May17

I'm Sorry

Categories // Sermons

6th Sunday in Easter

I'm Sorry

        Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

        An article on a website which speaks about relationships and family opened with this paragraph:

“Can you apologize without truly accepting any blame? Some CEOs, politicians and celebrities do it all the time. They apologize for the situation, express regret that the wronged party reacted the way he did or wistfully speak about ways the situation might have been different. None of that constitutes an official apology.”[1]

Forbes magazine had an article on its website entitled: “Stop Apologizing: 10 Alternative Approaches To 'I'm Sorry'”[2] In this article, top business coaches describe the many different ways not to apologize because, in business, that makes you look weak.

        Learning to apologize for our sinful actions is something we learn from our parents, our peers, and even our society. What is more, it is the foundation of our relationship with God. It is such a simple act that even children can understand the consequences of saying, ‘I’m sorry’. Yet, it seems, in our world today, that this is becoming a lost art.

        The simple function of an apology begins with repentance. I know this sounds like an archaic word in our language today, or maybe even viewed as a word from the religious vocabulary only to be used at church, but it truly conveys the meaning of what it means to apologize.

        It means to be sorry; to recognize the wrong in something you have done and be sorry about it. More importantly, it means that you will change your ways, that you feel regret about a sin or past actions and you therefore change your ways or habits.

        But as with everything in this sinful world, the apology has been transformed into something else. It no longer carries the weight it once had. Most people apologize without even admitting their own wrong-doing and definitely without the desire to change their ways.

        We hear apologies that sound something like this, “I’m sorry you took it that way. It wasn’t what I meant.” Which really means; “I think it’s too bad that you had difficulty in understanding me correctly.” Or, “I’m sorry you feel offended.” In other words, “I can’t think of anything I did wrong, but if you think so, I’d be happy to apologize so I can get back in your good graces.” And an apology I find myself using quite often, “I’m sorry I didn’t call – I’ve been really busy.” I might as well say, “Please be understanding about the fact that other things were more important than you.”

        We make excuses for how we hurt the feelings of those we have sinned against in a way to shift the responsibility and accountability from ourselves. We also seem to have the habit of avoiding an apology until we are forced into a corner and must apologize in order to continue doing what we want. King Charles I was quoted as saying, “Never make a defense or an apology until you are accused.”

        A famous line from the novel Love Story is, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Baloney! Love actually means the opposite. Love means that you do feel regret or remorse and you repent of you transgressions, ask for forgiveness and never do it again. Repenting of your sin against one another and against God shows that you do care and love them. Forgiveness recapitulates that love. As Peter once asked Jesus,

“Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. [Mt 18:21–22]

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. [Mt 6:14–15]

        An apology in this sense is an answer to a wrong-doing. It is the response to that word or action that has caused misunderstanding or pain. Yet there is another form of an apology used in philosophical, academic or theological circumstances. It is used to mean a defense or refutation of a confutation. A confutation is the act of proving conclusively that somebody is wrong or that something is false, invalid or faulty.

        An apology is what the apostle Paul is giving to the philosophers of Athens. An apology is what our early church fathers gave to the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. Both apologies were to explain what we, as Christians, believe.

        Paul had been in Athens for some time waiting for Silas and Timothy. Now Athens was a great city of philosophers who loved to talk all day long about anything and everything. If a foreigner came into the city speaking of a new philosophy, they sought him out.

        The people of Athens also had every representation of all the known gods from every walk of life. They even had an idol to the ‘Unknown God’. This was so they didn’t offend any god simply because they had not heard of him.

        Paul had been listening to these men of academia and had been challenging their systems of belief. The philosophers of Athens were intrigued by his rhetoric and took him to the temple of Ares that was situated on a hill. This was the Greek god of War; the Romans called this god Mars and that is why you sometimes hear this referred to as Mars Hill.

        It was here that Paul witnessed to the people of Athens. When asked, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?” Paul gave them an apology. That is, he gave a refute to their misunderstanding of who the one true God is and what his Son, Jesus Christ did for all humankind.

        In this short presentation, Paul defined God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. “The God who made the world and everything in it, the Lord of heaven and earth, who does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands.” [Acts 17:24] He spoke in a fashion that the people would understand.

        How did he do this? The Holy Spirit moved Paul to speak in this way, and the Holy Spirit was also with Paul while he studied the scriptures. The Holy Spirit worked through Paul by means of what he knew and what he observed from the people of Athens. It was in this way he was able to relate to them the message of Christ so that they could grasp it and desire to hear it.

        What does this mean to us? Like Paul, we should be ready to give an apology to those we meet. Not only the apology of saying we are sorry for wrong done against our neighbor, to be sure, that should always be in our hearts and minds, but to also give an apology of our beliefs. As Peter says in our epistle reading for this morning:

in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect [1 Pe 3:15]

        When we tell others that we believe in the salvation which Jesus Christ gave to us through his crucifixion, death, and resurrection from the tomb three days later, we are telling them of our reason for hope. Many are seeking the good news of Christ’s victory over death and our redemption to our Father in Heaven.

        Christ suffered once for our sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit. [1 Pe 3:18] Through our baptism we have been saved. It is now our responsibility to tell others. It has been commanded by Christ our Savior to love our enemies and to apologize to them. Tell them what you believe. You may suffer, but you will be suffering for righteousness’ sake and you will be blessed.

        Now many of us here may not be able to preach like Paul, after all, he was not only raised in the classical Greek philosophies, he was also a learned Pharisee. From these great resources, he could debate with the best of them. But we are not useless tools when used by the Holy Spirit. What does that familiar hymn tell us?

If you cannot speak like angels,
If you cannot preach like Paul,
You can tell the love of Jesus,
You can say He died for all.
[LSB 826]

        It is that simple. This does not mean that we can forget reading God’s Word, in fact it should motivate us to be better versed in the Scriptures. Through prayer, meditation on God’s Word and the practice of telling the love of Jesus and that He died for all, you too will be ready to witness the life-saving promise of Christ Jesus.

        God the Father has sent the Counselor – the Spirit of truth, and he is with us forever. You know him because he lives with you and is in you. And because Christ lives, you also will live.

He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being. [Acts 17:26-28]

Help those who are seeking the Lord. Let the Holy Spirit of truth speak through you. In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make an apology to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.

Amen

 


[1] https://oureverydaylife.com/how-to-apologize-without-apologizing-12078991.html: downloaded May 13, 2020

[2] https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2018/06/01/stop-apologizing-10-alternative-approaches-to-im-sorry/#418ea575550d: downloaded May 13, 2020

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