Sloane Coffin, Credo [Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2004], p. 12)
“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” (Anne Lamott)
“True charity means returning good for evil—always.” (Mary Mazzarello)
“When a man sees that his neighbor hates him, then he must love him more than he did before to fill up the gap.” (Rabbi Rafeal)
“The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.” (G. K. Chesterton)
“Could we read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life, sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)
The commandant has decided that ten prisoners will die by starvation. As the men are chosen, one man who was chosen pleads to be allowed to live for his family’s sake. The priest steps from the formation and offers to take the man’s place in the group of ten. They allow it. After seven days another prisoner observes that the guards are afraid of the priest.
He has overcome their excess of power with the excess of selfless love. By the ninth day, the guard Vierck is breaking down. On day eleven he insists that they do away with the priest’. It was the priest’s eyes full of forgiveness and love that had gotten to Vierck. The priest embodies a forgiveness that restores the communion of self-giving love. The concentration camp had become a cathedral. (Ian MacMillan, Orbit of Darkness (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1991). pp. 4, 103).
Top of Page prayers (WorshipAid)
Leader: Let us call to mind the deeds of the Lord;
People: Yes, we will remember God’s wonders of old.
Leader: We will meditate on all God’s work, and muse on the Lord’s mighty deeds.
People: Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God?
Leader: You are the God who works wonders, who has manifested your might among the peoples.
People: You did with thy arm redeem your people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph
Leader: “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
People: We confess, O Lord, that too many times we have failed to love our neighbor, but have harbored ungracious thoughts and grudges against them. Good Lord, forgive us.
Leader: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
People: O how have we indulged the latter, O God—over-eating and giving in to our lusts. Good Lord forgive us.
Leader: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
People: Too often we have agreed with those who dismiss “the fruit of the Spirit” as unrealistic “Sunday School stuff.” Good Lord, forgive us, and renew a right spirit within us. Amen.
Bless these gifts which we bring, O God. We know that you are the Creator of all that is, and that what we bring is itself a gift from you. As you have accepted us, so may you accept this as our token of our gratitude and love for you. Amen.
Gracious God, we have left behind for a brief hour our world of violence and retaliation. We sit at your feet and seek to learn your way of peace and justice. In your Son we see how you would have us respond to hostility, and through your Spirit we even, at times, find that we too can emulate his example. We thank you that in Christ you show us the way out of our seemingly endless cycle of hurt and retaliation. Help us to be faithful witnesses to him who is “the way, the truth and the life.” May we bring love and reconciliation into those places, great and small, where people are at war with one another. May your church truly become the fellowship of peacemakers envisioned by your Son, that we might receive the blessing he promised to become “the children of God.” We pray for those who are victims of war and poverty, that they might find in Christ grounds for hope and the continuance of the struggle for justice and peace. We lift up our nation and leaders, as well as those nations with whom we are in conflict, and pray that we might seek means of negotiation around conference tables, rather than conquest upon the field of battle. Save us from seeing only our own narrow interests, so that reconciliation, rather than subjugation, might be achieved. In all things, may we speak and live your word of love, for we ask this in the name of him who loved us so much that he gave his life for us. Amen