«

»

«
»

Nov 17 2016

Reign of Christ, Realm of Forgiveness

“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”
–Luke 23:34

 

Dear Friends,

What are your experiences of being forgiven?

  • When have you been loved in the face of your own painful or destructive behavior?
  • When has someone interfered in a damaging cycle that has been swallowing you up,
    in order to make room for an alternative future?
  • Who has taken the risk and invested the patience to speak to you honestly about hurt you are causing, while not forsaking their relationship with you?
  • Who has acted for your well-being when you have not been acting for theirs?
  • When have you been given a second chance, or even a third?

If any of these blessings is familiar to you, then you know something about “being forgiven”!

It might be worth writing them down.

Now please allow me to lead you a bit further:

  • When have you been gifted by someone else quite apart from notions of deserving?
  • Who has “seen the Christ in you” that you can’t see in yourself?
  • Who has loved you only as they themselves would wish to be loved?
  • Who knows you deeply and accepts you fully?

Reflect on how these (deeply human) factors have altered your life’s course, even in humble ways. Have these experiences made it possible for you to act differently in the world? If so, rejoice! You are entering the blessed territory of the Realm of God, the Reign of Jesus Christ in our lives.

It has long been my observation that the experience of being forgiven is critically important to our ability to exercise full freedom in the practice of forgiving others. Though it is common for people to initially confuse forgiveness with excusing, those who have consciously experienced the power of forgiveness themselves are much clearer about the differences, and freer to act creatively out of their own forgiven state.

Everything starts with God’s forgiveness. It is no accident that on Reign of Christ Sunday (November 20th) the Gospel reading focuses on that forgiveness. Jesus’ life has been a human expression of it: coming right to where God’s people live; his uncompromising love, even unto death; how he interferes again and again with damaging cycles that are swallowing God’s people up, constantly opening the way to alternative futures; his honest speech and willingness to correct us without forsaking us; his self-giving with no expectation of payment. Jesus’ words from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing”, are consistent with the entirety of his life.

When Jesus invokes the promise of forgiveness for his crucifiers, he vividly brings home the unbounded expanse of God’s saving grace. It startles and disquiets us. We might ask incredulously: “What could Jesus possibly mean? Surely his crucifiers realized what they were doing with their violence!” For a point of reference we need look no further than this election season and aftermath, where God’s people have been crucifying one another, unleashing hell and expecting heaven as a result. Do we not need God’s forgiveness desperately?

God answers Jesus’ prayer through the resurrection. Our Lord’s rising is the beginning of the new heaven and the new earth in real time. You and I are called by God to live our lives as forgiven people, embodying Jesus’ new way of being human. What a glorious commission!

I invite you again to thoughtfully answer the questions that I have asked above, realizing ever more deeply what God is already doing in and through your life.

With Love,
Scott

 

Pastor Scott’s Archived E-pistles