When we make a mistake, our experiences tell us to expect consequences, punishment, or even retribution. Thus when we see someone else make a mistake we hope, if there is any justice in the world, that they too will experience commensurate consequences.
Perhaps this is why preaching should be a humbling experience. Even twenty years after seminary I still remember the location where I preached my senior sermon. The stained glass windows behind the pulpit contained images of prophets and apostles receiving the word of God: Moses receiving the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai; Seraphs placing a burning coal on the lips of Isaiah; Paul being blinded by the light of Christ … And on the distant wall the faces of great preachers stared back at me: John Calvin, Martin Luther, Reinhold and Richard Niebuhr, … In the front row sat my peers and Ruling Elders from this the largest congregation in the city, a congregation with a long history of calling great preachers and having started the seminary I had attended. Even without those visual reminders, daring to expound on and the Word of God places those words squarely between my eyes. As one of my seminary professors had said about his preaching:
Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself.
Yet, through Christ, we receive and get offer forgiveness of sins those who have not earned such, and might never earn such. Not only those who have sinned against us, but also us.
Jesus said to the woman,
“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
— Luke 7:50
Forgiveness is not humanly possible. If we “get it” at all, it will be by God’s very nature being in us. And the secret to real forgiveness: It is divine.
The other guests began to say among themselves,
“Who is this who even forgives sins?”
— Luke 7:49
I will have more to say about Luke 7:36-50 on Sunday, June 12th, 2016 at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Robert Shaw, Pastor