Forgiving the You

March 19, 2023

Series: March 2023


Today's Sermon


"Forgiving the You"


First Reading
1 Corinthians 13:4-13
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Second Reading
Mark 12:28-34
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘God is one, and besides God there is no other;’ and ‘to love God with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question. 

          Good morning everyone. Have any of you ever tried to reason with a child? Not a teenager- we’re easy. I mean a small, 3 year old child, one who made her own mistakes back in the day.  When we lived in our old house, my mother would put my sister, Linnea, down for a nap, and she would unfortunately, leave the sugar bowl unattended. Being the sweet tooth that I was and still very much am, that was the opportunity of a life time. I grabbed a spoon, the short, polka-dotted step stool from the kitchen, and opened up the sugar bowl from the coffee machine, taking a spoonful of plain, white sugar, and dumped it into my mouth. Unbeknownst to me, I was not that slick. As my mom came out from Linnea’s room, she asked me, smirk on my face, if I had been eating sugar, and of course, my answer was “No Mommy” with the remnants of my mistake stuck to my chin and cheeks. She didn’t buy it. 

          I may have been reasoning like a child, but there is something deeper to learn here. My mom forgave me, and seeing her see me for more than a sugar steeler, I forgave myself. As I grew up, I encountered more testing situations, each becoming a new hurdle to attempt to forgive myself for. I lost friends in middle and high school, becoming tied-up in social nuances and a fake, complicated hierarchy that does not exist beyond a campus. I remember watching my childhood best friend walk away from me, no longer close enough to play with, and hoping I would feel better than I did at that moment. As time went on, I forgave myself- allowing that friendship to have a natural end, and I loved and valued myself enough to make new friends in the process. The act of forgiving myself allowed me to love more fully and deeply. As I look at all of you, perhaps there are things you back from loving. It is not easy for any of us to admit, but we cannot grow to be the fullest version of ourselves, loving god and loving our neighbor, if we do not break down our own barriers and love ourselves. 

          We can all try our best not to become stuck when our love falters. Maybe it is the phone call you made to your relative last week, perhaps letting your own emotions say something they should not have, the child you snapped at after a long day of errands, the way you forgot to take care of that one thing, while battling so many others. These mistakes happen to the versions of ourselves we seek to leave in childhood- less patient, less kind, but as the scripture says, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” We can all see the reflection of ourselves, previously, unapologetically, waiting to be forgiven. Once we let go of that part of us holding us back, we know ourselves more than ever. You were all children and among us we all have a relationship to this child within us- someone who knew less, had experienced less, maybe was looking for less. We are all living through the mistakes we made as the more childish version of ourselves. And as we attempt, every day, to love our neighbor, love God as we love ourselves, how then, do we “love ourselves?” If you don’t know how, then consider this. Every one of us in this room is holding onto something they did. Something they cannot let go of, and it prevents us from loving ourselves, and further, loving others. If we do not break down our own barriers and love ourselves, we cannot break down the barriers of others. The scripture says, “Loving does not dishonor others, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” But when we dishonor others, are quick to anger and keep record of our own and other’s mistakes, does that make us lack love? The very next line is your answer. Love never fails. Love never fails. We have all grappled with the reality that forgiving others is often easier, than perhaps, admitting you are wrong, reconciling, and treating that child-like version of yourself with respect, forgiveness and kindness. I work on taking deep breaths, reminding myself not to judge the silly things I say when I am feeling anxious at school. I allow myself to take time to read, sleep or make a favorite dessert instead of getting caught up in all the things I have not yet done. You can do that work. I know you can. 

          If you can all close your eyes, imagine the you that made a mistake. Maybe they’re 3, stealing sugar, with tears in their eyes, maybe they’re 13, telling that person that they don’t want to be friends anymore. Maybe they’re 18, in a fight with their parents over some simple disagreement, or 25, facing off to an older family member who does not agree, or 30, not returning that cousin’s call because of a fight years ago, or 35 and wishing they had not yelled at their kid. Or it is the you, last week, at 50, who yelled at someone for cutting you off, or the you this morning, at 70 who resented your loved one for forgetting breakfast so much so you let it get the best of your emotions. Let’s all take a breath. We are all God’s children, and children make mistakes! Imagine the version of yourself who made the mistake, no matter the magnitude, and tell them, whisper to them, “I forgive you.” 

          Healing within yourself, allows you to love at a deeper level- your neighbor, your family, God and the kingdom. Love is patient and kind, and when you treat yourself with patience and kindness, that is love. You did it. 

          You see, we actually have a lot in common. We all talk to the inner version of ourselves, struggling with forgiveness, struggling to feel open and loving enough to love others and receive love. But just know, I still struggle with forgiveness every day- but also to recognize I am growing every day. We all are. My heart is open to God, to all of you, to forgiving myself when it counts, letting my inner child be free, and seeing all the good in others.

          I can’t wait to meet more of you- the youth group has given me a bridge to empathy across all generations, and as we forgive ourselves, we forge more empathetic relationships across generations, acknowledging we are all striving to forgive and love ourselves every day. This is what truly unites us. I see the forgiveness in all of you, no matter what you are carrying here today. And I am so proud to call you all my congregation, even if you used to steal sugar from time to time. We all make mistakes. As the Apostle Paul says, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.” Someday we’ll be complete and those parts of us that stole sugar will be forgiven, and we can look upon ourselves, others, and God with more love than we could ever imagine. Thank you. 

Sophia is a member of Westminster’s 2022-2023 high school Confirmation class.  She is currently a senior at Archie Williams High School.