September 10, 2017–Forgiveness: Hard Healing Work

Posted on September 5, 2017 by faithlens

Amy Martinell, Sioux Falls, SD

 

Warm-up Question

Do you forgive easily or do you tend to hold a grudge?

Forgiveness:  Hard Healing Work

For months Margot Van Sluytman traded emails with Glen Flett.  It was not your ordinary email exchange.  In 1978 when Margot was only 16, Flett  killed her father while he attempted to rob the convivence store at which her father worked.  After being released from prison, Flett attended an event aiming at bringing victims and perpetrators together where he received help  connecting with Margot and they begin to email.

According to Margot, “They were emails filled with humanity. His words helped to heal me, but after a while the words weren’t enough and I knew I needed to look into his eyes. So, three months later I met the man who killed my father.”  When they first met, they both sobbed and hugged each other.  Margot shared that after her father died a part of her seemed to go blank, but after this meeting she felt the color begin to return to her life.

This was a long process to get to, at first Margot could not even contemplate forgiveness, it made her too angry.  Later as she began to work through her anger with poetry, she became more open to the concept, and soon as she began to consider forgiveness, she noticed a change in her whole body, that she felt more complete and more at peace.  Forgiveness was a healing process.  Before Van Sluytman begin the path to forgiveness she felt a void full of nothingness, now  that the void has begun to be filled by the friendship she has with the man who killed her father.  This friendship has helped put meaning back into her life.

Margot Van Sluytman’s story is one of the many stories collected by The Forgiveness Project.  The Forgiveness Project is an organization that collects stories of forgiveness to share the power of reconciliation, help build understanding, and empower people to tell their stories and reconcile with the pain of their past. (theforgivenessproject.com)

 

Discussion Questions

  • Margot Van Sluytman was open to forming a relationship with the man who killed her father. In her situation, do you think you would be willing to do so?  Why or why not?
  • Margot helped work through her pain and anger by writing poetry. What activities help you when you feel hurt and angry?
  • When have been times you have had a hard time asking for forgiveness or accepting others’ apologies?

Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost

Ezekiel 33:7-11

Romans 13:8-14

Matthew 18:15-20

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

 

Gospel Reflection

Jesus talks about a truth we all know well.  We know what it feels like to be hurt by others and we know what it feels like to hurt others.  It happens all too often.

We can guess the people who first read Matthew’s gospel were dealing with this problem as well.  “What do we do in our church when people hurt each other?”  In our reading, we have a set of instructions for dealing with conflict.  The focus is on rebuilding relationships, not on handing out punishments.  It is about restoring the person to the community, not about making sure everyone gets what they deserve.

And we restore relationships with face to face talks.  This is hard.  Today it sounds so much easier to send an email or text than to have to tell someone to their face that they have hurt us, but it is when we sit down in person that we are best able to see the other person’s point of view and become open to forgiveness and reconciliation.

Forgiveness is hard work; sometime we need to include others people, sometimes we may need more time before we are ready to forgive, and sometimes the person may not be open to hearing how they hurt us or what they have done wrong.  Forgiveness is hard work, but we can trust that our Lord is with us through the process we can reach out with love and forgiveness.

Discussion Questions

  • When you are upset with someone do you prefer to go and talk with them face to face or would you rather do it over text or email? Why might it be important to have these conversations in person?
  • When someone close to you has hurt you is it hard for you to trust them again and welcome them back into your community?
  • Have you ever been part of a group or team where members were not getting along? How did this affect everyone else?

Activity Suggestions

  • Visit The Forgiveness Project website and read another story and discuss together the power of forgiveness.
  • Brainstorm different constructive ways to deal with hurt and anger (poetry, exercise, music, etc.). Make a list of all the different options and give students time to explore one or two of the options.

Closing Prayer

Gracious God, you call us to love one another, but it is hard to be in community together.  Forgive the pain and hurt we cause our neighbors and help us to reach out with love and forgiveness when others hurt us.

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