The Cash Value of
Psalm 4; I John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36-49
Lee A. Wyatt
Todays sermon is the first of two I will preach on our gospel lesson from
Luke 24. Forgiveness is the focus of these sermons, with this mornings looking at
forgiveness itself, while next weeks will focus on how we receive forgiveness. So
todays sermon will of necessity be slightly unfinished needing next weeks to
round it off
Heres the situation: Jesus appears to his disciples, greets them with Gods
peace, assures them that it is really he, body and all, and that he is indeed the messiah
of whom their Scriptures speak. Then he commissions them, and us through them to take the
word of Gods forgiveness to the world. In addition he promises them power from
on high (aka the Holy Spirit) to help them do it.
Fair enough. But what is this forgiveness anyway? And whats its cash
value in our lives?
According to Scripture, forgiveness cashes out in real life by making us friends
with God, family with Jesus and each other, giving us a new freedom to be and do what God
wants us to be and do, and a new future in which we live in the sure hope that the peace
we already experience in the church will one day cover this world like the waters of the
Friends, family, freedom and a future - thats what Gods peace
is all about, folks. And Gods forgiveness, at work in our lives, will do just those
things - make us friends with God, family with Jesus and each other, give us a new freedom
and a new future. Lets explore further this cash value of forgiveness.
A little boy away at summer camp received a care package from his mom one day. It
was filled with her wonderful chocolate chip cookies. He ate a few and then slipped the
box under his bed. He went off for an activity but when he returned, the box was gone.
The boy reported the theft to his counselor who a little while later saw the camp
bully sitting behind a tree eating the stolen cookies.
The counselor pulled Billy aside and told him he knew who had taken the cookies.
Will you help me teach him a lesson he asked.
Hesitantly, the boy said, Yes.
Good! Please ask your mom to send you another box of cookies.
Billy did and soon another box arrived in the mail.
The counselor brought the box to Billy and told him to go find the bully and share
these cookies with him.
But hes a thief! Billy protested.
I know, said the counselor, but try it anyway.
Off Billy went and half-an-hour later he saw him come back over the hill walking
arm-in-arm with the bully. The bully was offering Billy his jacknife in payment for the
cookies he had stolen. But Billy gently refused, saying, A few old cookies werent
that important anyway. Gods willingness to share his own good gifts of grace
with us undeserving and ungrateful creatures makes us into his friends. And chief among
those gifts of his grace is forgiveness. To be forgiven, is to be friends with God!
Once President Lincoln was asked how he would treat rebellious southerners after
the Civil War was over. The questioner clearly expected Lincoln to opt for some form of
retribution or vengeance but was taken aback when the President replied, I will
treat them as if they had never been away.
We can love like that too. One church, in fact, did. One of its members had sinned
grievously, publically, and without remorse. He resisted all the efforts the church made
to counsel and reconcile with him. Finally, he walked away from the faith. For several
years. Then, out of the blue, he came back. He wrote the church a letter of apology.
You were right, he said. I was in sin. You put your finger on it. I
rebelled and I rejected. But I want you to know, I see the wrong of my actions and Ive
Did the church take him back? You bet they did. In spades. They had a party for
this brother. They bought him a sport coat and new pair of shoes. They put a gold ring on
his finger. And they served him prime rib. It was an evening of praise none who were there
will ever forget. This brother had been forgiven and restored. The family was whole again!
Forgiveness is the way God makes us his family. It couldnt be otherwise,
could it? How else can sinners be made into sons and daughters of a righteous and holy
God? Family-making is both the glory and the goal of Gods pardon!
But what about the new freedom we receive from forgiveness - the freedom to be and
do what God wants us to be and do? How does that happen?
A man went to visit a new family that just that day moved into the neighborhood.
The father of this family began to introduce his children to the man.
Thats Pete, he began. Hes the clumsy one of the
And thats Kathy coming through the door all muddy. She our sloppy one.
Heres Mike. Last as usual. I swear I do believe that boy will be late
to his own funeral!
Thats the way freedom does not happen! Did you notice how this father seemed
to have glued his children to their faults? Even his naming of them to a stranger includes
a description of their failings! How much of that does it take before we start to believe
and internalize that we are our faults and sins? Not much.
And sad to say, too many Christians seem to believe that God treats us like that -
always holding over us our sins and misdeeds. How tragic! How demoralizing! Not much
freedom in this story, is there?
A Catholic priest in Philippines carried a terrible burden. While in seminary he
committed a heinous sin. Nobody knew it and the priest had sincerely repented and worked
to change his life. But in spite of effective and fruitful service in the priesthood,
guilt and remorse for his sin haunted him day and night. He was not sure he had Gods
There was a woman in his parish who claimed to see visions and that in some of
these visions Christ himself came and talked with her. More than a little skeptical the
priest devised a little test. He asked the woman if, the next time Christ came to talk to
her in her visions, she would ask him to tell her what sin the priest had committed in
The woman agreed. A few days later the priest asked if she had any news.
Oh yes, she replied. Christ appeared to me just last night.
Did you ask him about my sin in seminary?
I did, the woman said.
Well, what did he say?
He said, I dont remember. I dont remember!
What glorious good news! What liberation! What joy! But can it really be that God not only
forgives but also forgets our sins? Oh, yes! Oh, yes indeed. Listen to the book of
Hebrews. Speaking of Christs sacrifice for our sins the author jubilantly declares:
And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying, "This is the
covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in
their hearts, and I will write them on their minds," he also adds, "I will
remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more." Where there is forgiveness of
these, there is no longer any offering for sin. (Hebrews 10:16-18)
What else is there to say? If we are still glued to our sins, its us
providing the Elmers, not God! He has forgiven us completely and totally to live in
freedom with him, in the church, and for the sake of the world. Let us take up this
freedom and start to live! Today! Right now!
Lastly, forgiveness opens up to us a new future. As friends and family of a God
who sets us free, we now long for a full experience to that freedom for us as well as for
all Gods creation. We know the best is yet to come, so we live joyfully and
hopefully, sharing the good news that has come to us.
Another Civil War story. Robert E. Lee once visited a woman in Kentucky after the
hostilities ceased and found her mourning the remains of a grand old oak tree that had
stood in her front yard for who knows how long. Its limbs and trunk had been destroyed by
Union artillery fire. She waited for Lee to condemn the North or at least commiserate with
her. But he did nothing of the kind. All he said to her was, Cut it down, my dear
madam, and forget it.
Theres wonderful story about a church custodians discovery one Monday
morning when he went to clean the sanctuary. Instead of finding the usual fare - forgotten
Bibles, umbrellas, bulletins covered with childrens drawings, and torn-up notes the
teenagers had passed to each other instead of listening to the sermon - he found something
very different indeed.
In a middle pew on the right side of the church lay a discouraged mans anger
towards God. On the back left pew sat a womans profound disappointment and fear over
an uncertain future. Further down the pew lay a middle-aged fathers feelings of
failure. Across the aisle the custodian found a young couples lukewarm commitment.
On the front row he discovered an old mans fear of death. In the corner, so small he
could barely see it, lay a young persons sins. On other pews he found jealousy,
bitterness, pride, fear and doubt. The custodian was not sure what to with all this - but
finally he swept it up - all those wounds, hurts, fears and sins - and threw them away.
Sisters and brothers, that story is your story and my story. Or if it isnt,
it can be. Because God has forgiven us and made us his friends and his family, and freed
us and given us a new future, we can walk away from all that binds and shackles us. Just
If you remember my Easter sermon, youll realize Im being a fossarian
again. Im opening up your graves so that you can arise, slough off the graveclothes
of your sins and failures, and walk right out of your tomb - whatever it is.
I beg you, friends, take this truth to heart. Look into the face of God this
morning and see there his joyous welcome. You are forgiven - fully and completely. Past,
present, and future. You are Gods friends, indeed, his beloved children. You are
free, truly free to live for Gods future now, instead of being mired in the
ever-repeating cycle of the past.
You know what I would love more than anything else? Id love to have Loretta
come to me tomorrow saying she found all these old graveclothes lying in the pews and
asking what she should do with them. That would make my day!
But more importantly, it would make your day. You would enter a whole new world of
Gods love and youd never be the same again.
What graveclothes will you leave behind today? Imagine yourself stripping off the
thing that most severely hampers you from drawing close to God. Perhaps its guilt,
or perfectionism, or indifference to God, or lusts of one kind or another, or shame, or
despair, or workaholism, or dashed hopes and dreams, or . . . something else. Whatever it
is, imagine it sliding off your shoulders, dropping away from your body, and lying inert
and lifeless on the pew seat. And as you walk it away from it today, it wont get up
and follow you.
That, friends, is the cash value of forgiveness!
Thanks be to God!