Summary: Forgiveness releases us from the burden of guilt and regret we carry. When we're freed from it, our spirit is renewed.
March 17, 2021
Hope Lutheran Church
Rev. Mary Erickson
Forgiveness and a Renewed Spirit
Friends, may grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and Christ Jesus our Lord.
The movie “The Mission” came out in 1986. Church Times has named it as the #1 movie on their list of the top 50 religious films. The story takes place in the mid 1700’s. A Jesuit priest contacts a very remote people in the Argentinian jungle. The Guarani live at the top of a very high waterfall. The only way to reach them is to scale the cliff wall beside the waterfall.
Jeremy Irons plays Father Gabriel. He has a very gentle soul and the Guarani people accept him. They come to faith through Father Gabriel.
When he returns to the nearest city for provisions, he’s asked to see a man on his sickbed. The man is Rodrigo Mendoza, a slave trader. When Mendoza discovered that his younger brother was having an affair with his fiancée, he killed his brother in a duel. Now he has fallen into a deep despair.
He confesses all his sins to Father Gabriel. Father assigns him a very hard penance: Mendoza has to join Father Gabriel back to his mission. On the way, he has to carry his heavy suit of armor.
When Mendoza reaches the high waterfalls, he ties the armor around his body. It hangs beneath him like a corpse. The armor represents his old, sinful self. It drags him down and won’t let him go.
Climbing the cliff with the heavy armor seems like more than a person can endure. Other priests in the party tell Father Gabriel that Mendoza has more than accomplished his penance. It’s time to cut him loose. But Father Gabriel says, “No, it’s not long enough until he says it’s long enough.”
Mendoza finally makes it to the top of the waterfall. He’s filthy and completely spent. Once there, the party of Guarani people immediately recognize him. This man is the slave trader who has stolen members of their people and sold them into slavery.
An elder approaches the exhausted Mendoza. He places a large knife next to Mendoza’s neck. In his native tongue, the Guarani elder speaks angrily to Mendoza. He’s accusing him of being a deplorable worm. Mendoza seems to accept that he deserves to die.
But then, in an act of remarkable mercy, the Guarani man cuts the rope tying Mendoza to the heavy armor. He is freed from the wretched, old self that burdened him and would not let him go. The source of his freedom came to him from the very people he had abused. Mendoza is overcome by the undeserved grace. He weeps for joy.
The story arc depicts how the guilt from our misdeeds weighs us down. It saps our energy and robs us of joy. There’s nothing we can do to make it right. But forgiveness comes to us from a source outside of ourselves. It frees us from the incapacitating weight of our sin. And joy comes with deliverance.
The gospel of Luke contains the story of a telling encounter with Jesus. A religious leader, a Pharisee named Simon, invites Jesus to dine with him. While at the meal, a notorious, sinful woman in the city finds out that Jesus is at the Pharisee’s house. Uninvited, she enters the Simon’s house. She’s carrying a jar of very precious ointment with her. She breaks open the jar and pours its fragrant contents over Jesus’ feet. Crying tears of gratitude, she kisses Jesus’ feet.
The Pharisee is shocked and offended by the display. He thinks to himself, “If Jesus had any idea who this woman is and what terrible things she’s done, he wouldn’t let her touch him.”
Jesus senses what Simon is thinking. So he tells him a story. Two men owe a debt to a creditor. One man owes 50 denarii while the other man owes ten times as much, 500 denarii. The creditor forgives the debt of both men. Then Jesus asks the Pharisee, “Which of the two debtors will love him more?” Simon says, “The one who owed him more.”
Jesus then points out Simon’s stingy hospitality. He compares it with the woman’s effusive display of gratitude. Then Jesus bends low and says to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Receiving forgiveness is a weight off our soul. It removes a burden that we have created ourselves. But we’re unable to remove it. We can’t undo what we’ve done. We can’t right the wrong. It can only be relieved – forgiven. And that forgiveness can only come from the one we have offended and harmed.
During our worship on Sunday mornings, we typically begin with a brief order of confession and forgiveness. We confess that there are things we have done – or left undone – through our thoughts, words, and deeds. These have been contrary towards God’s intentions for our living.