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September 13 — Forgiveness: Family faith formation at home

Welcome 

Invite various persons to bring a designated item and use this liturgy to begin your time of learning together. 

One:    Come, let us gather around and see how the Spirit will nurture our faith today.

All:      Who is with us?
One:    Christ, the light of the world.
(Place a candle on a table in your gathering place and light it.)

All:      Who is with us?
One:   The Love of God, who came to meet us in the world.
(Place a cross on a table in your gathering place.)

All:      Who is with us?
One:    The Wisdom of God, who speaks through the Scriptures.
(Place an open Bible on a table in your gathering place.)

All:      Who is with us?
One:    The Grace of God, who proclaims we are children of God.
(Place a symbol of baptism – a bowl of water, a seashell – on a table in your gathering space.)

All:      Who is with us?
One:    Our risen Lord, who meets us at the table.
(Place a symbol of communion – a plate and cup, a loaf of bread, grapes – on a table in your gathering space.)

One:    We are here, Holy Spirit, ready for your leading.

God sightings and prayer offerings 

Invite each person to share where they saw or experienced God this week. Invite each person to share something — a person, community, experience, event, etc. – for which they want to offer prayer.

Good and gracious God, we thank you for all the ways you were and are present in our lives and in the world. [Invite each person to say aloud the sighting they named earlier.] We bring our prayers to you, prayers for… [invite each person to say aloud the prayer need they named earlier]. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.

Connecting with Scripture: Matthew 18:21-35

Read the Scripture aloud the first time using the New Revised Standard Version or the Common English Bible.

As you read the Scripture a second time, invite those gathered to choose a character from the story (Peter, Jesus, the lord, the slave, etc.)  and listen to the story from that character’s point of view. How do you hear the story differently this time?

Connecting through story

Watch this story from Steve Hartman’s “Assignment America.”

  • Why did the mother forgive the man who killed her son?
  • What gave her the strength to do so?
  • What difference did forgiveness make in her life?
  • What different did forgiveness make for the man?
  • Why do you think it is so difficult for the man to forgive himself?
  • Why should he even try to forgive himself?

 

Connecting with our lives

Engage in dialogue:

  • Why do you think Peter asks Jesus how much and how many times he needs to forgive?
  • Why do you think Jesus responded with a story?
  • How do you think the man in the story felt when his debt was forgiven?
  • Why did he not forgive the debts his fellow slaves owed him?
  • How is the lord like God forgiving our sins?
  • How are we like the slave?
  • Why is it so difficult to forgive others?
  • When have you offered forgiveness to someone else? How did you feel?
  • When have you been forgiven? How did you feel?
  • Why do you think God forgives us?
  • Why does God want us to forgive?

Teaching points that can be incorporated into your discussion:

  • We live in a busted up and broken world.
  • We, humanity, fractured the world and ourselves.
  • We broke our relationship with God by being unfaithful.
  • The Good News is God, once and for all, repaired our brokenness and brought us back into right relationship through the self-less act of Jesus Christ.
  • Forgiveness comes to us through Jesus Christ.
  • Human forgiveness is only possible because we have first been forgiven by God.
  • When we forgive, as we are forgiven, we honor the gift, the sacrifice, God made in giving God’s only Son. When we do not, we cheapen it.
  • Forgiveness is an act of love more than a feeling.
  • Forgiveness is the first act of restoring relationships to the way God intended them.
  • Forgiveness is a characteristic of the Christian life. It is a quality of those who follow Christ.
  • We forgive – not because the other person necessarily deserves it – but because we are forgiven by God.
  • Forgiveness frees us and moves us past the anger and resentment that can fester within us.
  • God knows that forgiveness is difficult for human beings. There are tangible reminders that God forgives us and we are to give forgiveness to others: our baptism is that sign and seal that our sins are forgiven; in the Lord’s Prayer we say, “forgive us our debts as we forgive others;” and in the assurance of pardon after the prayer of confession we say, “hear the good news, in Jesus Christ our sins are forgiven.”

Here are two stories that show the power of forgiveness. One is of the Amish community who forgave after five of their daughters were killed by a gunman, a neighbor. The other is the story of members of Mother Emmanuel AME Churchin Charleston, South Carolina, who forgave after the shooting. Both stories are amazing witnesses to the power of forgiveness. However, both stories are difficult to hear. Choose the one that is best for your family to continue your conversation about the power of forgiveness. If your family has young children and neither seem appropriate for your context, then think together of instances when forgiveness is needed and given and allow the family to role play and practice forgiving.

 

 

 

Prayer

Close your time together by praying for one another, your neighbor, community and the world.

 

REBECCA DAVIS is the associate professor of Christian education at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. A teaching elder and certified educator, she served congregations for over 20 years before moving into academic teaching. In addition to teaching and mentoring students, her passion is child advocacy and ministry.

 

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