The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
The Word of the Lord.
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
‘Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.’
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge. Amen.
Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For ‘no human being will be justified in his sight’ by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.
But now, irrespective of law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.
Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.
The Word of the Lord.
The Holy Gospel according to Saint John 8:31-36
Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’ They answered him, ‘We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, “You will be made free”?’
Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there for ever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
The Gospel of our Lord.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We forget things all of the time!
We forget where we laid our keys and where we put our glasses and where we parked our cars!
We forget our passwords. I can’t tell you the number of times I have forgotten a computer password. Really – it is incredibly pathetic!
We forget birthdays, anniversaries, and what time it is.
We forget our grocery lists and wander the grocery store trying to remember what on earth we are there to get.
We occasionally forget our phones and our phone numbers.
On a bad day we may forget our children’s names or that we even have children.
We may even get so busy that we forget to eat lunch.
But I would guess most of you never – ever – ever forget a sin or wrong committed against you. That is something we simply never forget! Not ever!
Most of us can’t remember what we had for supper last night – but we will never – ever forget the wretchedly awful girl who made fun of our Halloween costume in the second grade.
We may not remember how many years we have been married to our truly beloved spouse (23 years – I did the math) – but that mean girl who said our rainbow jeans were “stupid” in the 6th grade – well we will never forget her or her horrible crime against us.
I wish I could say I lived on a higher spiritual plain – because that would be seriously cool.
I wish I wasn’t a great big – massive grudge holder. I wish I wasn’t a person who remembered sins against me – because that is what Jesus wants us to do.
But if I said I didn’t hold grudges or remember sins people committed against me that would make me a great big lying liar. Like all Christians – I am a great big massive work in progress.
The girl who made fun of my seriously awesome Richmond Red Devil costume – her name was Christy. And the mean girl who made fun of my equally awesome rainbow jeans was Amber.
When I think of the white hot fury that still simmers in my heart against my very first boss at Morrisson-Reeves Library – it surprises me – well maybe it doesn’t really. She was very – very mean! In fact – she publicly rebuked and humiliated me in front of my co-workers calling me both lazy and insubordinate! At 15 – I was many – many things – but I can assure you I was neither lazy nor was I insubordinate. Heck – I didn’t even know what insubordinate was until I looked it up in the dictionary!
Holding a grudge comes easily to so many of us. Forgiveness is hard. Actually forgiveness is very – very hard.
But thankfully – our God doesn’t hold grudges. Thankfully – our God is so much better at forgiveness than we are. Thankfully our God chooses grace – mercy – and forgiveness over wrath – revenge – and anger.
Because we all sin – over and over again. Day after day. Week after week. Year after year. We sin each and every day of our lives. And the Bible tells us quite clearly that the penalty for our sins is death.
So if you and I got what we really deserved – we would all be condemned to eternal death. But thankfully this is not what we receive from our God. Instead of death and eternal punishment for our sins – we receive God’s love, his forgiveness, and the promise of eternal life spent with our Lord in heaven.
Our God rejects revenge and embraces mercy. Our God is a God of grace and forgiveness – not wrath and fury. Our God is merciful in a way that is hard for us even to comprehend!
Our God is really serious about grace.
God does not hold our sins against us. God doesn’t remember our sins to use against us at another time. Our God doesn’t get mad at us and throw our old sins up in our faces like we do when we fight and argue and bicker with each other.
When God is disappointed in us for taking his name in vain (again and again and again) or for sleeping in on yet another Sunday morning and skipping church. God doesn’t say – “well – remember the time you forgot our anniversary! Or you never stick around to help clean up at church or volunteer to be on any of the committees! Or you are constantly “forgetting” about the church work days!”
Nope – not our God. Our God doesn’t hold grudges or fight ugly!
Our God isn’t just fair. Instead our God is gracious and merciful!
In our first reading for this week – our Lord declares to us – “I will forgive their iniquities, and remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34)
Think about that. Really let these words really sink in.
When God forgives us – he really and truly forgives us. Our sins are gone forever. Truly forgiven and forgotten. Never to be remembered again!
I know that I quote the 1st chapter of Isaiah a lot – but I can’t help it. I love hearing our God proclaim “Come now, let’s settle this. Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)
When God forgives our sins they are gone. Erased. Deleted. Washed away. Completely and utterly gone. Truly this is very Good News indeed – AMEN.