Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Forgiveness Sunday

This coming Sunday we are going to practice something we say we do, something we say we believe, but something so radically foreign to our basic instinct that it may simply flop.  We're going to practice forgiving one another, face to face.

I first read about this practice, which is not unusual in the Orthodox tradition, in Frederica Mathews-Green's work, Facing East.  I was reminded of it last year after our church had gone through some difficult times. 

Mathews-Green does a superb job of describing the event as it took place in a church her husband was serving, and the after effects - of people who don't normally hug, who are generally cautious of personal space and their response to being engaged in this face to face sort of way, of embracing, hugging, granting forgiveness, and ultimately experiencing the power of Christ present. 

Here's the introduction that her husband and priest David gave as the church began its ministry of forgiving one another:  "Now we are going to do something the devil hates.  Any time brothers and sisters in Christ stand face-to-face and ask for one another's forgiveness and give forgiveness, the demons shudder.  We intend here to build an outpost of the Kingdom of God.  These outposts are built brick by brick, person by person.  With every act of forgiveness, we extend the Kingdom of God in our midst." (p.19)

It is my hope, my anticipation, that we will enter the season of Lent forgiving and forgiven.


Anonymous said...

Jason, I hope Forgiveness Sunday was a powerful experience for the people of your church-- you'll have to let us know how it went. I surprised when at St. Aidan's Anglican, in Nicholasville, KY, after the sermon the priest told us we would each take turns asking for and extending forgiveness to one another. It was, of course, awkward at times. Overall it was good and an amazing enactment of what the church is supposed to look like, in contrast to the world. The best part for me was seeking the forgiveness of my children, and the enthusiastic hugs which were given immediately after the pronouncement of forgiveness. All thanks and praise to God!

Duke said...

Brother Rich,
It was a wonderful experience. One for which I'm glad we took the leap. I was reading CS Lewis' Mere Christianity today on the chapter on forgiveness - he calls it the most detestable of the christian virtures, detestable to our unredeemed natures, that's why it's profoundly christian, and he urges us to practice with those closest to us.
I, like you, found the most cherished embrace from my children and my wife.

Custom uniforms said...

Indeed, it is very common to say and advice about forgiveness, but ironically, there are so many people who don't know how to forgive others and even their own selves. Personally speaking, I can easily forgive people and even forget what they have done, but when it comes to forgiving myself, I find it hard. I constantly condemned myself when I have done wrong. I struggled this for years, though, nowadays I am learning to forgive myself for Christ had already forgiven me. There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus, eh. Anyway, thanks for the post. :)