Teams are putting final touches to spaces designed to evoke the experiences of Jesus’ followers, and of the on looking crowd. Musicians are tuning chords to carry the message deep beyond ears into the very fiber of our being. Pastors are polishing up vessels of words for holding God’s grace up to hungry hearts in Holy Week worship.
Blessed be you who set aside time to create worship.
You serve others in early days of Spring when it’s tempting to move on to other activities.
Blessed will be we who arrange crowded calendars around what you offer us,
re-entering God’s story, renewing our own relationships with Jesus Christ in this annual ritual, inviting the Spirit to overtake any obstacles or resistance to our full immersion in God's grace.
I hope you’ll make time alone during this week, or in your covenant group, to read the scripture between Jesus’ branch strewn entrance to shouts of “Hosanna,” and his submission to humankind’s judgement. They are some of the most puzzling and profound of Jesus’ journey. As he comes to his own narrow gate, what will he do with the power God has given him? After all Jesus’ teaching about forgiveness, he will now stride angrily into the temple opposing corrupt mercantile practices. Then he’ll swipe a curse at that poor out of season fig tree when it doesn’t give him what he needs. Just when it seems he might finally come around to the ways of the world, take the crown the crowd offers, and tip toward judgement that holds no hope of redemptive change, we will see him finally submit to humanity’s judgement and, after three dark days, return to the scene of the crime saying, “peace.” For God’s ultimate judgement is healing brought through forgiveness.
The sixth benediction of the Jewish Amidah, a prayer that Jesus would have prayed daily, is “Forgive us, Our Father for we have sinned against you. Erase and blot out our transgressions from before your eyes, for you are abundantly compassionate. Blessed are you, O Lord, Redeemer.” This is what he’s practiced. This is what he’s preached.
Have you ever noticed that the only repeated part of what we call “The Lord’s Prayer,” and the only part where Jesus found it necessary to add teaching is: “forgive us for the ways we have wronged you, just as we forgive those who have wronged us.” (Jesus repeats), If you forgive others their sins; your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don’t forgive the sins of others, neither will your Father forgive your sins.” Matthew 6: 12, 14-15
God even handedly gives out creation’s gifts. Imbalance comes from our human actions and inactions You have heard it said, “you must love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun to rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. -Matthew 5: 43-46. We come to Jesus’ last days laden with baggage that tips the balance. We come burdened by the impact we’ve had on others, and on creation, by the impact others have had on us. So much stuff piled up over the courses of our life, and inherited from our forebears, a spiritual load blocking our way through the narrow rebirth passage to God’s reign.
How can we be relieved of the weight of all we’ve accumulated or ignored? How can we be forgiven (even of our unwillingness or inability to be forgiving)? “It’s my work, my yoke, my burden,” God answers. “Give it to me. Let me carry it to the cross. Let me carry it through death’s doorway.” Let me bring you into the light.
Forgiveness is always an action of God. We are not up to it ourselves. And if we are not willing to let God’s action work in our lives then we commit the only unforgiveable sin, the sin against the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 12: 31-32). We harden ourselves and block God’s ability to remold us as willing clay. The alternative to forgiveness is judgement allowing for no possibility of change, in us as much as in another. That is a choice we are allowed to make. That does not mean it’s easy.
The apparently harder, and more fruitful, choice is to forgive, to let God’s spirit say through us, “I love you, I love you, I love you,” even to the ones who have hurt us most, even as we hold each other accountable for repairing the consequences their actions and inactions. We live as we forgive. Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete. -Matthew 5: 48
On Easter, Jesus chooses to re-enter our story. He forgives any claim to retribution. He is fully unburdened and completely alive. He extends the invitation to we who have wounded him unto death to now become fully and willingly part of God’s life.
Blessed be the choices you will make in these sacred days.