Sunday August 7, 2022
Praying the Psalms -Prayers for Forgiveness
Life and Work of our Church
We are one as we come, as we come, joyful to be here,
In the praise on our lips there’s a sense that God is near.
We are one as we sing, as we seek we are found;
And we come needful of God’s grace as we meet together in this place.
Acknowledging the Territory
As we begin our worship, we take a moment to acknowledge that the land upon which we live, work and worship is, by law, the unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people. We offer our deep gratitude for this land and or those who have cared for it long before our ancestors arrived. We commit ourselves to live with respect upon it, seeking justice and equality for all.
Lighting the Christ Candle
We light this candle as a sign of God’s Light and God’s Spirit at work in the world. May its light brighten our spirits, ignite our passions and shine within and through each one of us to offer light and love to others.
Call to Worship
We gather today before the Holy One, who is full of compassion and love.
We gather today before the Holy One, who encourages us to show compassion and love to others.
We gather today before the Holy One, who desires complete honesty from us.
We gather today before the Holy One, who knows all the things we sometimes try to hide.
We gather today before the Holy One, whose way is justice and equality.
We gather today before the Holy One, who challenges us to live justly seeking equality for all people.
We gather today before the Holy One, who is forgiveness and mercy.
We gather to worship God.
Source of health and healing, we come to you today bringing with us all our joy and praises, but we also come bringing our worries, concerns, fears, and shame, seeking your compassion. We turn to you from all that separates us from your abundant love; our hectic busyness, our petty obsessions, our selfishness, our sense of entitlement, our lack of empathy and understanding and all our hidden faults. In the words of the psalmist, we pray that you will create in us clean hearts and that you will give us new and loyal spirits ready to love and serve you. Amen.
Gift of Music O God, How We Have wandered #112
Most of us love the joyous and inspiring words of the psalms that offer praise and adoration to God. But it is equally important that we embrace the psalms that speak to the difficult and challenging times of life. Last week we looked at psalms of Distress. Today we look at the psalms that are prayers seeking forgiveness.
Psalm 130 Good News Translation
From the depths of my despair I call to you, Lord. Hear my cry, O Lord; listen to my call for help! If you kept a record of our sins, who could escape being condemned? But you forgive us, so that we should stand in awe of you. I wait eagerly for the Lord’s help, and in his word I trust. I wait for the Lord more eagerly than sentries wait for the dawn — than sentries wait for the dawn. Israel, trust in the Lord, because his love is constant and he is always willing to save. He will save his people Israel from all their sins.
Psalm 25:1, 4-12 Good News Translation
To you, O Lord, I offer my prayer; in you, my God, I trust. Teach me your ways, O Lord; make them known to me. Teach me to live according to your truth, for you are my God, who saves me. I always trust in you. Remember, O Lord, your kindness and constant love which you have shown from long ago. Forgive the sins and errors of my youth. In your constant love and goodness, remember me, Lord! Because the Lord is righteous and good, he teaches sinners the path they should follow. He leads the humble in the right way and teaches them his will. With faithfulness and love he leads all who keep his covenant and obey his commands. Keep your promise, Lord, and forgive my sins, for they are many. Those who have reverence for the Lord will learn from him the path they should follow.
Be merciful to me, O God, because of your constant love. Because of your great mercy wipe away my sins! Wash away all my evil and make me clean from my sin! I recognize my faults; I am always conscious of my sins. I have sinned against you — only against you — and done what you consider evil. So you are right in judging me; you are justified in condemning me. I have been evil from the day I was born; from the time I was conceived, I have been sinful. Sincerity and truth are what you require; fill my mind with your wisdom. Remove my sin, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear the sounds of joy and gladness; and though you have crushed me and broken me, I will be happy once again. Close your eyes to my sins and wipe out all my evil. Create a pure heart in me, O God, and put a new and loyal spirit in me. Do not banish me from your presence; do not take your holy spirit away from me. Give me again the joy that comes from your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach sinners your commands, and they will turn back to you. Spare my life, O God, and save me, and I will gladly proclaim your righteousness. Help me to speak, Lord, and I will praise you. You do not want sacrifices, or I would offer them; you are not pleased with burnt offerings. My sacrifice is a humble spirit, O God; you will not reject a humble and repentant heart. O God, be kind to Zion and help her; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Then you will be pleased with proper sacrifices and with our burnt offerings; and bulls will be sacrificed on your altar.
Psalm 32 (selected verses)
Happy are those whose sins are forgiven, whose wrongs are pardoned. Happy is the one whom the Lord does not accuse of doing wrong and who is free from all deceit. When I did not confess my sins, I was worn out from crying all day long. Then I confessed my sins to you; I did not conceal my wrongdoings. I decided to confess them to you, and you forgave all my sins. The Lord says, “I will teach you the way you should go; I will instruct you and advise you. You are my hiding place; you will save me from trouble. I sing aloud of your salvation, because you protect me.
Praying the Psalms – Prayers for Forgiveness
On the whole, The United Church of Canada doesn’t tend to be really big on confessing our sins and asking for forgiveness, at least not in a public. We don’t require the faithful to verbally confess their sins to a priest or pastor. And we don’t always include prayers of confession in our public worship or sometimes we include them without naming them as such. Yet the concept of forgiveness is absolutely essential to our faith.
We all make mistakes and do things we should not do. We all fail, at one point or another, to live up to the standards and principles that we have been taught or even to live up to our own personal standards. But what allows us to deal with this and move forward, is knowing that we do not have to be perfect, that even if we make mistakes, we can be forgiven, we can overcome our past and start fresh.
Unfortunately, the promise of forgiveness of sin offered us through scripture and through our Christian tradition has often been used throughout history as a way of controlling people. It has been used as a way of strengthening the structures of organized religion and instilling fear and guilt in people. And this is something that goes back to the beginning of organized religion.
The thing is, that this was never the intent of scripture nor the intent of Christianity. The book of Leviticus lays down regulations for the removal of sin through the sin offerings or sacrifices. The person who had committed a sin was required to bring a sacrifice to the temple, corresponding to their position in life. If someone was wealthy, they would be required to bring a more costly sacrifice.
But the sacrifice itself was only part of the sin offering. The perpetrator was also required to make reparation to the person they had harmed or sinned against. This was a way of restoring balance and repairing damaged relationships. It was not about punishment or revenge. It was about facing the consequences of actions and rebuilding relationships. And this rebuilding of relationships can be with another person who has been harmed by our actions or it can be repairing the damage done to our relationship with God through our sins.
This restoration of relationship is seen in the psalms we read this morning. If you kept a record of our sins, who could escape being condemned? But you forgive us, so that we should stand in awe of you … Teach me your ways, O Lord; make them known to me. Teach me to live according to your truth, for you are my God, who saves me … Sincerity and truth are what you require; fill my mind with your wisdom. Remove my sin, and I will be clean … Create a pure heart in me, O God, and put a new and loyal spirit in me.
The forgiveness of the sin itself, is not the ultimate goal. It is not enough to verbally ask for forgiveness or for the promise of forgiveness to given in return. Unless there is sincerity and truth in the request for forgiveness, unless there is a true desire to repair the damage done and to try to rebuild the relationship itself, then the plea for forgiveness is simply empty words.
This does not however mean that God’s forgiveness is dependant on our sincerity or our actions. It does not mean that we need to do something to earn God’s forgiveness, or that there is anything we can do to be worthy of forgiveness.
There is a wonderful little book that I came across during a particularly difficult time in my life. It was called, Forgive and Forget. The author talks about forgiveness not as something that condones or even accepts inappropriate words of behaviour. It is not something that is dependant on the actions of the person who is being forgiven, and he stresses that forgiveness has nothing what-so-ever to do with forgetting.
Forgiveness, he says, is a way of letting go of the hurt, the anger and the resentment that has been caused by the person who has sinned against us. He talks of forgiveness as a way of releasing ourselves from the control of the person that we have chosen to forgive. Forgiveness actually has very little to do with the person who has committed the sin and far more to do with the one forgiving.
But this type of forgiveness is not always easy for us. We want to see our pain recognized. We want to see consequences for the cruel or thoughtless actions of another person. We want to see justice, or at least our version of justice which usually includes punishment. But unless we can let go of our expectations and desires for specific outcomes from our willingness to forgive, the truth is that the majority of times we will be sadly disappointed. We cannot control how another person will react to our offer of forgiveness.
In his book, the author includes chapters on topics such as; How to forgive without expecting anything in return … How to forgive the person who doesn’t think they have done anything wrong … How to forgive the person who rejects your forgiveness … How to forgive the person who has died … How to forgive the person who keeps hurting you … and … How to forgive the unforgiveable.
Forgiveness is not about holding anyone to account for their actions. It is about releasing our perceived control over them. It’s about refusing to hold on to the hurts that have been caused by the actions of another. It’s about looking beyond or setting aside the anger and pain so that we can begin to see that person, not as someone who needs to be punished for their behaviour, but as a person separate from the actions that they have taken that have hurt us.
It does not mean that the relationship will go back to the way it was before the hurt. It may never be as close as it was, but if forgiveness is accepted, if behaviour changes and new understanding is reached, the relationship can end up being even stronger than it was before. Regardless of whether the forgiveness is accepted or not, in forgiving we have done our part and left open the possibility of renewed and perhaps even better relationship.
This is the kind of forgiveness that is offered to us all the time by the One we call on in prayer. When we pray for forgiveness, the truth is that God has already forgiven us. The difference is that when we reach out in prayer, we are accepting God’s forgiveness and we are opening ourselves to that new and renewed relationship with the Divine.
But, as the psalmist tells us, our prayer, our acceptance, and our reaching out to God must be sincere and honest. We cannot pray for forgiveness if we really don’t want to give up the sin we are praying about. We can’t ask God to guide us and change us if we have no intention of changing or of following the guidance that God offers us.
Be merciful to me, O God, because of your constant love. Because of your great mercy wipe away my sins! Wash away all my evil and make me clean from my sin! I recognize my faults; I am always conscious of my sins … Sincerity and truth are what you require; fill my mind with your wisdom … Create a pure heart in me, O God, and put a new and loyal spirit in me … Give me again the joy that comes from your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.
This is the essence of the prayer of forgiveness that we read in the psalms. Not just, forgive me God, but change me God. Take the sin away and release me from its power. Open my heart to follow your lead so that I will not continue to make the same mistakes that have drawn me away from you in the past.
When we can learn to truly let go of our own selfish desires and actions, when we can learn to set aside the past and truly seek Divine guidance as we go forward, then we can also echo these words of hope and joy.
Happy are those whose sins are forgiven, whose wrongs are pardoned … When I did not confess my sins, I was worn out from crying all day long. Then I confessed my sins to you; I did not conceal my wrongdoings … and you forgave all my sins.
… Give me again the joy that comes from your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Amen.
Gift of Music Forgive Our Sins as We Forgive #364
We Offer Our Gifts
In gratitude to all God has done for us, we respond in whatever way we can. One of the ways that we respond is through the gifts we give. Those gifts may be our time and our commitment or they may be the financial gifts we offer our church. If you chose to support the work of this church financially, you can do so by placing your offering in the offering plates at the back of the church or by making arrangement to give through PAR or through online donations.
And so as we sing our offertory response, let us bring forward our gifts.
Offertory Response #538
For the gift of creation, the gift of your love and the gift of the Spirit
by which we live, we thank you and give you the fruit of our hands.
May your grace be proclaimed by the gifts that we give.
As you have blessed us in all that you have given us, we ask that you will bless the gifts that we bring that they too may become a blessing. Amen.
We Offer Our Prayers
God is always as near as our next breath. God always listen when we pray, whether those prayers are written down and placed in our prayer jar or whether they as said in the silence of our hearts. So let us bring our silent, personal prayers to God with confidence, knowing that they are always heard … Amen.
Minute for Mission
Prayers of the People
Divine Source of all that is, we want to connect with you but sometimes we hold back. Sometimes our encounters with you are less genuine than we would like. So often our time with you is focused on us rather than being focused on you. Maybe the reason we know so little real forgiveness or real newness of spirit is that we hesitate to get too close to you because we know that when we do, you will call us to deeper honesty and truth. We worry that if we are completely open and honest about our lives, we will have to face things about ourselves and our actions that we would rather hide from everyone, including ourselves.
Holy One, penetrate our emptiness, guilt, fear and shame so that we can be truly open to you, truly know ourselves, and fully know the overwhelmed joy and peace of your forgiveness and love.
But we also know that your forgiveness and love are for all people and that we can never have true peace until all creation has the same. And so, we ask that, just as you hear the cries of all your beloved throughout the world, we too will hear their cries and respond.
We remember before you all those who are sick and suffering, all those who are lonely and alone, all those who are isolated and feeling unloved. Help us do our part to bring comfort, hope and healing …
We remember before you all those who are hungry, all those who do not have the food they need for this day. Help us to do our part to share what we can and to raise our voices in protest against the unequal sharing of our world’s resources …
We remember before you all those who are homeless, those who cannot access or afford safe shelter, those who have been forced to flee from their homes and those whose homes have been destroyed. Help us to open our heart to all who need a safe home and help us to do what we can to help provide it …
We remember before you all those who live in fear of violence from wars and political upheaval, from discrimination and hatred, and from personal, intimate violence from members of their own families or communities. Help us to be peace makers and to speak out again violence in any form, affirming the rights of all people to feel safe.
We remember before you all those who live in shame and self-loathing, convince that they are no worthy of love or forgiveness. Help us to reach out to embrace all people with compassion and caring, not judging or condemning, but offering them the promise of your love and forgiveness. Remind us once more of the great love and compassion you have for all creation and make us truly grateful. Amen.
Gift of Music There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy #271
Go out from here today knowing you are loved. Go out from here knowing that each new day, each new moment is a new beginning. Go out from here knowing that no matter where you go or what you do, God is with you, Christ’s example shows you the way and the Spirit is your companion and guide, now and always. Go with God.
Go now in peace, never be afraid.
God will go with you each hour of every day.
Go now in faith, steadfast, strong and true.
Know God will guide you in all you do.
Go now in love, and show you believe.
Reach out to others so all the world can see.
God will be there watching from above.
Go now in peace, in faith and in love. Amen, amen, amen.