Church Write-Up: More on Forgiveness, Imperfection, the Promise to Ruth

Here is my Church Write-Up about last Sunday.

A.  I’ll start by talking about the Sunday school class.  This is at the Missouri Synod Lutheran church that I attend.  The Sunday school class is about forgiveness, and its main text is II Corinthians 1-7.

The teacher was saying that forgiveness is looking at a person’s sin through the blood of Christ.  There are limits to the ways that we attempt to cope with people’s sins against us.  We may try to understand why a person did what he or she did, but some acts we cannot understand, or they may be so horrible that we do not want to try to understand them.  But if we remember that Christ died for every sin, we will be able to forgive.  Or Christ in us would forgive (Galatians 2:19).  So the teacher said.

The teacher reiterated his point from last week that forgiveness was a banking term and related to the forgiveness of debts.  God is like the head of the bank, but we join God as co-bankers when we forgive.  This was interesting, since some differentiate between God’s forgiveness of sins against God from our forgiveness of sins against us.  Still, why not?  Both spread forgiveness.

The teacher asked what sin is.  He referred to Leviticus, where God commands sin offerings for women who give birth, and for people who recover from skin disease.  What is so naughty about these?  The teacher said that sin is whatever runs counter to the world as God created it.  For instance, God created childbirth, but God did not originally intend for it to hurt as much as it does.  When Jesus came to earth, he was healing the world: he brought people forgiveness but also physical healing.

The teacher appealed to the example of Sosthenes.  Sosthenes was a ruler of a synagogue who was beaten (Acts 18:17).  Even though he may have been among those who were accusing Paul before the Roman governor Gallio, Paul may have reached out to him after he was beaten.  In I Corinthians 1:1, Paul refers to our brother Sosthenes.  According to the teacher, Paul did not see anyone as an enemy, but he regarded everyone as one for whom Christ died.

The teacher said that the reason that Christ was baptized, even though he had not sinned, is that he was repenting on our behalf, the same way that he kept God’s law on our behalf.  We stink at repentance because there will always be a part of us that is unrepentant.

Where does repentance fit in to forgiveness?  The teacher said that we should not bear a grudge against anyone or try to get even.  Still, in our interactions with others, we should desire people’s repentance.  If someone wrongs us, we should tell that person of the hurtful act, for his or her benefit, not so much ours.  An expression of forgiveness is like a life-preserver: a person will not receive or appreciate it if he or she does not realize that he or she is drowning.

The teacher said that we do not need to be friends with those we forgive, though it is beautiful when that happens.  Forgiveness does not necessarily mean everything returning to how it was before the offense.  He referred to a church treasurer who embezzled.  He repented, but he will not be a church treasurer ever again.

The teacher said that civil law can bring a person to repentance.  He talked some about Luther’s Two Kingdoms view: a murderer may repent and be forgiven by God, but he or she should still be executed.  I do not know.  Is not contrition something that even civil judges consider when they are deciding what penalties to give out?

I thought that a lot of what the teacher made sense.  It’s just that I struggle with God’s commands that I feel or not feel a certain way.

B.  The sermon at the Missouri Synod church was about Jesus sending out the disciples.  Jesus does not tell us to change the world dramatically, the pastor said, and he realizes that we are imperfect.  Still, he tells us to “Go” and affirms that he will be with us where we go.  The pastor brought Mother’s Day into the equation, talking about how we (all of us, including himself) have been imperfect parents and imperfect children.

C.  At the “Word of Faith” church, the sermon was about Ruth.  Ruth did not have children at first but later was promised that she would have more children than Rachel and Leah.  God multiplies, the pastor’s daughter said.  She also said that God loves barrenness because that gives God an opportunity to work.  We can offer people ourselves, but that will not help them ultimately.  But we can offer them Jesus, and Jesus can help them.

Ruth would also build Israel, according to Naomi’s promise.  Ruth would fit into a cause larger than herself.  The pastor’s daughter likened that to building the church.  She talked about her son and how he would not destroy a house of legos that he built.  Yet, some people, even those who are involved in the church, may find themselves denigrating the church.

Ruth was a Moabitess, and the pastor’s daughter said that Boaz was taking the risk of demoting his own status by marrying her.  But he did so, and he was remembered, as was his descendant David.  Mr. So-and-So, who decided not to marry Ruth because he wanted his inheritance to stay in his family, was not remembered by name.  The pastor’s daughter said that this highlights the importance of helping the marginalized.

Throughout the sermon, we were shown clips of people in the church.  One helped others find their voice or their talents, remembering that she used to be someone who sat in the back.  Another had a menial job yet managed to make a difference in someone’s life.  Another could not have children but acted as a mentor to people in church.


About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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