On the evening of that first day of the week, when disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone's sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."
Were you ever verbally attacked - and, to your own amazement, found yourself saying something entirely different than what you were feeling? It's happened to me. Instead of the defensive, angry emotions about to emerge from my mouth, came words of calming gentleness. That could only be the Holy Spirit taking over on my behalf. I confess that I didn't forget the hurtful words, but I am deeply grateful that compassionate forgiveness rescued the relationships.
Forgive others as you have been forgiven. Some years ago, I carelessly left my wallet behind on a checkout counter. It was full of Christmas cash and everything to delight an identity thief. I was frantic! Store security cameras caught a customer deftly sweeping my wallet into her shopping bag. She'd put me through a lot! I was outraged! My heart pounded! How could she!?
Suddenly, I heard: "She needed it more than you. Forgive her - and pray for her." Excuse me?! Who said that?! "Forgive as you have been forgiven!" Oh! What Pastor Kate might call a "perspective shift": my anger turned to compassion and some shame for my own carelessness. All these years later, I still pray for this unknown person when I say the Lord's prayer. May God have blessed her life, as He has mine.
As you forgive others, forgive yourself, too. Repent and believe that you are forgiven.
Like the disciples, fear and anxiety surround us. Jesus says to us, as he did to them: "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, so I send you. Receive the Holy Spirit."
We pray: Merciful Lord, Judge of all, you forgave those who were so terribly mean and cruel to you - who put you to death! You forgave the thief on the cross. Please enter our hearts through our own locked doors and be present with us. Breathe on us, as you did on your disciples, that we may continue to experience the Holy Spirit in us. Empower us, your children, to follow your compelling examples of forgiveness and grace. Amen.