June 29

“You will remember your ways, and be ashamed when I forgive you all that you have done, says the Lord God.”  Ezekiel 16:61, 63

The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the foremost.”  1 Timothy 1:15

There is a small country church.  Years ago a man was deemed unworthy (‘”a drunk”) to be buried within the honored, more saintly cemetery grounds.  So he was buried across the fence, in a neighboring field.  Years later the church needed more room for more graves.  The neighborly farmer sold more land to the church, the fence was moved, and the “sinner” was at last buried with the “saints”.

Some have relatives they would rather not talk about … gambling away the family farm, a “room upstairs”, a still during Prohibition, the “town drunk” – the unwanted man in the small church cemetery.  And we all have our own past offenses we keep quiet.

It is difficult to go to someone and ask forgiveness, where mercy and grace are conditional.  It means admitting a mistake and saying “I’m sorry”.  It means risking rejection, or maybe conditions we cannot live up to.

It is hard for us to forgive others, with our hurt feelings and bruised egos; even to trust others, with our prejudices and fears.   We begrudge and judge others, stereotyping whole races and peoples based on the actions of a few:  Italians – all Mafia; Irish – all drunks; Hispanics – all illegals, criminals; Muslims – all terrorists …

God is more gracious and merciful than human beings.  We have so much to admit we do a “blanket confession” … “The things we have done and the things we have left undone. “  God knows the skeletons in our closets, the dirt swept under the rug, slips of the tongue, disrespectful thoughts, biases and selfishness.  Trusting in God’s grace, we confess our sins and ask for forgiveness, as we forgive those who sin against us. 

“’Forgive our sins as we forgive,’ you taught us, Lord, to pray,
but you alone can grant us grace to live the words we say.
“How can your pardon reach and bless the unforgiving heart,
that broods on wrongs and will not let old bitterness depart?
“In blazing light your cross reveals the truth we dimly knew:
what trivial debts are owed to us, how great our debt to you!
“Lord, cleanse the depths within our souls, and bid resentment cease;
then, bound to all in bonds of love, our lives will spread your peace.”  Amen  

(Hymn text:  Rosamond Herklots)

Verla Olson