Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.
God becomes involved with politics, takes the side of immigrants, the working poor.
Jesus had strong words for his disciples. Look back at yesterday's reading for the imprecation against the strong interfering with the humble. He commanded them to seek the ones who stray and to bring them back into the fold. But, what happens when that sheep is back in the fold and you would really rather have him leave? Jesus outlined a procedure for helping the church member change behavior. "If he won't change," Jesus said, "Treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector."
Now Peter asks, "How many times do we have to go through this procedure before we can give up on somebody?" Jesus' response is a number too big to keep track of.
Don't read this message as a word to those who are being abused that they need to stay in relationship with someone who will continue to harm them.
Don't read these words of Jesus as saying that sin does not matter. This message is to Peter. If the church is going to make it, then church members have to work together.
On a tangent: Am I right to read a requirement for repentance to precede Peter's forgiveness? After all, in the parable, the debtor begs the king for forgiveness.
The Power of Forgiveness explores recent research into the psychological and physical effects of forgiveness on individuals and within relationships under a wide variety of conditions and translates it into a popular, accessible documentary film for national public television.
The film also explores the role forgiveness holds in various faiths traditions. It provides an honest look at the intensity of anger and grief that human nature is heir to. We see in the film that there are transgressions people find themselves unwilling or unable to forgive. Through character-driven stories the film shows the role forgiveness can play in alleviating anger and grief and the physical, mental and spiritual benefits that come with it.
This includes feature stories on the Amish, the 9/11 tragedy and peace-building in Northern Ireland, along with interviews with renowned Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, best-selling authors Thomas Moore and Marianne Williamson and others.
And take a quiz to see how forgiving you are.
(Thanks to the heads-up from Alive Now, September/October 2008 that alerted me to this website.)
This psalm is surely the most familiar psalm to many of us. Some of us can even recite it; even more of us recognize it as soon as we hear it being recited.
I suggest a reason that it is so ubiquitous is that we need to hear its message, one of the love and protection that God offers to all of us. A love that protects, comforts, and just is always to be counted on.
John H. Hayes, in Preaching through the Christian Year B, points out that two different images of God are used in this psalm--shepherd and host.
First, the psalm begins, "The Lord is my shepherd." When we are in danger, or in need of direction, we can be comforted with that image of a shepherd taking care of the sheep who really need being taken care of, including being protected from predators, and being told when we are on the wrong path and being shown the right way to go.
Also, the psalm includes, "You prepare a table for me....." The Lord welcomes us, is generous with us, and will continue to do so; "I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long."
Hayes summarizes the diverse expressions of human experience found in this psalm:
One set emphasizes the troubles that threaten to overwhelm human life.... Another set stresses the positive instruments and acts of God's care.... Human life, of course, experiences both the negative and the positive.... This psalm presents the human predicament without any illusion about persons/ being superhumans and above pain, loneliness, and lostness; yet the symbol of God as protector and even corrector affirms the potential of a tranquil life lived amid adversaries and the harsh realities that are the ingredients of every life.
Prayer for Today: Give us an understanding of how we can work to end the social injustices in our time. Amen.