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Saying those three words, I forgive you, might be the hardest three words that we can ever say. But if we say them over and over and over again, we can eventually experience release. Thats what we wantto be released from the pain that another person causes us. Were continuing a sermon series today on forgiveness called Release. This has been one of my favorite series that weve done. We started out by hearing the story of Mary Johnson and Oshea Israel. Oshea murdered Marys son and eventually Mary forgave him. The two were reconciled and live next door to each other. Jason Blair then shared Gods story of forgiveness connects to ours. Two weeks ago I shared four myths about forgivenessthese myths hold us back. Last week I shared a four-step process that can help us forgive. These sermons can be seen on our web site at colpres.org. I do want to say that there are many ways for us to forgive. The four-step process I shared last week is one way among many. There isnt one-size fits all process that will help us forgive another person. Whats most important is we get the place where we can release the pain that someone else has caused us. In my experience as a pastor Ive had the privilege of being with people who have been hurt in multiple wayssome of them traumatic. A four-step process probably wont completely help them untangle the emotions they are experiencing. Their story involves grief and family relationshipsand it all can get condensed upon each other. There are many ways to forgive. Some of us might say Im not at the point where I can forgive. Is God upset with me for that. No. God understands. We dont need to feel bad about ourselves because we arent ready to forgive. Our faith community would never intend for a person to feel bad because he or she isnt ready to forgive. One of the Core Values of Chain of Lakes is Acceptance. We understand this to mean

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We accept people without judgment, regardless of what has happened in their

lives or where they are on their faith journeys. If one of us is in a place where we arent ready to forgive, its okay. God accepts you; we accept you. Weve acknowledged in this series how hard it is to forgive. We need resources. I want to life up three resources were sharing. One is this brochure that is in the bulletin. One is this brochure that is in the bulletin.

In the middle of this brochure is a devotion. This week I wrote a devotion on grace. I encourage you to use it each day. You can also find it on the Chain of Lakes Facebook page. In the middle is a place to take notes. I believe God might say something to you that youll want to write down. On the back is a place for prayer requests. SLIDE Another resource is two books that we are selling. One is called The Art of

forgivness. It was written by Lewis Smedes. Thats the best book Ive every rea don forgiveness. The other is called Amish Grace. It shares the story of how the Amish community was able to forgive a man who murdered five Amish children. I encourage you to purchase a copy today. A third resource is a community conversation were having after every sermon. This time is an opportunity for us to ask questions about the sermon and about forgiveness. We were calling this Question and Answer, but some of you pushed back about this description. I realized Question and Answer doesnt describe what were trying to do. Calling this section of worship Question and Answer implies that I am the expert who will answer your questions. I have training and experience and have read widely on forgivness. I see my voice as one voice among many. I want us to have community conversation. We can learn from each other.

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Today I want to share a vision of a world view that is based on grace. The title of this sermon is Its all about grace. When I talk about a world view I mean a perspective or outlook on the world. Forgiveness makes up this world view of grace. This world view isnt ours. Its Jesus world view. Its a message and vision that Jesus shared and clarified and taught and embodied when he came into the world. Jesus shared this world view in the story we heard today about a Pharisee and a tax collector. Its in the 18th chapter of Luke. If you brought a Bible with you, I encourage you to look at it with me. There were two peoplea Pharisee and a tax collector. They came to the Temple to pray. People would come to the Temple to pray at two times in the dayat 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. People in Jesus day had impressions about Pharisees and tax collectors. Knowing these impressions can help us understand the story even more. Pharisees were known as religious leaders. They studied and gave interpretations of the religious laws that were handed down by the faith community ever since God gave these laws to Moses. Many in the church today have an impression of Pharisees based on Jesus critical words about Pharisees. In Jesus day not everyone saw the Pharisees in a negative light. They were models of living faith. If we put the Pharisees into our 21st century context we might look at them as a good Christian people. The Pharisees were the people who went to church every Sunday; the Pharisees were people who always volunteered when opportunities came up; the Pharisees were people who followed the rulesthey prayed and fasted and gave a tithe.

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The tax collectors were different. They were hated. Its worth knowing why the y were hated. When Jesus lived Galilee and Judea were occupied by the imperial power of Rome. Like most governments Rome collected money through taxes. Rome didnt have an IRS; they had tax collectors. In Jesus day a tax collector operated like an independent contractor. What would happen is the tax collector would pay Rome the amount of money that Rome was due. Then the tax collector would go and collect the money from the people for himself. To be a tax collector meant a person had to be wealthy. Obviously a person couldnt make an up front payment to Rome unless they had the money. Having a lot of money meant people viewed the tax collectors with suspicion. Tax collectors worked for Rome, a foreign country. This caused even more suspicion. Imagine if Russia took over the United States and then had people collect money for Russia. Think how we in the United States would view people who collected money or Russia. The clincher in how people viewed tax collectors was how they often acted. Often the tax collectors extorted people. How could they not? The system was set up to appeal to one of the worst human emotionsgreed. The tax collectors could collect as much money as they wanted. They had free reign. The only thing that would stop their collecting was their own sense of fairness. When greed confronts fairness greed often wins. The tax collectors were wealthy, the tax collectors worked for a foreign country, the tax collectors were greedy and often extorted people.

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You and I dont look at agents of the IRS as people in Jesus day looked at the tax collectors. We might not like people from the IRS and only because they collect money from us. But we dont hate them. What would be a comparable occupation that would that would draw as much scorn for us as a tax collector did in Jesus day. A drug dealerhow horrible is it for people to make money on selling illegal drugs A pimphow horrible is it for people to make money on the sale of womans bodies to men A child molestorthe depth of . People who do disgusting thingsand profit from it. These two people went to the Temple. Because of who they were they prayed differently. The story says that the Pharisee stood by himself. We can guess that the Pharisee held his head high. The Pharisee prayed with pride. Everyone could see the Pharisee and remark that this was a good person. The tax collector stood far off. The tax collector most likely stood in a corner, away from the crowds who were praying. Look at the way that each prayed. The Pharisee gave thanks that he wasnt like the other peoplewho were not good. Thieves, rogues, adulterers. We can recognize the judgment, but thieves, rogues, and adulterers were bad people. Then came the clincher. The Pharisee gave thanks that he wasnt like the tax collector. The Pharisee told God that he was doing the right things. He was fasting twice a week and gave a tenth of his incomea tithe.

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The tax collector prayed in a different way. He beat his breast. Beating ones breast was a sign of confession. If you ever want to confess your own sins to god you dont have to say words. Just beat your breast and tell God you are sorry. This is what the tax collector did. Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner. Two peopletwo different views of the peoplepraying in different places in the Temple, praying in different ways. When Jesus shared a parable he often turned the tables on the listener. Write this down. When you are reading parables always look for the surprise of the parable. A parable subverts what we would expect to happen. We would expect the Pharisee to be praised by Jesus and not the tax collector. But Jesus didnt do that. He subverted the expected outcome. The tax collector went home justifiedthat is in relationship to Godrather than Pharisee. SLIDE exalted. We can see that at that moment of prayer the tax collector was acting with humility and the Pharisee was exalting himself. Theres a deeper point about this story that we want to grasp. The Pharisee had a world view based on meritbased on doing good The Pharisee based his view of himself based on merit. He believed that he was a good person because he followed the rules, he did what was right. He expected that if he did something right that he would be rewarded. He believed that he should be viewed favorably by others because he was good. This is the American dream view of faith. Work hard, pay your taxes, do the right thing and you will be rewarded. all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be

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Believe me that I want us to work hard, pay our taxes and do the right thing. But if our view of goodness is based on that we have missed the mark. Jesus never said, Blessed are those who work hard, pay your taxes and do the right thing. Instead he said, blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy; blessed are the meek for they will. His world view was based on merit. I think of my own neighborhoodQuail Creek Parkway. I love the people in my neighborhood. We work hard and we pay our taxes and it seems to me that most of the time we do the right thing. I love that our neighborhood is a family friendly area. Quail Creek Parkway is like the Lakes and other places in our area. You cant live there unless youve done well. Theres nothing wrong with doing well. Heres the subtletly and the danger. We start believing that we are good because weve done well. We believe that we are blessed. We believe that God loves us on how we are doing. Dont get mad at me here. Im just saying what I think Jesus would be saying. You look at Jesus; you read his stories; you spend time immersed in who he was. Jesus didnt love people based on what they did; he just loved people. He went out of his way to love the people who the culture hated. . The tax collector was completely different. He knew that he had messed up. His sense of goodness was not based on himself because he could see how he had hurt other people. He was pounding his breast and saying, Lord be merciful to me, a sinner. The tax collector knew that he needed gracehe knew that he needed what Jesus had to offer. Thats the world view Jesus was lifting up. Its a world view where people say I need you; I need grace. How does this relate to forgiveness? It relates like this.

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Let me ask you this question, If someone did something to hurt each of these two characters in the story, which one would be quicker to forgive. I dont think the Pharisee could move beyond his own pride. If he had been hurt he would have viewed it as an insult. The tax collector was in touch with grace because he knew he needed it so much. Because he needed grace he would have extended it so quickly. Last week after the sermon someone came up to me and said that I forgives because God has forgiven me. Thats the message. When we experience grace we are much more likely to share it. It is very difficult to extend that which we dont have. To share forgiveness its essential that we appreciate what God has given to us. A grace-filled person will quickly say I forgive you. We dont tolerate or say the injury was okay. But the person can more easily let it go because the person has experienced grace. A merit-based person will have a harder time saying I forgive you. The persons own worth is not based on grace its based on their own sense of goodness. If I cant forgive does that mean Im a merit-based person. No, Im actually not saying that. Some situations are much more complicated than our world view. What I am saying is if we live with a merit-based perspective, it will be much harder. This week I had the absolute privilege of taking bags of food over to Blaine High School. SLIDE You, the terrific people at Chain of Lakes gave over 30 bags of food for homeless

teens plus $300 which the school is going to use for gas cards for these families. Yay, God! It made me once again very proud to be your pastor. You are so generous; you are so ready to share; you are so filled with grace. I wish you all could have been with me when we were sharing those bags.

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Lets think about homeless teens from a merit-based world view and a grace-based world view. If a person views the world based on merit, would we help homeless teens at Blaine High School. No. With a merit-based world view a person would say you get what you deserve. Its arguable whether a homeless teen messed up, but a person could say you messed up so pull yourself up by the bootstraps. To be honest there are probably some people in the wider community who look at homeless teens and think that they deserve what they have. How would a person view a homeless teen from a grace-based world view? I love you. How can I help? Heres 30 bags of food and $300 in gas cards. Can in do more? Theres no limit to grace. There is no doubt in my mind how Jesus would view homeless teens. He said in Matthew that whatever you do to the least of these my brethren, you do to me. Hes full of grace. Our help is a spiritual reflection of Jesus Christ. Its our way as a community to say we are grace-filled people. As disciples of Jesus Christ were called to bless people in an extraordinary way. Thats our one goal for the yearto bless people in an extraordinary way. Were called to be the hands and feet of Jesusa tangible illustration of grace. Jesus also came into the world so that individuals would live out this vision of grace. He wants us to quickly forgive others because we have been forgiven. We certainly dont tolerate wrong-going, but we know that we could have easily done the same. We go out of our way to turn grievances into opportunities to go deeper with our family and friends. When people suffer problems, we dont judge or condemn instead we say, there for the grace of God go I. The world is looking for a community of people who will dedicate their lives to grace. In a moment were going to sing a powerful hymn. Amazing Grace. The words were written by John Newton who was a slaveholder. He forgave himselfwhich is the sermon for

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next weekbecause of grace. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see Lets be that community of grace. Lets sing