Our Lenten practice starts next week. We’ll start with eating, of course, pancakes and syrup, and a funny telling of sins in such a way as to not identify our sins with our humanity. As a people, we’ll reassure the ones who’ve confessed that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ – nothing on earth and nothing in heaven.
By this practice of confessing our sins, we’ll move into our Lenten theme, “The Slow Work of Forgiveness.” On Ash Wednesday at 7PM, we’ll have the opportunity to ask forgiveness for the sins of our communities in a form that is reminiscent of the form that Jews use in Yom Kippur services.
Forgiving and being forgiven is so woven into our liturgical life that we may not notice. At every service, we confess the ways we have been clumsy and unskillful in our relationships with God, in the world, and with each other. We also assure ourselves that we cannot be separated from such a life force as God’s love for us.
As soon as the assurance is spoken, we greet one another with Christ’s peace. It might be, you’ve thought you’re just saying hello to people you love during the passing of the peace, or making an open welcome to someone whom you don’t know very well. But historically and theologically, we are restoring and renewing Christ’s peace among our community – the purpose of asking for and receiving forgiveness from each other and God.
Then at Communion, we pray the prayer that Jesus taught us which includes these words, “ . . . and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”
We have a scaffolding of forgiveness in Christianity upon which we can build, renew, and make relationships.
For some of us, maybe for all of us forgiveness isn’t simple, and the topic of forgiveness touches us in deep ways, in places of old hurt and old joy. We hope, this Lent to explore this slow work of forgiveness which we practice simply or with great complexity, easily or with great difficulty.
God grant us a good Lent. God grant us love which does not end.