What did Jesus know back when he told his followers to forgive not just seven times, but seven times seventy times. Did he know what scientists have since discovered, that forgiveness is healing therapy? Did he know that forgiveness brings blessings to the one who knows how to forgive?

This Sunday, we add a healing rite to our worship. All will be invited to present themselves for an interactive spiritual renewal listening to these words as the minster lays hands on the individual’s head.

“In the name of our Savior Jesus Christ, may you be strengthened and filled with God’s grace that you may know the healing power of the Spirit. Receive this oil + as a sign of forgiveness and healing in Jesus Christ. Amen.”

“To forgive,” observed Desmond Tutu, “is not just to be altruistic, it is the best form of self-interest.” Countless studies indicate forgiveness is good for emotional, mental and physical health.

Margot Van Sluytman was 16 when her father was murdered. The family was shattered. Margot left home, felt suffocated, had no center, turned to pills and became bulimic. She married, had two children, but the marriage didn’t last. Margot was trapped in hurt. Years later she attended a lecture on restorative justice and heard another talk about the choice to forgive the perpetrator of a heinous crime. Margot began to consider forgiveness and her whole body started to feel different, more complete and more at peace. Forgiveness was the process that brought healing to her life. She even became friends with the man who killed her father which helped put meaning back into her life.

Arno Michaelis was a founding member of the largest racist skinhead organization in the world, the self-declared “Racial Holy War.” He grew up in an alcoholic household filled with emotional violence; he reacted by becoming emotionally violent, lashing out and hurting people. He was a bully on the school bus, a vandal by the time he was in middle school, and by his high school days he truly believed white people were under threat of genocide at the hands of some shadowy Jewish conspiracy. When he became a single parent at age 24, the violence and hatred began to make less sense to him.  He soon felt embraced and accepted by people who he would have formerly attacked on sight. He had to work through his guilt and remorse for the harm he had caused. In 2007 he co-founded the online magazine Life After Hate.  Forgiveness was necessary for his healing. (www.theforgivenessproject.com)

Today, scientists explain what Jesus intuitively knew when he instructed his followers, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive the sins of others.”

Karen Swartz, a Johns Hopkins psychiatrist, says letting go of grudges is good for your health. “If someone is stuck in an angry state,” she writes, “what they’re essentially doing is being in a state of adrenaline. And some of the negative health consequences of not forgiving or being stuck there are high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, not having a good immune response. You’re constantly putting your energy somewhere else.”

Dr. Swartz explains the physical health benefits of forgiveness: “Blood pressure is lower. People report needing fewer medicines. They report having better sleep. They report physically feeling better and having fewer physical complaints.”

Jesus knew the healing power of forgiveness, a healing offered to each of us.