The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant. Jesus repeated his greeting: “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.”Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said. “If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?” John 20: 20-23 (The Message)
The scripture above is from a post-resurrection appearance. Jesus comes to where the disciples have hidden themselves away and gives them this remarkable charge. Much could be said about this in terms of his on-going struggle with the Temple elite who claimed authority over people’s acceptability before God based on the sacrificial system. However, in its timeless, life-giving way, I think this passage has something powerful to say to the Church – that perhaps from our very beginning, we were formed to be a community of the forgiven and the forgiving.
When Jesus responds to a question from Peter by declaring that to be righteous he must forgive seven times seven – or in another Gospel seventy times seven, Jesus wasn’t talking about mathematics, of course, but about the limitless nature of forgiveness as it is to be lived out in the life of his followers.
Yet we live in a world were hurt seems to be an almost daily occurrence. People around us do things that impact us in ways that affect us negatively and these effects can be long-lasting and life changing. We hurt others. Often, through no direct intention and yet the hurt is there.
It is no wonder that the call to be forgiving people and the need to find forgiveness for ourselves are some of the most confounding issues for us in terms of our spiritual growth and well-being.
This year, we will be focusing on forgiveness throughout the season of Lent. It will provide the basis for our scripture lessons and messages in worship and also our church-wide Lenten Study. (See website entry for schedual)
The subject matter is big – as big as every interaction of which human beings are capable – but my prayer is that we will be able to do enough thinking and reflecting and imagining together that some unresolved, perhaps even long unresolved, issue in your life will be brought into a place of healing.
In the book of the Prophet Ezekiel, God makes this promise:
“Here is what I’m going to do. I’m going to pour pure water over you and scrub you clean. I’ll give you a new heart; put a new spirit in you. I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed. I’ll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands. You’ll be my people! I’ll be your God!”
As we open ourselves to that Spirit, we will find ourselves made new. God will guide us. What more could we possibly need?
Standing on tip-toes to see what God will do next,