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.