Lloyd Le Blanc searched and searched for his son David. He had been missing for some time when he got the call from the Sheriff’s deputies. When he went out to that cane field to identify the body, what he saw was but a brutal remnant of his son. What went through his mind as he walked through the field before he got to the body? Did he think of David’s twentieth birthday? Did he think of David’s twenty-fifth birthday? Did he think of David’s wedding day that would never come? Or, did he think of David standing at his back door with the little ones who would never be born clustered around David’s knees, or the grown up David with whom he would reflect on a warm day swing that would never come about the mutual job of fatherhood?What could possibly go through the mind of a loving and devoted father who was walking through a field to identify the savaged body of his dead son? What we do know is that when Lloyd Le Blanc arrived at his dead son’s brutally savaged body, he knelt down beside it and said, “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 whoever did this I forgive them. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Amen.”
You see, Lloyd LeBlanc “goes to a small chapel every Friday morning to pray; he prays every Friday for everyone, especially the poor and suffering.” Prayer is not something that LeBlanc decided to do in a time of crisis; habits of prayer were so much a part of his life that L. Gregory Jones, Dean of the Duke University Divinity School, suspects that those who knew him well would have been surprised if he had not responded by praying the Lord’s Prayer.” Jones recounts from the book Dead Man Walking that LeBlanc even prayed “regularly for the mother of his son’s killer, and even went to visit and comfort her before she died.”
Forgiveness is a way of life for Lloyd LeBlanc that he learned and contemplated from the Lord’s Prayer among other things. His constant life of prayer, that is, speaking to, listening to and contemplating the Father in Heaven through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit, gave him insight into what to do when crisis comes. Lloyd LeBlanc started small and then was transformed into handling the big things. Where did Lloyd LeBlanc learn forgiveness? He learned it from Jesus, as we learn it from Jesus in the Gospel Lesson for today.
Turn in your Bibles to John 13.37. Underline it. This is the passage at the Last Supper where Peter proclaims,
“Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.”
What did Simon Peter, son of John, do that night as Jesus was being accused unfairly before the High Priest? He denied him.
What did Simon Peter, son of John, do that night as Jesus was struck by the High Priest? He denied him.
What did Simon Peter, son of John, do when those around him insisted that he knew the man who was being sentenced to die unfairly? He denied him.
Then the cock crowed.
We seem to forget that Jesus is human and divine. So, think about it: Jesus said that friendship was laying down your life for your friend. This meant as a human. It was Jesus’ human life he was to give for us on the cross. What kind of friend was Peter? Where was his laying down of his life he so boldly told in Chapter 13? That sting of betrayal was what Jesus had to deal with in the flesh.
Jesus had a life of forgiveness in action before Peter denied him. In Chapter 16 he prays for peace for the disciples. In Chapter 17 he prays his blessing upon blessing for his disciples. He prays and prays for his disciples so that when it came time to meet the disciples on the beach, he could ask Peter the three questions that would restore Peter. So, Lloyd LeBlanc’s teacher was and is Jesus, who forgave Peter, the man who denied him and let him die alone.
Jesus did not forgive and hold on. Jesus forgave Peter by asking him, “Do you love me?” three times. Each time Peter’s “yes, Lord, you know I love you” erased one denial. It was not enough for our Lord to get some vague feeling of forgiveness or to be content with himself and call it “forgiveness.” Jesus sought out Peter and worked with him to reconcile Peter to himself. Making the relationship good again is forgiveness.
How often do we cheat ourselves out of true forgiveness? We think that by staying away from those who hurt us that we are healing? We are really leaving wounds open. We are justifying the hurt that we feel. We are not following our Lord, we are following our survival instincts.
Jesus faced Peter, Lloyd LeBlanc eventually faced his son’s murderer and both accepted apologies, then went one further. Jesus sought to reestablish that Peter loved him and Lloyd LeBlanc sought to love the mother of his son’s murder and care for her.
My friends, how is it that we can take steps to restore each other in our lives? Is there someone who has hurt you that you need to go see? How can you approach them?
1. First, begin a regular prayer life if you haven’t already.
2. Second, pray for those who hurt you.
3. Third, go see those who hurt you face to face.
4. Fourth, let the forgiveness of Christ renew your relationship with them.
Now, let me tell you what happened with Peter and Jesus. After Jesus fully restored him, he was used by Christ to bring in the first Gentile convert, Cornelius. He was bishop of Antioch and Rome. He died after having been crucified upside down. He was the Rock of Christ’s Church.
It was because he was restored through the forgiveness of Christ he was able to accomplish all of these things.
When you were baptized, you became a part of the Body of Christ. This same forgiveness is yours to give. When you do, wonderful things happen. Healing, renewal, strength, peace and love are given to people which changes their lives. Those lives will change other lives and so on. Even though it will hurt you to face those who hurt you, the healing of forgiveness will far outweigh any hurt you have.
What is holding you back now? Is it pride? Is it ego? Is it coming face to face with the living out of your faith? Well, start small and trust Jesus. Practice it until you can do what Lloyd LeBlanc and Jesus did. He is with you. Amen.