Sunday, August 24, 2014

Time for a journey of forgiveness

"We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies." - Martin Luther King Jr. 
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”


Forgive yourself.

Today, take the hurts you inflicted, take the pain you caused, take the words that cut, take the hearts you broke, take them and bring them along with us on a journey. 

As we walk, look and remember the harm inflicted by this baggage you carry. Remember and let the guilt drive your heart to seek the forgiveness of your fellow hikers, who are staring at their own baggage as we go on this journey. Look up and see their faces - take time to weep and mourn as we cross the river, to repair and reconcile as we walk through the fields, to laugh and hug under the mighty branches of the oak tree. You may find that your baggage gets lighter as we go. 

Together, we have reached the campfire. There's a man waiting for us with a smile and some marshmellows. He stretches out his arms into a warm embrace, and his pierced hands wrap themselves around your heavy burdens. 

I've felt shame in his presence before - perhaps you feel it now too - as you hand over your baggage. You fear that He will see it and reject you. That you will be turned away from the campfire, from the warmth and love and truth that emanates from every ounce of this man's being. 

Do not fear - He has been waiting with joyful expectation for you.

I have given him my baggage before. He opened it, and as he saw the luggage inside, he hugged me and began to cry. And as we cried together, we threw each piece of my baggage into the fire. Piece by piece, until it was dissolved in the flames.

And then He whispered in my ear, "My child, my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

Listen as your fellow hikers cheer. Together, we will throw our baggage to the flames, piece by piece, and watch the flames grow higher into the night. We will dance, we will sing together by the light of the flames, renewed in our strength as our burdens are lifted. 

And we will remember our weaknesses. We will remember the strength of our God's grace, of the consuming fire of His forgiveness. And we will hold hands together in strength and forgiveness, knowing the flaws in each other and embracing each other in friendship as we work through them all together, centered in the love of Jesus, on this slow journey of life.

It is a beautiful thing to work through the flaws of community together - knowing that there is some good in the worst of this group of hikers, and some evil in the best of this group. Each one of us must commit to pull the planks from our eyes, to see our own faults and insecurities and self-doubts, before we muster the strength to point to the others. The church is but a community of broken people, looking towards a God who forgives them and loves them in spite of these flaws. Humility is the bridge that binds us with a God who - in his perfection - was brought to his lowest point to release us from the broken rules, the broken relationships, the broken hearts. Humility can give sight to the blind, sound to the deaf, a voice to the dumb.

May it find you tonight.