Forgive Us Our Trespasses

Forgive Us Our Trespasses

March 10, 2024 • Rev. Jen Gibbs

SLIDE: Picture of winter/crops or sleeping person

Winter renews the soil so the food we eat, can grow in warmer months. Your cells renew to maintain and heal your body. You sleep or try to each night to renew and restore so you can function each day. Our need for renewal is laid by God into the foundation of creation. And that is why we have a NEED of forgiveness. It’s part of God’s design for the renewal we need.  Let’s talk about that but first let’s pray…


Holy God, help us become masters of ourselves that we might become the servants of others. Take our eyes and see through them, take our ears, and hear through them, take our minds and think through them, and take our hearts.. and set them on fire. Amen.


We’ve been talking about the Lord’s Prayer, found in Matthew chapter 6 of our Bible. St. Augustine says that every prayer we could ever think of is found in the Lord’s prayer. Rose Folsom says, “The Our Father is like spiritual cross training; in its 7 petitions we hit every major “muscle group” we need for strong connection with God, ourselves, and our neighbors.”


And I don’t know about you, but though I’ve said this prayer my whole life, I’m hearing it differently as we look at each part. I’m hearing Jesus differently, learning my faith differently too.

SLIDE: Give us this day our daily bread AND forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.

As we come to this week’s, petition in the Lord’s prayer,  I got stuck on the word AND. I never noticed it before. We pray, GIVE us this day our daily BREAD AND forgive us our debts… (Debt’s is the word in Greek in the book Matthew)…  forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.


AND. When we pray for daily bread. AS Rob noted last week… it’s a prayer for more than just bread. It’s prayer for help with our daily needs. A prayer for God’s provision. For needs, like food, drink, shelter, finances, and so on. But also for spiritual needs that weigh on our mind, our hearts or souls.

So we’re asking God for WHAT WE NEED. But it doesn’t stop with bread. Jesus says, pray for daily BREAD AND FORGIVENESS.

I’m not sure we always consider forgiveness as a need. Maybe we think of it as a helpful practice. One we should do. Or something spiritual that isn’t connected with daily life.

When we would come to the table to eat in my childhood, my mom would pray God is great, god is good, let us thank him for our food, Amen. Or my funny but sometimes irreverent dad’s version, Good bread, good food, good God, let’s eat. But forgiveness as part of our daily needs was not mentioned.


N.T. Wright says that in our lives today we might have forgotten forgiveness or sort of trivialized it. He says we can often substitute forgiveness for tolerance “This is at best a low-grade parody of forgiveness. At worst, it’s a way of sweeping the real issues in human life under the carpet.” And under the carpet means its still there… the hurt. The guilt. The division. The anger. Though tolerated, it’s all still in us and between us.

So I began to wonder about this prayer for BREAD AND FORGIVENESS.  It seems it harkens back to the 4th  of the 10 commandments. It’s about Sabbath and the Jewish laws of faith that go with it. That’s what we’re reading about in our scripture today from the book of Deuteronomy, Where we find God’s people the Israelites. Already freed by God from slavery in Egypt. Been in the wilderness for 40 years holding on to God’s promises of land, and home and a future. They finally get to the banks of the Jordan… standing on the edge of the Promised Land.. When Moses holds them there to first receive their homeowners manual so to speak. Filled with  Mitzvote in Hebrew. Holy laws. Duties that will help live holy and healthy lives.

SLIDE: The command of Sabbath for renewal 

 We pick up today, in holy laws about observing Sabbath. You know that it’s about resting every seventh day as commanded by God for a rhythm of renewal. But that command, within Deuteronomic law extends into 7 year rhythms.. Like letting the land lay fallow every 7th year. To honor the land, God’s gift. And renew its vitality. But think about that. They would need whatever was stored from  the 6th year for food, to last. They would be depending on God’s provision….Give us this day our daily bread.

And in today’s verses, that 7 year rhythm extends to economics. To cancelling. debt.. Because it used to be for the Israelites that families and large clans held land in trust. And those large groups operated reasonably well as a social structure. An equal one. But then they moved to one of acquiring capital. Like land owning and business ventures.  So more and more debt. Without checks and balances. Leaving some to monopolize and locking others into debt and destitution. So this holy law limits how far the pressures of the economy could be allowed to shape society. Releasing. Forgiving debts as their own debts were forgiven… every 7th year. Creating a pattern of community restart. Renewal.

So you can imagine when Jesus teaches his Jewish hearers who know Jewish laws to pray…Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive those who have debts against us. They would know it’s about sabbath and survival. That’s help and healing, commanded by God and given to us for the renewal we need. Of land.  Economy. Communities. Hearts and Lives.

But Jesus puts a twist on it as often Jesus does. Not just every 7 days. Or 7 years. But Jesus says, daily bread AND forgiveness. And not just our business debts. Or our land debts. But the debts.  Between us and God, and with each other.

A few years ago, a colleague’s teenage son was struggling. Despite her every effort to help, he had run away from home. She used all possible routes to find him. No luck. Through technology, she learned he was safe, and planning to come home, but not quite yet. She emailed and said, I hear he’s coming to your church tonight. It was Maundy Thursday. He arrived. Too skinny. Tired eyes. Head down. Sitting quietly in the back.

SLIDE: Communion picture…

 And when it came time for communion. He came to the rail early. Knelt. Bowed his head. Draped his folded hands over the rail. And stayed. While every single person came forward and received. While the choir got served. He stayed. Then finally, opened his hands for communion and received it. Nodded. Went back to his seat. Head up.

I learned later, he came that night because he told his mom he needed to. Before he could go home. Before he could go back to school. Before he could imagine a different direction. Before he could lift his head up. Something in him needed release. From the scary things we later learned had been done to him. And the scary things he had done while gone.

He seemed to sense that he had not respected who God made him to. And he knew the harm done to him, as others disrespected him. This young man’s soul instinctively knew what Adam Hamilton describe… as a sort of natural, “You break it you buy it”… Reality to life. That as free will people we have responsibility and natural consequences for what we do or don’t do.  Whether intentionally or accidentally. And when we do harm or harm is done to us…… there’s debt of repair we carry. Hurt or need or guilt.  

So this young man had come and knelt. Before a gracious God who offers to help release it and renew our lives.

SLIDE: Alphiemi = Release

That’s what the word forgive in the Lord’s prayer means. The word Aphiemi. Meaning release. The young man named it all before God. And then let go. Opening his hand to communion bread and forgiveness.. Then he could renew his life. His relationships. He and his mom are well.  He’s in college.. And thriving.

SLIDE: Today’s Question: Where in your life do you need renewal? It starts with release…(forgiveness).

He needed it. You and I need it. Our communities need it. And so today’s questions is this. Where do you need renewal?  Where are you carrying hurt, anger, rage, brokenness… guilt, shame. IN you. In your household. In your community. Hear again to today, you don’t have to carry the weight and burden of it all. You don’t have to just tolerate it. God offers us forgiveness that our hearts and relationships have a way to be renewed.

And it is both. Our own hearts and our relationships. Forgiveness with God and others. Forgive us our debts or trespasses as AS we forgive our debtors or those who trespass against us.

SLIDE: QUOTE with Scripture when I get to it.

Really hard saying. And we wonder, is that what Jesus really means.  But he doubles down a few verses later and says, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don’t forgive others their sins, your Father will not also forgive you. (Matthew 6: 14-15). Surely Jesus isn’t saying that it’s quid pro quo. Because this seems very conditional. And that doesn’t seem to line up with the grace we understand Christ offers. Unconditional love and grace.

SLIDE: QUOTE by Richard Wilke

But perhaps what Jesus is teaching is the very nature of grace. Of what it means to be forgiven and renewed. That grace. Forgiveness with God and others is all knotted up together. Richard Wilke puts it this way. “There is a mysterious transaction: When God forgives us, we forgive ourselves and we forgive other people. It’s all one process. Jesus wore a robe without seams, woven in one piece. That’s like forgiveness. It’s all one piece. The bountiful pardon of Almighty God is a forgiveness that flows through us and back and to and from other people.”


Leanne Jackson writes a story that illustrates how the grace of forgiveness is all one piece.. It was published in the Guidepost and was about her mother-in-law Lilly. Who throughout her life seemed to do more and more cruel things. Especially to her closest relatives. And did it intentionally. Sowing seeds of discord and hurt. Like asking her daughter-in-law what she’d want to inherit of hers from her house. When Leanne finally noted her sewing machine, her mother-in-law said, “You shall have it! “ Then made a point of giving it instead to her granddaughter in a big show at her graduation. And after Lilly promised two grand daughters some special jewelry she changed her will to give those very pieces to other granddaughters. And the meanness went on and on.

When Lilly died, Leanne couldn’t stop thinking about what Lilly did. That she got away with all that meanness. Didn’t get what she deserved. And left hurt in her wake. Leanne couldn’t let it go. Was carrying that anger around with her. Until she learned more about Lilly’s past. The way Lilly’s parents refused to look at her or name her in her early days because she wasn’t a boy. Then when her parents finally had a son, Lilly was ignored. That her father gambled away church money and deserted her family.  Causing Lilly to work young and support the family. Who then dashed her dream of college. Lilly carried around all the debts people owed her. Debts of abuse, and cruelty and neglect. And passed them on. But on the day of Lilly’s funeral. Leanne read the eulogy. And said, “ You are no doubt aware that some aspects of Lillian’s life were very difficult, But we strongly believe that in the end God wins. He puts everything right.”


Leanne pictured Lilly before God, wincing at her countless hurtful actions. Then God’s radiant love swept through and wiped them all away.” Knowing the forgiveness of God, for Lilly and for her…Leanne says, “I forgave Lilly and released her to the one whose irresistible love, puts everything right.”

It’s all one piece. The bountiful pardon of Almighty God is a forgiveness that flows through us and back and to and from other people. Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors…Releasing us. Restoring us. And renewing us.

What weight are you carrying today. Within yourself. Against another or others in the community? What forgiveness is needed? For God’s grace can hold it.


That’s what Kent Millard shared with me recently about his prayer practice. He said, every day, I go into my closet and I put each of my worries or concerns in my hands. And then I pray. Holding out my hands,  “O God, I surrender… (then I name what’s in my hands about) Do with it as you will and whatever you do I thank you.” He said, he imagines God’s loving hands under his, as he let’s go. And then God can carry it. He said, now don’t think that sometimes I don’t try to pick it back up and have to surrender it the next day.

And so it is with forgiveness. And that’s the invitation today. To practice that prayer practice putting in your hands what needs forgiving or forgiveness. And though you may try to pick it back up. Or you’re having a hard time letting go. Come back the next morning and pray again. And know that the loving hands of God are there in grace and love. To forgive. To help release the debts and begin renewing our lives.  

To start, let’s pray together and practice. Be brave, for God is gracies. I’ll guide us through a meditiation. And then together we’ll pray the Lord’s prayer.  

As you feel comfortable…close your eyes.  Consider. What are you asking God to forgive of you. And or, what debt do you hold against another that might be time to let go. Imagine putting them in your hands. Hold themtight for a minute. Then, pray for forgiveness… and as you are ready, open your hands releasing those into God’s loving hands.

OUR FATHER… who art in heaven…