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Chicago, Illinois 60630-2431

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8:00 a.m - Slovak Language
9:30 a.m. - English Language

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A WORD FROM PASTOR JOYCE

“We who once were far off have been brought near to God through the cross of Jesus Christ. Almighty God forgives your sin and grants you grace to forgive one another as you have been forgiven.”

The above is the absolution we have been hearing in our worship during the summer portion of the Pentecost season. The first time I heard myself saying these words, I had to stop and think. Almighty God forgives my sin, but he doesn’t stop at that. He forgives my sin because I have humbly acknowledged my sin - - - I create barriers, I turn away from God’s loving Spirit, I turn away from my neighbor, and I forget to trust God’s wonderful promises. In worship, I hear very clearly that God gives me a second chance. He forgives me all my short-comings. Almighty God forgives my sin and . . .

There is more to my forgiveness than I often think about. Almighty God forgives my sin and grants me grace to forgive one another as I have been forgiven. Wait a minute! Does God mean “as I have been forgiven by him?” Or, does God mean “as I have been forgiven by other people?” Hmmm. Of course God means “as I have been forgiven by God, himself.” The beginning of the absolution reminds me that I have been separated from God by my sin. In fact, that’s how we define sin. Sin is anything that separates us from God. I am brought near to God again through the cross of Jesus Christ.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son . . .” (John 3:16)
God grants me grace to forgive other people - - - not just in worship as an ordained pastor. God grants me grace to forgive other people in my everyday life. He helps me to do it. He encourages me. He gives me what I need to be able to do it. The rest is up to me. I need to act on the gift of grace. I need to unwrap the gift and use it.

When we pray the Lord’s prayer, we say “Forgive us our sins/trespasses as we forgive those who sin/trespass against us.” This sounds somewhat intimidating. It sounds conditional. “ forgive me just as I forgive others.” But, do I always forgive? What if God thinks I should be more forgiving? We read in the Bible: “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy times seven. (Matt 18:21-22) What if God doesn’t forgive me because I am not forgiving enough? What if I am holding a grudge and I don’t realize it?

God’s grace is unconditional love. I am reminded of that every time I hear myself announce God’s absolution - - - his absolution of your sins and mine.
“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17)

Pray for the power to forgive. Pray for the power to overcome our human stubbornness and fearfulness and self-centeredness. Pray for openness to the nudging of God’s Holy Spirit. Practice the words. “I forgive you.”“ Say it out loud - - - again and again. Confess your own sin. Confess it often - - - and receive God’s grace - - - your personal forgiveness and the power to forgive others. Come to the table of grace. Receive his body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine. Experience the mystery. Be reminded - - - not just with the pastor’s words as the absolution is announced. Be reminded as you experience the intimacy of Christ’s love for you as you taste the bread and wine. Taste and see. Feel the presence of Christ within you. Depart in his peace.
Almighty God forgives your sin and grants you grace to forgive one another as you have been forgiven.

.Peace and joy,
Pastor Joyce

09/01/2006