United for the Common Good: Forgive Us Our Debts

This sermon was originally preached via podcast and Facebook Live at Mission Hills United Methodist Church in San Diego, California on November 15, 2020. To listen to the full recording, visit our podcast, “Mission Hills United Methodist Church” or search ‘Mission Hills United Methodist Church’ wherever you get your podcasts. If you would like to donate to the ministries of Mission Hills UMC, you can make a secure online gift here.

Matthew 6:11-21

Give us this day our daily bread.

    And forgive us our debts,

        as we also have forgiven our debtors.

    And do not bring us to the time of trial,

        but rescue us from the evil one.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly God will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your God forgive your trespasses.

“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your God who is in secret; and your God who sees in secret will reward you.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

We all know the phrase about assuming things, right? I won’t repeat it, but you can Google it if you need to. Essentially, the phrase says that assumptions aren’t great, but today, I want to offer that sometimes, assumptions help us to form a baseline about someone or something. 

If I show you my dog, Oakley, what assumptions might you make about him?

By making assumptions, there is now an opportunity for those assumptions to be proven correct or incorrect. For instance, if you assumed that Oakley always gets what he wants, you’d be correct. If you assumed that he loved peanut butter, that would be an incorrect assumption.

The Lord’s Prayer is a set of assumptions about faith. In the expression of the Lord’s Prayer, we can assume certain things about our faith as Christians. Stick with me here.

Last week, we studied the first half of the Lord’s Prayer: 

Our God, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kindom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 

In diving deeper into these verses, we discovered some helpful assumptions about faith based on those words. We learned that God is communal by the phrase, ‘our God’. We learned that those who pray the Lord’s Prayer revere God to be great, and capable of being there for us. We assume that God’s will is ultimately to bring the kindom of heaven to us here, and that it’s our job to partner with God to get it here. 

Further, this week, we learn of some more assumptions. We might assume that those who pray the Lord’s Prayer, by saying, deliver us from evil, believe that there is some form of evil, and that God is more powerful than it. We can assume that those who pray the Lord’s Prayer acknowledge their own shortcomings and sin, while also believing God’s power and will to forgive. And we also can assume that those praying this prayer believe in the importance of forgiveness, not only God forgiving us, but us forgiving one another.

The last one especially, forgiveness, is a challenging assumption to live out. And like the other things we pray, praying the prayer is only half of the instruction. Because if we are to act like Christians, we must pray the prayer, and then also live it out, with our actions. 

Just as we ask God to forgive our debts (our sins), we must also ask for forgiveness from each other and for each other. This election season has been rough. On all sides of the political equation, divisiveness has surely been present, and even sometimes without knowing it, relationships have been affected based on our voice and vote. 

To follow the example of Christ is to seek forgiveness and work toward forgiveness, just as God has forgiven us. Because, we are not perfect people, but we were created by a God whose love is perfect. While we won’t always love perfectly, we can strive to love well, valuing relationships above all else. 

What does forgiveness look like to you? What words or phrases come to mind when you hear the word, forgive?

This next question doesn’t need a public comment, but I will invite you to think about what comes up for you.

Who might you need to forgive? How have you been hurt?

In what ways might you have hurt others whom you love? 

Forgiveness is not easy, and it takes time. It is circumstantial and sometimes forgiveness still means a relationship won’t be the same anymore. 

Forgiveness is also biblical. It requires vulnerability and trust in ourselves, and trust in God, who has an agenda that is bigger than our own. We follow the example of Jesus Christ, who prayed this powerful prayer to teach us what love looks like, and a big part of love is forgiveness, the acknowledgment that we are human, as are those we seek to love.

As we continue on in worship this morning, let us do so with the commitment to live out these words we pray, to pray with our voices and also our actions. May we work to strengthen and repair the bonds of our relationships, acknowledging the humanness of our neighbors. And may we take these assumptions about faith, and prove them right, in all that we do. 

Let us pray:

God of forgiveness and rescue, you have called us to be your beloved, and offer a message of hope and love, no matter who we are. Call us deeper into relationship with you and our siblings in Christ, that we may seek forgiveness, apologize, and be reconciled in grace. In your hope-filled name we pray, Amen.

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