* The Order of Worship is changing for the Afterfaith series. We appreciate your indulgence of this change to the routine.

  • Call to Worship, and Opening Prayer – Rev. Val & Congregation
  • Gloria Patri (UMH 70)
  • Hymn: Breathe On Me, Breath of God (UMH 420)
  • Pastoral Prayer – Rev. Val
  • Peace Hymn: O God of Every Nation (UMH 435)
  • Scripture Readings – Rev. Val
  • Message: Father, Forgive Them – Rev. Val
  • Hymn: Forgive Our Sins, As We Forgive (UMH 390)
  • Service of Holy Communion
  • Offertory Prayer – Rev. Val
  • Doxology (UMH 95)
  • Benediction – Rev. Val


There will be a business meeting after worship today. Please plan to stay if you can.

This week begins our series on “Seven Words” which will take us through Lent. Lent ends on Holy Saturday or April 16. I have made some corrections to the dates listed on the back of the Bulletin or, if you’re worshipping online with us, in the “Save the Date” section at the bottom of “We Worship” in your email bulletin. If you’re worshipping online and not receiving the electronic bulletin, Tracy is dropping a link you can use to subscribe. Our electronic bulletin contains all the parts of the worship service you need including the lyrics for the hymns we sing and can help you participate in worship wherever you are.

Last, and this is for our online worshippers as well, Tracy is also dropping a link you can use to make your offering this morning. We use the Tithely service. It’s easy and, to my knowledge, they do not send users any annoying emails except a “receipt.” I want to encourage you to make an offering just as if you were sitting here in-person and someone passed you the offering plate.

Now, if you would, please join me in the Call to Worship on page 1 of your bulletin and, for those of you online – it’s at the top of the “We Worship” section.

Call to Worship

L: Come and learn the ways of life.

P: We have come to follow Jesus.

L: Love your enemies, and do good to those who hate you.

P: We have come to follow Jesus.

L: Bless those who curse you, and pray for those who persecute you.

P: We have come to follow Jesus.

L: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

P: We have come to follow Jesus.

L: Come and learn the ways of life.  Let us come now to worship, sing praises, and pray in Christ’s name:

Opening Prayer

Inexhaustible source of love and life, be with us in our time of worship

as we seek the love it takes to walk in the ways of your Son. Help us love our enemies and bless those who wrong us, for we cannot do so alone. Teach us the joy of treating others with all the same respect and goodness with which we hope to be treated. May our every word and deed make known that we are your beloved children and vessels of your love.

We pray in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.


Rev. Val

Teacher of hard truths, it is difficult to let go of our anger toward those who prosper through deceit and unscrupulous ways;

it is not easy to make ourselves believe that the meek will inherit the earth, when they are being crushed by the unjust systems stacked against them.

We long to see the vindication of the righteous and the prosperity of those who work selflessly to bring your realm here on earth.

We yearn for the day when all people will treat one another as they wish to be treated.

Help us live into that day, Holy One, even when it is difficult, that your love might shine like the sun through our lives and our ministries.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer……

Prince of Peace, we come to you grateful for the sacrifice you made and penitent for all the times we have failed to follow your Way. We ask that you walk with us now.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer……

Holy Spirit, helper, advocate, we pray you come down into the hearts and minds of all of us and of those in leadership here, throughout our nation, and around the world. Empty us and them of all thoughts that are evil, angry, or vengeful. Fill us and them with compassion and mercy.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer……

Loving God, we pray that your glory may fill your church and give to your people everywhere the energy to shine wherever there is darkness, disunity, persecution, or despair…

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer……

Father, we pray for those we named in our sharing time and for all those whose names are upon our hearts. Grant to them health and wholeness, peace and joy, strength and hope, comfort and grace … We remember before you:

(Intercessions and petitions as shared in sharing time)

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer……

Faithful Creator, we cry out to you now as we continue to lift up our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, all those on the front lines, all those in the bunkers, basements and subways, all those whose lives have already been taken, all those who wonder and wait in fear and in grief, all those who’ve been forced to flee their homes or are caught and unable to flee, and all those on the other side of the borders welcoming those who have been able to make the journey to safety. Place a hedge of protection around the innocent and change the hearts of the aggressors.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer……

Dearest Lord, whatever else You see that we need—whatever is for the good of our neighbor and redounds to Your glory—we pray that You would grant to us, Your children. We ask it Jesus’ name who taught us to pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever.



Open the eyes of our understanding and prepare our hearts by the power of Your Spirit, that we may receive Your scriptures with much joy and rejoicing and may leave today having a deeper understanding of who You are and who You would have us to be.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

(All passages are from the Common English Bible)

Luke 23:32-34 – They also led two other criminals to be executed with Jesus. When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified him, along with the criminals, one on his right and the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” They drew lots as a way of dividing up his clothing.

Luke 6:27-28, 32, 35-36 – “But I say to you who are willing to hear: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you.

“If you love those who love you, why should you be commended? Even sinners love those who love them. Instead, love your enemies, do good, and lend expecting nothing in return. If you do, you will have a great reward. You will be acting the way children of the Most High act, for he is kind to ungrateful and wicked people. Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate.

Matthew 18:21-33 – Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Should I forgive as many as seven times?”

Jesus said, “Not just seven times, but rather as many as seventy-seven times. Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle accounts, they brought to him a servant who owed him ten thousand bags of gold. Because the servant didn’t have enough to pay it back, the master ordered that he should be sold, along with his wife and children and everything he had, and that the proceeds should be used as payment. But the servant fell down, kneeled before him, and said, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.’ The master had compassion on that servant, released him, and forgave the loan.

“When that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him one hundred coins. He grabbed him around the throat and said, ‘Pay me back what you owe me.’

“Then his fellow servant fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he threw him into prison until he paid back his debt.

“When his fellow servants saw what happened, they were deeply offended. They came and told their master all that happened. His master called the first servant and said, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you appealed to me. Shouldn’t you also have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’

The scriptures of God for the People of God.

Thanks be to God.

MESSAGE – Father, Forgive Them

Parts of this message are adapted or cited directly from “Seven Words: Listening to Chirst from the Cross,” by Susan Robb (Abingdon Press, ISBN: 978-1 7910-0781-2). All other citations are included in the transcript.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. Amen.

I’ve been given permission to share a poem with you this morning written by Bob Jensen of Canada, and set to music and recently recorded and released March 2nd by Claire Lynch. Mr. Jensen and Ms. Lynch will be receiving a clip of this reading, so Y’all take a minute and shout hello and thank you!

Who But Man

Who, but man?

Who, but man?

Who, but man would slay the Lamb?

Takes Him from His peaceful lea.

Spits upon Him as he prays.

Nails Him to a twisted tree,

And keeps the doting ewe at bay.

Plays at cruelty all day long.

Spares him from the dreaded knife.

Savored torment His sweet song,

Prolong, prolong His wretched life.

Who, but man?

Who, but man?

Who, but man molests the Lamb?

Yet from His high ungainly perch …

Bloodied, broken, bruised and weak …

Looking down on His blessed church …

The gentle lamb begins to speak.

Yes, summoning His greatest strength,

The greatest power that e’er He taught …

He wields it there from one spear’s length …

“Forgive them Father, they know not!”

Who, but man?

Who, but man?

Who, but man hath heard the Lamb?

And who but cruel, heartless man

Was e’er forgiven by the Lamb?[i]

I so hope you’ll find a way to listen to the recording of this song. It moved me to tears and stopped me in my tracks. You see, I’ve struggled all week with today’s message because I’ve struggled with forgiveness for quite some time now. Seems odd your pastor, your “spiritual shepherd” as it were or is supposed to be, would confess to struggling with something so vitally important to walking in the Way of Christ, doesn’t it? No need to knock me off any pedestals. I am completely capable of doing a high dive all by myself. After all, and here’s my second confession. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m human.

Yes, yes it’s true. No immortality or superpowers here. Just plain old human me. And for some time now, I’ve been more easily angered than at peace, have struggled to speak words worthy of the Savior I follow, and have failed, repeatedly, to find a way to forgive more than one or two people even though their transgressions were not directed at me. And yet those transgressions are the root cause of my own transgressions.

I wonder if, possibly, some of you here might be wrestling with these same feelings. I know it’s hard right now not to get angry. Just turn on the news or try to have a conversation with your neighbor or various members of your family or the person in front of you at the store. And let’s not forget those other drivers you encounter as you go about town, right?

And yet … before He gave himself up, he asked God to forgive us and God did.

The week of Passover began with such promise for Jesus’s followers who had joined the many pilgrims who’d arrived in Jerusalem to celebrate the great feast commemorating God’s deliverance of the Jews from enslavement in Egypt. Crowds lined the streets of Jerusalem that Sunday as Jesus, mounted on a donkey, made his triumphal entry into the city. Any Jew who knew the scriptures new this was not just a welcome sign but the sign they had been hoping for. Through this one prophetic action … simply riding a donkey from the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem … Jesus had announced he was the expected Messiah, come to save Israel, fulfilling the words of Zechariah: “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion. Sing aloud, Daughter Jerusalem. Look, your king will come to you. He is righteous and victorious. He is humble and riding on an ass, on a colt, the offspring of a donkey.”

Word spread from the mouths of every devout Jew who saw him and knew what his prophetic action meant. The crowd along the way, shouted “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna Son of David!” Some waved palms and spread their cloaks on the road before him, probably more than a few hoped he would be a military king like David who could deliver them from their enemies, the hated Roman occupiers.

Jesus was a king, but he wasn’t that kind of a king.

By Thursday, everything had gone wrong. By Friday morning, he had been betrayed by his friend and disciple, Judas. He was arrested, mocked, and beaten by the temple police. Peter, his most enthusiastic and passionate disciple, publicly denied he even knew him.

The temple priests, wanting him dead because they were afraid of his authority but unwilling to kill him themselves, took him to Pilate on false charges of political subversion, inciting tax evasion, saying he was a king. Tax evasion was paramount to sedition, and the temple priests knew that. They also knew they that, if they could convince Pilate that Jesus was trying to mount a political rebellion, Roman law would demand Jesus be crucified.

Some of those leaders were still convinced that Jesus was no more than a usurper and blasphemer. After all, nothing good could come out of Nazareth.  Others saw the signs and miracles he’d been doing as evidence he had been sent by God but were worried that, if he were allowed to continue, it would anger the Romans so bad they’d destroy them all.

And the crowds … possibly many of the very same people that had cheered him that Sunday as he rode into Jerusalem on that donkey … the ones who recognized the fulfilment of Zechariah’s prophecy … who knew he was the long awaited Messiah … bought every bit of the propaganda the religious leaders were telling them and played right into Pilate and Herod’s fears … just like the temple priests wanted them to.

In the end, even though neither Herod nor Pilate who both interrogated him could find any fault in him, Pilate capitulated when the religious leaders warned him that anyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor, and then literally washed his hands of the whole ordeal.  

Jesus was beaten again, flogged, spat upon and ridiculed, stripped of his clothing, and led away to the place of his execution … a hill called Golgotha or “Place of the Skull” because its rock formations resembled such … where he was crucified with two thieves, one on either side of him.

Luke gives as much space to what Jesus said from the cross as he does the to the other details of the crucifixion and he has a point in writing it that way. He wants those reading his account and receiving the gospel message from him to lean in and really listen, starting with a breath taking statement about radical forgiveness: “Father, forgive them …”

In what had to be excruciating pain, having endured the humiliation of betrayal, cruel beatings and mockery from the soldiers, and the long, slow torture and agony of crucifixion, Jesus doesn’t curse those who mistreated him as many who were crucified did … as you or I might do. With what strength he has, Jesus begins to pray:

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

But … who does he mean by they? The soldiers that nailed him to the cross? They were just doing their job. What about the crowd who chose to spare a criminal instead of Jesus who was innocent of all crimes? Or Herod. He’d treated Jesus with nothing but contempt. Pilate? He was the most powerful person in Jerusalem and could have stopped this charade before it started, but Pilate refused to stand firm when the crowd got loud. And then there’s the religious leaders who, had they understood their responsibility in killing the long awaited Messiah, would have been horrified. Judas, the betrayer? Peter, the denier?

The answer would be yes. “They” was all of them, every single one. But it’s also us. Every single one of us.

It’s us when we get caught up in “crowd mentality” and say or condone things we know he would not condone, things we would never say or condone if we were standing alone.

It’s us when, like Pilate, we fail to stand up for what we know is right because we want to avoid the conflict that could arise when we disagree with the crowd. It’s us when we try to rationalize the wrong-doing, past or present. It’s us crucifying Jesus little by little every time we fail to have regard for how what we say and do harms others, every time we put ourselves and our interests above others, and every time we don’t grasp the depth of the ways in which we break the hearts of those we love.

If we are honest with ourselves, we recognize our everyday betrayals of Jesus. He even taught us how to recognize them. Matthew wrote it down for us in 25:40 when he wrote that Jesus reminded us that the way we treat … or fail to treat … “the least of these” among us is how we have treated Jesus.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we recognize that our backhanded comment that injured someone’s spirit injures Jesus, too.

If we’re honest with ourselves, when a lonely or hospitalized or incarcerated person goes unvisited or our word is not kept, we have denied Jesus just as Peter did.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we would recognize that letting ourselves get carried along on the bitter, malicious, or condemning opinions of the “loud crowd” or we don’t raise our voices for the innocent, disenfranchised, and marginalized, we become the crowd that yelled, “Crucify him!”

If we’re honest with ourselves.

Jesus, in the midst of being treated with such contempt, violence, cruelty, and torture, doesn’t wait for everyone who betrayed, tortured and sentenced him to death to repent. Instead, he offers a prayer of grace … astoundingly amazing grace … for his tormenters. He doesn’t put it off until after the resurrection. He asks God to forgive his killers while they are committing the worst act any human being could possibly commit … while they are killing him, murdering the God’s own Son.

He not only asks that they be forgiven, he justifies their need for forgiveness. He intercedes on their behalf. “Don’t hold this against them Father, the don’t realize what it is they are doing. They cannot understand the dimensions of their actions.”

By doing this, he blocks open the door to repentance by declaring, through his words, that his killers – all of them and all of us – should not be forever defined by the worst things they … or we … have ever done. That is the power of the Gospel of Christ.

Amazing grace … John Newton, the English ship captain who carried kidnapped Africans into slavery, experienced that power too. Though he shared responsibility for the bondage, suffering, and deaths of fellow human beings, those sins did not ultimately define who he was in God’s eyes. “Forgive him, Father,” Jesus might have said of Newton. “He did not truly understand the magnitude of what he was doing to your children.” Newton expressed the unfathomable power of forgiveness in words most of us know by heart: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” And you.

Grace. It’s that thing we need when we’ve messed up and that thing we give when someone messes with us. Two words just as important as “I love you” are “I’m sorry.” “I’m sorry” is a major first step in the act of repentance, followed by adjusting our actions so that we don’t repeat those harmful behaviors.

Accepting forgiveness, though, is often harder than it seems. Sometimes, no matter how far we’ve come from our unworthy acts, regardless of having gone to those we harmed to ask for and receive forgiveness and doing everything in our power to atone for whatever it is, we struggle to believe we are really forgiven, and we worry that maybe we aren’t.

Even John Wesley, founder of Methodism, struggled with it until one day at a prayer service at a church on Aldersgate Street in London in 1783 where someone read from Martin Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans, John Wesley felt his heart “strangely warmed.” In his journal, he described the experience as, “I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.” The experience made him realize that his salvation, his forgiveness, and the outpouring of God’s love for him were not about how much more he could do for God, but about what God had already done for him through Jesus Christ.

Luther and Wesley helped to make it easier for us. We don’t have to go hunting for forgiveness as if it were some hidden treasure. We know where to find it. We find our forgiveness at the foot of the cross … that where Jesus experienced humanity at its worst, offered his life, and spoke the world-changing words, “Father, forgive them.” It isn’t about whether we can find forgiveness. It’s about whether we will accept it and, in the process, accept God’s invitation into a life marked by love, mercy, and grace.

Seeking forgiveness is one thing. Granting forgiveness is another and that has been my struggle for quite some time. How do you forgive people who deny the value and rights of others because of the color of their skin, where they’re from, or who they love? How do you forgive people in power who tell blatant lies in a selfish effort to retain the power they already hold? How do you forgive the people who intentionally gas-light and scape-goat and vilify and demonize anyone who doesn’t believe the way they do? How do you forgive men like Putin and Xi and those who support them?

When Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the community sins against me, how often should I forgive them? As many as seven times?” and Jesus answered, “Not seven times, but, I tell you seventy-seven times.”

His point was that forgiveness is beyond counting and for his disciples … which includes us … it is not optional. And to make his point unmistakably clear, Jesus told the story in our passage today from Matthew. That first slave had a debt that would have been impossible to repay … a debt that would have taken multiple lifetimes … and the Master forgave the entire debt. When that slave encountered another who owed that slave a smaller debt, though, he didn’t extend grace like he’d received. He demanded repayment and then had the guy thrown in prison until it had been paid back, and when the Master found out what he’d done, things went badly for the first slave.

To be followers of Jesus, we’re expected to forgive those who have wronged us … and not just those who’ve done little wrongs. We’re called to radical forgiveness – a willingness not to define our enemies solely by acts so painful and wrong that the hurt may never go away.

There are stories of holocaust survivors who forgave their captors, of members of Mother Emanuel AME in Charleston forgiving the white supremacist who murdered 9 fellow believers during a Bible study. It had to be hard for people to give that level of grace. They most likely may not have wanted to forgive. But the thing is, forgiveness is not an emotion. It’s an act, an imposition of the will. In those moments when we are struggling to forgive others, we need to call on Jesus to help us do so. And we must. And he will. And, at some point, our pain will become a source of strength and a catalyst for bring healing to others.

In Jesus’ words from the cross, he sets the example, the model for those who are wrongly wounded to regain their agency. Sometimes in our struggle, amid our pain, the best we can do is to pray for those who injured us – to let ourselves believe that, even though their sin may have been conscious and premeditated, just as Jesus’s killers knew they were killing him, they did not truly understand the import of their actions.

It should be noted, that yes … we are called to radical forgiveness … but giving grace to someone who has wronged or harmed us does not require that we return to or remain in a toxic or abusive relationship, especially if the one forgiven does little to nothing to change their harmful ways. Leaving a toxic or abusive relationship and “adopting a prayerful stance at a distance” is the best recourse.

As you leave today and throughout this week, watch for signs that you’re a participant in the crucifixion and seek forgiveness for those times you are. Practice the difficult discipline of forgiveness. And pray. In fact, let’s pray:

Lord, forgive us, for when we have sinned we have not fully understood the hurt we were causing and the damage we were doing, both to others and to ourselves. May your words from the cross lead us to recognize the magnitude of what we have done, and may the amazing grace you offered us while we were still in the act of injuring you liberate us to be debt-cancellers, to respond to your mercy by practicing mercy, to be instruments of your forgiveness in a world that so often seems unforgiving.


[i] © (p) Thrill Hill Records, All rights reserved; Used by permission of Bob Jensen and Clair Lynch


Today’s Communion service was held after the worship service due to time constraints. We do not publish the transcript of the Communion Service.


Please join me in a prayer for our gifts this morning:

Mighty God, as we remember the strength of Jesus facing the temptation offered by the devil, we remember too clearly how the temptations of food, of authority, and power have overcome us. We’ve been tricked to believe our wants were needs and more is always better. May we offer our gifts to you this day with generosity and gratitude; strengthen us to resist temptation that would present security or power in anyone but you.



Written by Roddy Hamilton, and posted on Listening to the Stones, http://newkilpatrickblog.typepad.com/nk-blogging/mucky-paws. Reposted: https://re-worship.blogspot.com/2013/02/lenten-blessing-into-lent.html

Now hear this benediction:

May the dust of the wilderness hold our footprints


shaped as they are by your hurt,

for dust remembers


May the journey into wilderness unfold


for honesty is the gift

your soul recognizes as you


May your time in this wilderness

be shaped by space

rather than minutes

so there is time enough for all of you


May the stones in this wilderness

cry out your name loudly

that your spirit recognizes the voice

that has been calling you always


And may you know this wilderness

has been expecting you

and you find between the stones

a promise growing.


Go forth in peace to love and serve the Lord.



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