Forgive Us Our Trespasses - Midtown

Forgive Us Our Trespasses - Midtown

March 10, 2024 • Rev. Mindie Moore

 Together We Pray Week 4: Forgive Us Our Trespasses as We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us 

Deuteronomy 15: 1-2 

We’re continuing today in our series Together We Pray, as we look at The Lord’s Prayer. And today, we’re spending some time with the line (SLIDE) “Forgive Us Our Trespasses, As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us.” 

And this is the line of the prayer, when I hear people say, “oh, I say a different version of it” this is one of the parts where that really shows up. Sometimes it sounds like: (SLIDE) 




But honestly, no matter which version of this you’ve prayed or you’re familiar with, THIS line of the prayer can evoke some feelings for us. You know I was talking to a friend who grew up Catholic this week about it, and when I said this line, they kind of exhaled and said, “That takes me right back to doing confession in Catholic School.” And I’m kind of curious before we start exploring this, just to pay attention to how YOU’RE responding to it. What comes to your mind when you hear this phrase? Is it shame, guilt? Nervousness? Comfort? Or maybe it’s confusion on what this even means? 

I think if we’re honest, there’s something really uncomfortable that comes with saying that we need to forgive and be forgiven. 

Now, back in the summer, we did a series ON forgiveness, and you can go on the website and hear more about the HOWs and some of those super practical tools that we talked about then. But today isn’t exactly about that. No, today I want to look at WHY Jesus decided to talk about this in this particular context. Like, why does it show up in this prayer. And why does it come where it’s located even? 

Last week, we talked about the line of the prayer that says “Give us this day our daily bread”, and the bottom line with that is that we need God to give us what we need to survive, and we can trust that God will meet our most basic needs. It’s really an acknowledgement that if we need it, God knows it. And we can trust that God is aware and at work. 

So when we move to this idea of forgiving and being not only follows that phrase about having our needs met, but it’s connected by this very simple word (SLIDE) AND. Now, where are my 90s kids at in this room? Ok, at least some of you grew up with the very educational greatness of Schoolhouse Rock. And if you remember Schoolhouse Rock, one of the CLASSIC songs was...(SLIDE) CONJUNCTION JUNCTION! Sing it if you know it— ”Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?” 

It's a whole song about these small but mighty words- AND, OR, and BUT. And according to Conjunction Junction, AND is an additive, it connects two thoughts, it brings two things together. 

It brings two things together. 

In the Lord’s Prayer, we bring together these ideas that God give us what we need to survive AND forgives us as well as helps us forgive. 

The connection is important here. Because what that tells me is that MAYBE, as hard as it can be, as much as I struggle to practice forgiveness day in and day out, MAYBE Jesus views forgiveness as something that is absolutely essential to our lives. Maybe, when we’re talking about our spiritual selves, maybe being able to forgive and let ourselves be forgiven is just as important as any physical resource we could ever consume. 

You know, there was a law in the Old Testament, a command of radical forgiveness, called Jubilee. That’s what we read about today from Deuteronomy. And it was this really interesting law...frankly, we’re not 100% sure if or how it was actually practiced and carried out, but it tells us something about what God wants for us as we live in relationship with each other and with God. In a lot of ways, this idea of Jubilee gives us an amazing picture of hope lived out in really practical ways. 

So to break it down for you, basically what Jubilee was saying was that every 50 years, on the Day of Atonement, a trumpet would sound and a big announcement would be made for all the people. And the basics of this announcement was that it was time to reset EVERYTHING. Record scratch, hard stop, it’s time for something new. So if you were far away from your original home—it was time to go back. If you were working 

tirelessly—it was time to take a break. If you were living in slavery—you were freed. If you had a debt to someone—that debt was forgiven. 

It was like the ultimate practice of forgiveness and renewal that turned everything on its head, just for a moment. 

Now, you might be thinking...this sounds very idealistic and also slightly chaotic. Why would God want people to do this? Well, there are some practical and spiritual implications here. Practically, a hard reset like this disrupts the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. It would have protected against generational poverty. It would have changed power dynamics and helped make sure that people could have what they needed to survive. 

But, just like we talked about last week—it wasn’t JUST the practical need that God was concerned about here. It was spiritual too. Because engaging in this kind of cycle of releasing and reset that Jubilee brought with it was a reminder of how God forgives each and every one of us, again and again. It was a tangible, in your face example that you have experienced God’s mercy and it’s time to share. It’s time to give that mercy and grace to each other. 

And I can see the risk here of this kind of forgiveness. Because if you were economically powerful, if you’re raking in the profits and have all these people who owe you something, my guess is that it’s not to your economic advantage to cancel all those debts and stop all that hustle that you’re doing. On the surface, 

forgiveness and release of all these things probably doesn’t actually seem like it benefits you. 

But one of the things that we keep being reminded of as we study The Lord’s Prayer, and honestly that we get reminded of every time we really get into Scripture and God’s story is that (SLIDE) God often gives us things that we NEED...and they don’t always look like what we WANT. We may not WANT to practice forgiveness—we may not WANT to admit we need to be forgiven. But if we can be vulnerable and honest about who we are and the things we experience...we need both of those things at play in our lives SO badly. 

I think it’s complicated because when I’m in a place where I need to forgive...I feel like maybe some of those wealthy powerful people might have felt facing the prospect of a Jubilee. It’s hard to see what I’ll get out of it. It will feel like I’m forfeiting my power and the energy that rage can bring me. I feel like I have to give up on the story where I’m always right and they’re always wrong, and you know what? I LIKE that story! It doesn’t feel like forgiveness benefits me in the moment of my deepest pain. It might actually feel like if I forgive, then I’m the one that loses. 

I think one of the things that bugs me so much about how forgiveness and grace works is that I really like fairness. I really like justice. You’re looking at an Enneagram 2 with a loud 1 wing, so make it right, make it fair. And the work God is constantly doing in me is to just...let that go. To live in a 

spiritual economy that isn’t this for that. That maybe doesn’t feel exactly fair. 

I saw this quote from Bono that I thought summed it up really well: (SLIDE) 

At the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics—in physical laws—every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions. 

One of our St. Luke’s members, Leanne Jackson, writes for Guideposts magazine and she shared with Pastor Rob who shared with me an article she had written about her relationship with her mother-in-law, Lilly. And the bottom line is that Lilly was constantly creating conflict and drama in all the relationships in their family. She would spread gossip, break promises, yell terrible things at her grandchildren. The behaviors created a lot of anger and resentment and by the time Lilly died, the relationship she had with Leanne’s family was fractured at best. 

As she struggled to see how she could ever forgive her for how she had treated her family, Leanne began to learn more about Lilly’s life. She learned that she had a traumatic childhood, one 

of 10 kids and an unwanted daughter in a family with no sons. She was ignored, treated like she didn’t matter, and even when she got married, because she was from a Syrian immigrant family, she was treated like an outsider from her husband’s family too. 

Leanne began to feel empathy for Lilly and what she had been through. It didn’t make her actions right. It didn’t change the boundaries they set to be in healthy relationship with her. But what it did, is it opened the possibility for forgiveness. There was no need to “give Lilly what she deserved.” Because that wasn’t how God worked and it wasn’t what God was calling Leanne’s family to do. In fact, at her funeral, they shared this during her eulogy, which Leanne’s husband and Lilly’s son Dave wrote: “Some aspects of Lillian’s life were very difficult. But we strongly believe that in the end, God wins. He puts everything right.” 

This is Good News that is true about our God. It means that we can forgive...and it reminds us that we are also the ones who are forgiven. And even though it doesn’t make any sense to me, even though God is in no way obligated to do this, our God gives out forgiveness like it’s candy at a parade. I mean, God is SO generous with us! It’s wild! I think about our whole faith story, and since the beginning of time, the message people have been trying to communicate about God is that God forgives. It goes right back to the Garden with Adam and Eve. They make a whole mess of this wonderful, perfect situation, 

and in that’s early enough...the story COULD have gone in a way where God said, “oof. Scratch this, THAT didn’t work, let’s start over and try this again.” 

But it doesn’t. Faced with this massive transgression, this big mistake...God tends to them. God gives them clothes. (SLIDE) God doesn’t keep score of the debt that could have just been created. 

God forgives. 

That was not a one-time event. Every single moment, every single day, God is meeting us with grace and mercy and forgiveness. God is on this CONSTANT Jubilee with us. And when we think about it like that, when we really look at how extravagant the Creator of the Universe is with this grace and forgiveness...I think something about that just has to compel us to practice even a fraction of that forgiveness. 

Some of us have felt a lot of shame around our need to be forgiven. And we spend a lot of time trying to avoid that truth, trying to gloss over the fact that we need grace and God gives it and that is OK. We think if we admit that we have faults or that we wrong people or make mistakes that somehow that disqualifies us from being loved or like it makes us these unique bad creatures instead of just normal humans with a universal experience. 

If you get stuck here, I want to share this with you. I know some of you, like me, are reading (SLIDE) Kate Bowler’s new daily 

reader “Have a Beautiful, Terrible Day!” for Lent. Last week, she had this one that was called, “Well, I’m Not All That Great Sometimes.” And the whole thing is so good, but there’s just one line I’ll share with you as we think about forgiving and being forgiven: Demystifying our own faults is difficult without believing that we are loved, so let’s just say that too: we are often wrong, and always loved. 

(SLIDE) We are often wrong; we are always loved. 

And because we are loved, because we are forgiven, we can live in that spirit of Jubilee too. We can release people from their debts, we can forgive, we can reset. It’s hard, but I absolutely believe it is possible and necessary and what God wants for us so much. 

Pastor Jen is preaching at the North Campus today, and as we were sitting in her office talking about this sermon a couple weeks ago, I took notice of a painting that she has hanging across from the couch I was sitting on. Now, friends, I need you to understand that I sit on that couch at least every other week for a one-on-one and I stare directly at this painting every time I do. So this was not new to me. But as we were talking about forgiveness and this idea of Jubilee, I glanced up at this (SLIDE) and yelled, “JEN! THIS IS WHAT FORGIVENESS LOOKS LIKE!! IT’S RIGHT HERE IN FRONT OF US!” 

Do you see it? It’s the open hands. It’s the release of all the things. It’s the fact that there is black and white and bright colors, and that this kid has no control over where those 

butterflies go once she lets them go. It’s the ability to say God, I trust you. I trust you with my pain. I trust you with my wounds. I trust you with my own faults and failings. I trust with every single bit of it and I release it into your grace. 

We’re free when we do this. When we let God forgive us our trespasses and let ourselves forgive those who trespass against us...we are free. And so as we close today, I want to do a prayer practice with you. Jen shared this with me from Kent Millard who used to be senior pastor at St. Luke’s. He said every day he goes into his closet to pray—like literally, goes in the closet, and he prays like this: 

God, I surrender this into your hands, do with as you will, and as you do, I thank you. Amen. 

Then he opens his hands to what God might give me in return. Now what I loved about this is that he said it’s not like he doesn’t sometimes pick the thing he released back up. He might have to release it a few times. But every time, he knows God will meet him, God will take it, and that God has something for him in its place. 

And so that’s the place I want to invite us into this morning. Set your feet on the floor. Get comfy. Hold out your fists like this and now close your eyes and follow along, physically releasing what you are carrying, opening your hands and praying: 

God, I surrender this—whatever this is: my pain, my resentment, that thing I need forgiven of or don’t know how to forgive—I surrender it into your hands. Do with it as you will. 


Now, turn your hands over and receive: 

God, I receive what you have to give me in its place. I receive what you will do in me and through me. I give you thanks for your grace and forgiveness in my life.