In a few weeks, it will be Valentine’s Day.  It is a day steeped in romanticism and enveloped by the sensibility of love.  Cards and gifts and flowers will be exchanged.  It is a day filled with vision and expectation.  Whether by cultural observance or greeting card marketing, Valentine’s Day holds up an ideal of love and relationship.  Relationships are built upon truth, trust, commitment and forgiveness.  This is true not only for two people building a future together, but other relationships with family, neighbors and co-workers.  Forgiveness takes place when those other aspects run afoul.  Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive?  As many as seven times?”  Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22). Peter believes he is raising the bar pretty high with forgiveness being extended seven times to the same person.  But Jesus says that Peter is nowhere close.  For Jesus, that number pushes toward infinity.  Of course, Jesus is divine and so he has a greater insight, greater understanding and greater capacity.  Just as the love we experience is reflective of the love that God has for us, so too is the forgiveness we share with one another, divine.  Professor of the New Testament, Dr. Craig Koester says that, “Forgiveness opens up a future that the past has closed off.”  Forgiveness breaks apart barriers and impasses that would limit or burden us.  Forgiveness is transformative, it changes us and the relationships we are in.  We no longer need to be shackled to the past.  This is true for both parties involved, those needing the forgiveness and those needing to give it.  All too often, those who were wronged hold onto a grudge or slight well beyond what is healthy or helpful.   This is not to make light of one’s pain, suffering or disappointment.  Those are part of our experience and cannot be ignored, but they are not the only part of it.  To be in relationship with another person and with a greater community, encourages us to use those words of forgiveness, that the relationships we have may be strong and life giving. 
Pastor John