The messiness of forgiveness

We’ve been discussing the topic of forgiveness during worship at Journey the last three weeks; starting with a message on God forgiving us (July 13), followed by a message about forgiving each other (July 20), and then last night (July 27) we had a guest preacher talk about the messiness of forgiveness. It was an honest talk about a difficult topic, and it was both a sad and hopeful evening. Let me explain.

The guest preacher was Rolf Olson. In case you’re not familiar with Rolf’s story, he is the father of Katherine Olson, the young woman who was murdered last fall while following up an ad she found on craigslist to be a nanny. (If you’d like more info on the story, do a google search for “Katherine Olson” and you’ll find over 1.5 million sites.)

Rolf is lead pastor at Richfield Lutheran in the twin cities, but he’s also a father, a husband and a regular person, so you can imagine that this wasn’t an easy message for him to share. He’s angry about the whole situation – he lost his daughter – and he is not at a nice/clean point where he can confidently say, “I forgive the young man who killed my daughter.” He’s aware that he needs others to help him and his family; not only to pray for them during these difficult times – especially as the case goes to trial in January – but also to continue praying for his daughter’s accused murderer (since he admits this is really hard for them to do right now). Aside from some quotes in the media and things he’s said at his church, Rolf has not spoken publicly about the horrible situation that he and his family have been living in since last fall. This was a big step for he and his family. He did an incredible job and we are thankful he accepted our invitation.

For anyone who wasn’t able to be at Journey on Sunday night, here are some ways to hear, read or share the message:

[Personal note: Rolf and my dad were classmates in seminary, and they are still friends today. As Rolf mentions at the beginning of his message, there are a few other family connections between the Jolivettes and Olsons, but that’s the main one that led us to invite him to share a bit of his story at Journey.]

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2 thoughts on “The messiness of forgiveness

  1. I cannot imagine how hard a situation this is for Rolf to deal with. I have not had a chance to read his message but I wonder about the significance of our forgiveness towards others here on earth as it relates to forgiveness from God at the time of judgment. I guess I get this from the following Bible verses:
    Matthew 16:19
    “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

    Matthew 18:18
    “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

  2. I guess I should follow up that those passages talked about the “church” as a part of the means through which forgiveness is given to someone. It makes for an interesting argument when many people understand it as God alone has the power to forgive sins. I think that God invites us into the process through which the church can engage in a healing and forgiving ministry where there is something that we can do as Christians to offer hope to others. And for some Lutherans I guess that would be a hurdle to overcome as it is flirting dangerously close with “works righteousness”…. shame on me! How can I share the forgiveness that comes from God with someone else?? That means I have to do something… aaahhhhhhhh!!!! (I hope you get the sarcasm.)

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