Sermons

VicarSharonRichterSermon for Good Friday, Holy Week 2017

Forgiving the Unforgivable
By Vicar Sharon Richter -

 

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
 
 
 How do you forgive someone for doing something that would seem to be unforgivable? Can we only do that if “they do not know what they are doing?”
 
 
 In 2006 a man named Charles Roberts took ten Amish girls hostage in a one-room schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, PA. His intention was . . . well, you know what he intended. He later shot all ten hostages, killing five of them, and committed suicide.
 
 
 How do you forgive Charles Roberts for that? Amazingly, the Amish parents of those children forgave him. Do you think they thought “he did not know what he was doing?”
 In 2015, Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white supremacist, sat in a Bible study for an hour with 13 black members of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Roof was a Lutheran boy. You know what happened next. He shot his gun for 6 minutes, reloading 5 times. He killed nine people, four of them pastors. 
 
 
 How do you forgive Dylann Roof for that? Amazingly, we hear that the families have done exactly that.  Do you think they thought “he did not know what he was doing?”
 
 
Charles Roberts is dead, but Dylann Roof is still alive, still spouting vile, racist garbage. Still hoping for a race war to kill ALL the black people. How do we forgive him? He doesn’t even want to be forgiven.
 
 
I can’t answer how we, mere mortals, can come to that kind of forgiveness. How can I? In one important sense, I am no different than Charles Roberts, no different than Dylann Roof, and no different than those families of the slain, who somehow found the key to forgiveness. The sense in which we are all the same is that none of us, really, knows what we are doing. We have to throw ourselves on God’s mercy time and again for this one reason. We don’t know, but God knows.
 
 
 When Jesus spoke his forgiveness from the cross, he said “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”  With that, he forgave, and God forgave, the soldiers, the High Priest, the high priest’s slave, the Pharisees, Pilate, the criminals on either side, and Judas. None of them knew what they were doing.
 
 
 When Jesus spoke his forgiveness from the cross, he also forgave Peter. And the disciples, and the women in his life and ministry. None of them knew what they were doing.
 When Jesus spoke his forgiveness from the cross, he also forgave you. And me. None of us . . . none of us . . . none of us know what we are doing.
 
 
 We are but children, with a little faith. Thank you God, our Father, for your mercy on us, your children, who do not know what we are doing.  
 
 Amen.
 
 
 
 
 

Vicar Sharon Richter
Mt. Olive Lutheran Church
Santa Monica, California
April 14th, 2017

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