Cancelling Our Debt
July 28, 2019
Mortgage Burning Ceremony
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Our sermon text for today is from Colossians 2, especially these words, “God made you alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”
Dear friends in Christ,
This is a good day, for many reasons. This is a good day, first because Jesus Christ died for your sins and was raised for your life. It's a good day second because in addition to the blessings he promises, God has also poured out all kinds of other gifts in daily fashion to all of us. And today is a good day because today we celebrate the burning of our mortgage note, the paying of our monetary debts to the bank, up to about $1,000,000 at its highest, the canceling of $120,000 of our 3-year rolling deficit, the paying back of $65,500 in member loans from decades ago, and as we say so often in this place, we have been given a new beginning and a second chance. Today is a good day. So, what are we going to do with that today?
Today we consider debts and forgiveness.
Debts are all about the past. My house, I paid my down payment. I shook the lawyers hand. I signed the banker’s paperwork, and from that moment I was in debt. What’s done is done. Until the day when I am free, my present and my future are all about paying off the past.
This isn’t just about finances; it’s true across the board. Think about people you’ve hurt, things you’ve regretted. Hold them in your mind. You cannot erase your past. What’s done is done. The debts you’ve incurred against those people, and the ones they’ve incurred against you are the debts that you live with, and you pay for them, one way or another.
In my most immature moments, the thought that comes to mind is always, “I wish that this never happened!” But debts are all about the past, and the past can’t be changed.
And the Christian sees this with a spiritual lens too. Your debts stand against people that you’ve hurt, yes. But they also stand against God. Every person you have hurt their body, hurts God as well. Any woman hurt by your lustful glance is a devaluing of God as well. Every time you care more about your stuff than you care about people, every time you explain your neighbor’s reputation in a way that’s less than kind, you are sinning against the God who created you.
Here’s where the Gospel comes in. Our second point is that forgiveness looks to the future. What is forgiveness? Well, let me say this first: The miracle of the Gospel is NOT, first is NOT that Jesus didn’t really understand your sin or fully realize how bad of a dude you are. The miracle of the Gospel is NOT that God lets sinners slip past the pearly white gates unaware of the kind of people that he’s letting into heaven.
Instead, the miracle of the Gospel IS that he loves you still, and that his love is deeper than any sin could ever be. Hear that for what it is. The miracle of the Gospel is that God knows your sin and loves you still. Forever.
The physical reality informs our spiritual reality. You can’t just blot out a number on a page and tell people that your debts are paid. We know that I couldn’t just go into Mike Finley’s office and change what we owe. No, the way to cancel our debts was to pay it down to the last cent. If that past is erased, it’s because someone paid every last cent you owed.
Hear the words of Paul to the Colossians. You who were dead in your trespasses are alive in Christ, since he has forgiven our sins. How? By canceling the debt of our sin. By nailing it to the cross. By dying for our inadequacies and faults. He forgives it by paying for every last cent.
Now, notice what I didn’t say. I didn’t say that he paid just for everything that you confess. I didn’t say that he forgives everything you know about. He does far, far more than that. He pays for the sin of the whole world, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life—that’s John 3:16. He looks into your very soul – have you ever had someone do that to you lately? – he looks into your very soul and says, I bought forgiveness for you, dollar and cent, one hundred percent. In Jesus, you are worthy because Jesus nailed all your sins on the cross.
And forgiveness looks to the future. It looks toward the dawning of a new day, the turning of a new corner, the new creation and the newness of life that we have in Jesus. It turns from the failings of the past to consider what the days to come will be like.
Finally, I would invite you to know that there is still one debt we do owe. We still owe a debt around here, a debt of gratitude. A debt of gratitude for how much of a privilege to serve and be served at a church where God is leading his people, where we have blessings heaped on top of blessings, teachers teaching, parents raising up kids, pastors preaching, youth directors directing, a fellowship that listens to the needs of our community and more. The kind of place where Ruth Jacobs put in a bequest for $400,000, where Dorothy and Alvin Bittner put in a bequest of close to $1,000,000, the kind of place where that money is coupled by so, so many that are drawn to the foot of the cross to confess their sins and receive all the blessings of their savior.
Today is a good day, because today we can do more than I’ve been asking us to do in the past years. I’ve been asking us for the most part to wonder what the future will be like, what the Lord is preparing us in this place to do. Today, I would invite you to know, we are set up in a position by only the grace of God where we can start meeting the needs of our community with the Gospel. We are in a place where we can listen, where we can risk, where we can connect people to Jesus.
We have a community aching with hurts and wounds. To hear the police speak, we have all kinds of drugs and meth being used behind closed doors in our community. To hear teachers speak, we have all kinds of young people that are one mistake away from losing their way and just need someone to connect them to church. To hear parents speak, we have all kinds of young families that can’t stay in our community because there aren’t enough places to provide daycare.
Today we celebrate that our financial debts have been forgiven. Today, more than that, we celebrate that our spiritual debts are forgiven. Today, we consider together what direction we take on this journey of second chances and new beginnings.
Amen and Amen.
Worship Sermons & Letters