Rev Kathy Christianson, Deacon
September 10, 2017
During our time on this earth, one of the biggest challenges and it can also be our greatest reward is our relationships with people. These people could be our family, our friends, co-workers, acquaintances or neighbors. Some of these people we may be with often and some only see occasionally.
As life happens, the chances are great that difficulties could arise in any one of these relationships, maybe based on misunderstandings, expectations not met, envy, personality clashes. It could be for a lot of reasons.
In Matthew today, I believe the message from Jesus was that when these situations arise that we should not let the situation stew within us. That we should seek out the person in order to make amends or to reestablish a connection.
I have a friend whose mother is a very angry woman. The Mom’s anger manifests in her harsh words, the hurtful and not true gossip that she spreads about every family member, and the exclusion of her children at various times. No one knows the cause of her anger. Each family member suffers greatly because of this anger from their mother. And the one who suffers the most, although she may not realize it, is the very angry mom.
One of the daughters, my friend Marion, has tried on several occasions to talk with her mother about the way her mother treats her. She has asked her mother why this occurs. She has explained how it makes her feel. She has asked her mother to please stop. I think this is an example of what Jesus was saying. My friend didn’t let the hurt just stay inside her. She made several attempts to reconcile with her mother – to form a connection, to have a relationship.
The mother has not been able to see the consequences of her actions, therefore she has not made any changes in the relationships with her children. When I was thinking of this Mom (and I said a prayer for her), it reminded me of a pumpkin at the end of the Fall season. The outside of the pumpkin may be hard and look well formed, but the inside has become mushy, maybe developed mold that has started to make its way through the hard outer shell from the inside. I imagine that that’s what our inside might look like if we hang on forever to hurts and pent up anger. And then if feelings are not shared and there has been no opportunity to work things out, ultimately the daughter could become just like the mother.
But Marion has done what Jesus was asking us to do in his words in this gospel. Jesus was asking us to try and keep trying to create a positive connection with the person who has caused you pain. The connection may not even be a full, blown loving relationship. As in the case of my friend Marion, it might just have to be a connection based on love. Marion has found a way to love her mother but be very watchful of her mother’s words and actions. Marion does not allow herself to be the target of her mother’s anger. She lovingly leaves the room or when her mother is in the middle of a tirade, tells her with grace, “I’m hanging up now. I love you, Mom”.
We can see in Marion’s story who is “bound” and who is “loosed”. Keeping anger, hurt, or frustration inside of us without attempts to make amends will bind us to a loveless relationship. In being bound to the anger, a person will take it wherever they go and it could impact all of their relationships. Carrying this kind of anger and hurt perpetuates a darkness that prevails in every interaction. It most likely will lead to a life of sadness, misery and possibly being alone.
But if we choose to break free of the anger, hurt or frustration, we are loosed. In other words, we are free to love ourselves and others. We see lightness and we are able to experience love, happiness and joy. There is no darkness – only light. We are free.
In this same chapter of Matthew, it is also written:
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.[a]
In the forgiving and letting go lies one of life’s greatest rewards – peace.