Sunday, 11 September 2011
Sunday 11th September sermon
Ten years ago today I was chairing a meeting of the Worship Committee for Orwell Church, it had been a fairly routine meeting seeking to discover new ways in which our worship could be meaningful and grounded for the community we served. Following the meeting as people were dispersing Simon said there was something important on the TV, so we turned it on and were transfixed by what we saw.
An hour later, I was going around the village with posters saying that the church would be open that night for prayers, by 7.30 the church was very full and I had also been approached by the local radio station for comments.
The thought of what happened on the 11th September 2001 still fills me with horror and disgust, but perhaps also what fills me with horror is the reaction of much of the Western world (America and Britain particularly.) and some of the consequences of that day 10 years ago. I think it is true to say that since that day many people have felt justified in anti muslim sentiment, and a growing sense that we want to make sure “we” are top dogs.
The saga of Joseph, his amazing technicolour dreamcoat and 11 brothers is well known. It is a moving story of fraternal jealosy, betrayal, suspicion and forgiveness. In the portion of the story we have heard today we see that despite reunion the old suspicion and anxiety between them continues albeit in a less serious form. Joseph does not rub his brothers noses in the scheming or apparently point it out to them, but he is gracious and compassionate through and through. A real hero figure who unites the family and literally keeps it together and prosperous and through whom it is seen Gods choice is made clear.
From Matthews gospel today we come to the conclusion on the section to do with church order and perhaps not surprisingly we come to the question of forgiveness. For Matthew, church order is about the authority and freedom to forgive, not about withholding forgiveness. And to illustrate this point we have the parable of the servant who had been forgiven but who refused to forgive.
Another quotation from Richard Rohr may fit in well at this point….
“There is more harm done by offence taken than by offence intended.” (Richard Rohr)
It is possible that many of us are held back from reaching truer development, or feeling truer grace and joy, by the barbs that grow on hurts done to us. We so easily become stuck in certain places. Equally we can take offence and develop it even when such a state was never intended at all. Some are naturally suspicious and expect a knife in the back or a slight of hand at any time.
Such condition it seems to me actually breeds contempt and it can stifle moving on.
It is also possible (probable) that we all know how difficult it actually is to move towards forgiveness. Much of Jesus ministry and teaching was about enabling people to move on, to be healed, to be made whole, to be forgiven and to feel released and redeemed.
The self same possibilities are meant for us too, sometimes we manage it and sometimes we do not. Praise God for the times we do, for we all know when these moments are, we all recognise their potency for real life. Jesus offers us today the same as he did then.
Somehow we have to learn to learn from the past but not let it dominate our present. There has been a real concern that the attack on the World Trade centre has changed the world as we know it today. It has certainly it would seem changed America. But even something as horrific and unbelievable as this has to healed, and living forward has to be achieved.