Forgiving and Forgiven

Theme: Forgiving and forgiven. 6th Sunday after the Epiphany, Yr. A
Object: A Sunday School offering envelope
Scripture: "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23 (NIV)

I'm sure you all know what this is. (Hold up your offering envelope.) It is my offering envelope. Every week I bring an offering as a gift to God -- it is a very important part of our worship. Most of you have probably brought your offering today too. There are many places in the Bible that teach us the importance of presenting an offering to God, but the truth is that God is more interested in what's in our heart than he is in what's in our hand.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said to people long ago, 'You must not murder. If you commit murder, you will be subject to judgment.' But I say, even if you are angry with your someone, you are subject to judgment." He went on to say that you will face God's judgment if you call someone a bad name or curse them.

What did Jesus say we should do if we are guilty of any of these things? He said, "If you are presenting your offering to God and you remember that you have said something that hurt another person, leave your gift at the altar and go and ask forgiveness from that person. Then come back and offer your gift to God."

Before we give our offering today, perhaps we should ask ourselves a few questions. Have I been angry with someone this week? Have I had any arguments lately? Have I called someone a bad name? Have I said something about someone that wasn't true? If so, we should ask God to forgive us and we should go to the person we have hurt and ask them to forgive us. When we have done that, God will be pleased with our offering.

"Forgive" is a great old hymn written by Corinne Williams. The first verse of this hymn would be a good prayer for us today.

Forgive the things I've said in haste, O Lord, today,
As evening shadows fold again the light away;
O take away the sting and hurt from hearts, I pray;
And heal the wounded spirits, Lord, in Thine own way!

Heavenly Father, we would not think of committing murder, but we sometimes say things in anger that hurt other people. Help us to guard against hateful and hurtful words and forgive us as we ask those we have hurt to forgive us as well. In Jesus' name we pray, amen.

Works cited: "Forgive", Corinne Williams, 1940. Renewal 1968 Broadman Press (Admin. by LifeWay Christian Resources) Broadman Press, LifeWay Christian Resources

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