Father, Forgive Me

Holy Saturday. My contemplative day. The day of limbo. The day of reflection, of sadness. The world has just finished murdering Jesus. He has not yet risen. The day that he is absent from the world because of the world. The day I wonder whether He is absent from me because of me.

It is easy to read the story of the crucifixion and blame those involved. How could Judas who walked with Jesus betray him? How could Pontius Pilate, who knew it was wrong, allow it to happen? How could Peter, who Jesus chose to build His church upon, who had followed Jesus for three years, deny Him? How could the people choose a murderer over Jesus? How could the soldiers and people along the way mock Him and chant things like: “he saved others; he cannot save himself.” “Let him come down from the cross now and we will believe in him.” “He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he wants him.”

I used to look down on all of these folks. I would surely do better. I would not be so stupid. And yet the story of the crucifixion is the story of all of our sins.

Judas knew Jesus for three years, I have known Him my whole life. And yet, I too choose silver, screens, and other earthly “treasures” over Jesus at times (more times than I would like to admit). I too provide lip service at times, providing a kiss in public, but betraying Jesus behind closed doors.

Father, forgive me. I wish I could say I know not what I do, but sometimes I do and I do it anyway. Father, forgive me. I do not want a world without you. I do not want my life without you.

Pilate knew that crucifying Jesus was wrong, but he didn’t want to get involved. He didn’t want to go against the crowd. If I had the power to save Jesus from the pain and torture, would I have? I would like to think so, and yet my sin contributes to His pain. I, too, have followed the crowd. I have decided not to get involved when I knew wrong was occurring, because it was easier for me.

Father, forgive me. I wish I could say I know not what I do, but sometimes I do and I do it anyway. Father, forgive me. I do not want a world without you. I do not want my life without you.

What I wouldn’t give to be Peter. To be able to sit with Jesus, talk with Jesus, learn from Jesus, embrace Jesus. He had it all! And yet he denied Him three times. I always blame Peter the most. Maybe that is why I sometimes struggle with the Church, with the priests and bishops, who have it all and still seem to turn so far away. Surely, I will not deny Jesus. Though others may have their faith shaken, mine will never be… And yet… it is. Peter had three years. I have had my entire life. Peter may have been with Jesus in the flesh. But I have weekly and daily communion available to me. Peter did not know or understand the resurrection. I know about the resurrection. I know the Truth. I can read the written gospels and have the benefit of two thousand years of church teaching. Why do I still deny? Why do I still hide my faith? Peter was afraid. Despite all that I know, I too am sometimes afraid, even though Jesus tells me not to be. Even though I know everything on earth is temporary, even though I know that if I have faith, I have nothing to fear.

Father, forgive me. I wish I could say I know not what I do, but sometimes I do and I do it anyway. Father, forgive me. I do not want a world without you. I do not want my life without you.

I am no different from the villains in Jesus’ story. I have betrayed Him, ignored Him, denied Him and turned my back on Him. I have mocked or doubted and I have been afraid. I may not physically nail Him to a cross, but my sins are just as painful. My rejection of His love is just as hurtful as those mocking him on the road. Father, forgive me!

I know it is easy to be remorseful as we are painfully reminded of the Lord’s crucifixion on Good Friday and as we sit today and are assured of the resurrection tomorrow.

Lord, help my heart and mind and spirit be resurrected this Easter. I want to always turn to you. Help me turn away from silver and the fake “treasures” that this world tries to offer. Help me to be strong in my faith. Help me not be turned by the will of the crowd. Help me to lead, not to follow. Help me to share your love and your word. As I look around, I see a world that is run by fear. I know that when I am focused on you, I have no fear. When my faith is strong, I have no fear. Lord, I know that in your hands, I am safe. I know that safe does not mean free from suffering, but that there is a resurrection promised. Lord, give me the strength and faith that I need. I do not want to turn away any more. I don’t want to contribute any further nails, I don’t want to be distracted by silver, I don’t want to live by fear and have my faith shaken. I know that I cannot promise, like Peter tried, that my faith won’t be shaken. I know that I am not strong enough to overcome fear on my own. And I know that I am a sinner and will continue to cause you pain. But I know that Your love is stronger than all things, including nails, silver and fear. Help me Father to always turn to you, to always return to you. Help me to remember you passion for me every day not just during the Easter season. Help me to follow you and not the crowd. Help me to love, as you do. Forgive me when I fail.

The Coronavirus Gift; An Easter Awakening

We have been given a gift, perhaps in an unusual way, but nonetheless a gift.  A gift of time.  But what are we doing with it.  We have been freed from our routines, freed from traffic and daily grinds.  But what have we done with our freedom.  I heard on the news this morning that despite the added time on our hands, most of us are working out less, most of us are falling into poor eating habits and most of us are adding more screen time into our lives.  If the coronavirus doesn’t get us,  our own sloth and gluttony certainly might.

Most churches have closed.  What have we done to stay connected to God?  Have we opened the Bible?  Have we taken time to pray?  What are we doing to stay close to God when it is not offered to us on a silver platter? What are we doing to praise Him?  To thank Him for all of the abundance that we still have even if we are currently suffering?

Today I opened up the Bible to the book of Samuel and I read these words:

If you fear and serve the LORD, if you listen to the voice of the LORD and do not rebel against the LORD’s command, if both you and the king, who rules over you, follow the LORD your God—well and good.  But if you do not listen to the voice of the LORD and if you rebel against the LORD’s command, the hand of the LORD will be against you and your king.

1 Samuel 12: 14-15

Each of us fails at times, sometimes more than others, to listen to the voice of the Lord.  The Lord woke me up the other morning urging me, actually shouting to me, to SPEAK and yet I let work, TV and my cell phone distract me.  I look at our country currently, with many churches closed, with governors threatening to quarantine anyone who dares to gather in worship of the Lord, and with abortion clinics being deemed “essential businesses” and I question whether we are listening.

Samuel goes on to say:

“Do not fear,” Samuel answered them. “You have indeed committed all this evil! Yet do not turn from the LORD, but serve him with your whole heart.  Do not turn aside to gods who are nothing, who cannot act and deliver. They are nothing.  For the sake of his own great name the LORD will not abandon his people, since the LORD has decided to make you his people.  As for me, far be it from me to sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you and to teach you the good and right way.  But you must fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart, for you have seen the great things the LORD has done among you.

1 Samuel 12: 20-24

I am reminded of a similar verse later, when God tells Solomon:

The LORD appeared to Solomon during the night and said to him: I have heard your prayer, and I have chosen this place for my house of sacrifice.  If I close heaven so that there is no rain, if I command the locust to devour the land, if I send pestilence among my people, if then my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7: 12-14

Indeed, I was napping after reading Samuel and again I felt God stir me with these words: “if then my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and heal their land.”

If we look to the governors, and Congress, the CDC and the president, we continue to look in the wrong place.  If we focus on the news and social media, we are focusing in the wrong place.  If you have listened to them at all, you know… they do not know anything about this virus or how to control it.  They have changed their opinions about what to do multiple times.  Why do we keep looking to them to save us?

God has told us what we need to do:

“serve the Lord”

“listen to the voice of the Lord”

“Do not fear . . . . You have indeed committed all this evil! Yet do not turn from the LORD, but serve him with your whole heart.  Do not turn aside to gods who are nothing, who cannot act and deliver. They are nothing. ”

“serve him faithfully with all your heart”

“humble [your]selves and pray, and seek [God’s] face and turn from [your] evil ways”

And God will hear us from heaven and pardon our sins and heal our land.

On this Easter weekend, may we all arise from the dead in our hearts, may we all break free from the tombs that encase us, may we all witness God’s love, and may we humble ourselves and pray.  We are not the solution.  Neither Republicans nor Democrats, neither science nor the media, neither anger nor fear is the answer.  God is, and always was, the only answer.  How quickly we forget when things go well and how quickly we blame when things go bad.  May we praise God this Easter and every day with our voices raised wherever we are.  We don’t need the church building, we just need to open our hearts, listen to God’s word , and humble ourselves and pray.

Dear God,

You sent your only son into this world because we could not undo the harm that we caused.  Redeem us once again.  We who have let this world envelope us with material goods.  We have allowed “leaders” to cut you out of our lives.  And we have chosen gods, including facebook, and cell phones,  above you.  Awaken us this Easter.  We need you.  We need you in our lives everyday.  Allow us to be reborn.  Send forth your Spirit upon us and renew the face of the earth.

We know that we can not cure what is wrong in the world.  We need you, Lord.  Lord, we pray that you heal our land.  And more importantly that you heal our hearts.

Help me to listen more, to serve you more, to not turn to gods who are nothing.  You alone are my strength.  You alone are my salvation.  Heal us Lord, from the inside out.

Break into song! Happy Easter!

Sing a new song to the LORD, for he has done marvelous deeds.

His right hand and holy arm have won the victory.

The LORD has made his victory known; has revealed his triumph in the sight of the nations,

He has remembered his mercy and faithfulness toward the house of Israel.

All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

 

Shout with joy to the LORD, all the earth; break into song; sing praise.

Sing praise to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and melodious song.

With trumpets and the sound of the horn shout with joy to the King, the LORD.

 

Let the sea and what fills it resound, the world and those who dwell there.

Let the rivers clap their hands, the mountains shout with them for joy,

Before the LORD who comes, who comes to govern the earth,

To govern the world with justice and the peoples with fairness.

Psalm 98