Summary: The forgiveness of Jesus is inclusive and applies to forgiving ourself for things we have done.
Iliff and Saltillo UM Churches
June 1, 2003
“Help! I Can’t Forgive Myself”
INTRODUCTION: Garrison Keillor who is the host of the Prairie Home Companion on Public Radio tells of a man in Lake Wobegon who was saved 12 times at the altar of a Lutheran church that never gave altar calls. He would come to the altar time after time and weep buckets and buckets of tears and come back the next Sunday and do the very same thing. Larry Sorensen kept repenting and repenting but somehow he couldn’t get beyond the repenting stage. Pretty soon even the “fundamentalists got tired of him.” Larry couldn’t believe that Jesus could totally forgive him; and the guilt of all he had done caused him to be unable to forgive himself. Instead of being free to move on, he came to church week after week constantly feeling guilty and trying to get back on track over and over again.
Today’s scripture points to a person who Jesus had called to be a fisherman of people. He got off track lots of times--he was always blurting out things without thinking, He was always taking some hasty action he regretted later, but the worst thing was when he denied Christ. He said he never would. But he did. He blew it big time. He thought he was disqualified from ever doing the Lord’s work again.
At the beginning of this chapter Peter says, “I’m going fishing.” He was really saying, “What is there left for me but to go back to my old job. I’ve got to do something. I have totally failed the Lord. I feel guilty about it, but I can’t forgive myself.” He goes off with the weight of guilt hanging heavy on his shoulders, back to his old job. He struggles with where do I go from here? What do I do now? I blame myself over and over for what I did. I can’t do anything about it. He probably replayed the tape over and over from the time he denied Christ, but it didn’t do any good. He could not forgive himself and maybe he wasn’t sure if the Lord could even forgive him. It seemed just too difficult.
STORY: There’s a man trying to cross the street. As he steps off the curb a car comes screaming around the corner and heads straight for him. The man walks faster, trying to hurry across the street, but the car changes lanes and is still coming at him.
So the guy turns around to go back, but the car changes lanes again and is still coming at him. By now, the car is so close and the man so scared that
he just freezes and stops in the middle of the road. The car gets real close, then swerves at the last possible moment and screeches to a halt
right next him.
The driver rolls down the window. The driver is a squirrel. The squirrel says to the man,
"See, it’s not as easy as it looks, is it?"
Does this sound familiar to you when trying to forgive yourself for something? At times there are certain things you look back on in your life that you punish yourself over and over for just like Peter did. It seems impossible to overcome. What can this scripture say to us today that will help us to get past the things that are keeping us chained to the past?
1. Jesus Walked Into Peter’s Life: Jesus wasn’t far from Peter although he thought he was. In fact that day on the beach Jesus invited Peter and the other disciples to a carry in breakfast. He said, “come and have breakfast and bring some of the fish you have just caught.”
Jesus took the initiative to invite Peter to breakfast. Most of the time we do not pick up on the invitation. We don’t hear Jesus say to us, “Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 NLT) because we are so busy struggling and beating ourselves up over the past. We are still stuck in our guilt. Jesus is saying, “Come to breakfast.” Bring some of the fish you’ve caught. You are included.” We all want to be included but we have a hard time breaking through our own barriers. Jesus says, “Come on. Don’t just sit there. Let’s enjoy the morning.” We say, “but Lord, I’m not deserving. I can’t forget what I have done in the past. I can’t get over it.” Jesus is saying, “You’re invited. Come on.”
Should Peter risk it? What if Jesus didn’t REALLY mean it. What if I BLOW IT again? What if I MESS UP and say the wrong things? Peter might have been a little apprehensive about accepting the invitation. He thinks he has been disqualified.