SERMON TITLE: “Forgiveness: Relying on God”
SERMON TEXT: Genesis 50:15-21
PREACHER: Rev. Kim James
OCCASION: January 31, 2021, at First UMC
Several years ago, my parents described to me an unfortunate situation in their church. They told me that a man from their congregation had died. One of his sons then contacted the pastor and asked him to perform a memorial and graveside service on a particular day. The pastor agreed. Then some other children of the deceased church member called the pastor and asked him to perform a second memorial service on a different day. My parents were among the church members who dutifully showed up for one or the other or both of those services. The double funeral arrangement wasn’t because of impossibly tight schedules. Like too many families I’ve seen at times of death, old conflicts had seriously strained the family’s ability and desire to coordinate their plans. Instead of coming together in a supportive celebration of their father’s life, unforgiveness kept them apart.
Even if our families aren’t that fractured, we know that life is full of pain and troubles. We can allow those assaults to dictate our behavior, happiness, and relationships—or, preferably, we can forgive those old heartaches so we can move into a free and positive future. That’s why I encouraged you to start 2021 with a New Year’s resolution of forgiveness.
But, as you’ve heard me say repeatedly, there are many real challenges to forgiveness, and we have to consider what steps might have to come first. That’s why we talked about the fact that, if we’re dealing with danger, fleeing for our lives might be the first order of business. As we’ve been reading the Genesis story of the family of Jacob, Leah, Rachel, and their 12 sons—and following the drama and trauma of those characters—we’ve also seen how Leah and Rachel approached forgiveness by wrestling with shame. We’ve seen how the 10 elder brothers worked on forgiveness by controlling their rage. Then, last Sunday, we read from Genesis 41 about how Joseph moved toward forgiveness by making fruit from misfortune. All those were necessary steps along the path. Today, as we finish up this series, let’s look at the end of this Genesis story and see how we might finally arrive at forgiveness by relying on God.