10 March 2013

The call to repentance continues this week. Although the focus shifts just a little bit, to themes of forgiveness and reconciliation. Often these aspects of the spiritual life are viewed primarily from an individualist perspective. This week’s readings, however, bring together the individual and the communal. Our reconciliation with God leads us into the “ministry of reconciliation”. Our forgiveness brings wholeness, not just to ourselves, but to others through us. This connection between the “me” and the “we” is such an important theme of the Gospel, and a good place to linger in this week’s worship, while also looking at the implications of the practice of forgiveness for justice in our world.

May you and your community know this forgiveness and reconciliation in this Lenten season.

READINGS:
Joshua 5:9-12: The Israelites celebrate the Passover, as God proclaims that the “disgrace of Egypt” is removed from them, and have their first meal in Canaan. The day after that the manna stops arriving.

Psalm 32: A celebration of the joy and healing that confession brings, and the restoration that God offers those who admit their sin. God’s promise to instruct and guide those who trust in God.

2 Corinthians 5:16-21: In Christ we are reconciled to God, and we are called to invite others into this reconciliation – both between people and God, and between people and people.

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32: Jesus’ parable of the loving and forgiving father who welcomes back his wasteful and repentant son, and seeks to reconcile him with his resentful elder brother.

REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
The theme this week stands out very clearly in these readings – God removes disgrace; God forgives and restores; the prodigal is welcomed home and reconciled to his family; God reconciles us to God’s Self, and to each other, and we are called to do the same. Forgiveness flows from God’s infinite and unconditional grace, and is received through honest confession and repentance. But reconciliation with God, as much as it brings personal healing and restoration, is not only personal. It is also social, drawing us back into reconciliation with others, and into passing on to others the healing and grace we have received.

CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
GLOBAL APPLICATION: Forgiveness and reconciliation are a global necessity, but are, unfortunately, a very scarce resource. Denial, projection, deflecting blame, and covering up appear to be the strategies of our age – in governments, in corporations, and even in the Church. The inevitable consequence of this is that those who are victimised and damaged, are generally left to bear their pain alone, with no hope of restitution, and no acknowledgement, apology or offer of help from those who have inflicted their suffering on them. We have seen this during the economic meltdown; we have seen it in third world countries, where exploitation by wealthy nations have left these countries bare of resources, and in deep debt (Haiti is a good example of this); we have seen it in the Church, where victims of abuse have been silenced or accused to protect the institution. As long as this remains the practice in our world, we will remain broken, and we will continue to break ourselves and others. Now is the time to proclaim that forgiveness is possible, is necessary and is the way to healing for us all. How can we call our world to honest confession, true, practical repentance, and into the life-giving way of forgiveness received and shared?

LOCAL APPLICATION: Our churches and communities are ripped apart by anger, hatred, vengeance and deceit. We know that when people live together – whether in a town or in a household – there will be disagreements, differences of belief and culture, and hurt inflicted on one another, whether intentional or not. We also know that maintaining the cycle of pain through broken relationships, grudges, judgment and paybacks only brings greater suffering. Jesus has offered us both the principle and the role model – in his teaching and in his actions Jesus demonstrated the healing and restoration that comes when we forgive and reconcile. It is a shame that we find it so hard to live this teaching out. But, if we, as followers of Christ can’t learn to admit our sin, repent of wrong action, and reconcile with those we have hurt – or have hurt us – what hope is there for the world?

RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
Prayers:
Skeletons
The Tyranny Of Vengeance
Reckless Prodigals and Self-Righteous Siblings

Hymn Suggestions:
Amazing Grace
And Can It Be
Saviour Thy Dying Love
Grace Greater Than Our Sin
Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace (Link to YouTube video)
Your Grace Is Enough (Link to YouTube video)
Grace Like Rain (Amazing Grace) (Link to YouTube video)
Amazing Love (My Lord, What Love Is This?) (Link to YouTube video)
Amazing Love (You Are My King) (Link to YouTube video)
Prodigal (Not so much a hymn as a song that could work for a special musical item or anthem)

Liturgy:
A Liturgy for the Agape

Video Suggestions:
Prodigal Daughter
Prodigal

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