Thursday, April 23, 2009

Have You Ever Felt Forgiven

This week's scriptures are Matthew 28:11-20 and John 21:15-25.

For a long time I have been taken with this story of Peter's encounter with Jesus. It seems to me to be one of the most poignant of all the resurrection stories.

That Peter loved Jesus is extremely obvious. He cared enough that he became outraged and screamed at Jesus when He talked about going to Jerusalem to die. He was willing to fight when they came to arrest Jesus and, in fact, cut off the ear of one of the servants of the priests with a wild swing of a sword during the confrontation in the garden. (I have to imagine that fishermen didn't use swords too often and that Peter wasn't necessarily the most adept person when it came to military like combat). Peter's claim that 'the rest of them may forsake you, but I never will' wasn't just his pride; it was his love as well. And when his fear drove him to deny Jesus three times (as Christ had predicted) his bitter tears were those of a man who has betrayed someone he cares deeply for.

My guess is that there are few of us who don't know something of what that is like. In fact, one of the major tasks for pastors in helping grieving persons is to assist them to address the ways-large and small-in which they feel they betrayed or let down the one they have lost to death. (As an aside, another major task is helping them to look at and own their anger at the deceased...but that's another blog for another time). The point is that you and I know Peter's condition. It's our condition too. The immediate leaping into the water to swim to Jesus on the shore (the boat would have gotten him there almost as quick); and the the embarrassed, almost shy, shame filled moments there on the beach as they ate breakfast together.

Then there was the clear moment of "un-doing" as Jesus asked Peter three times, "Do you love me?" Rebuilding the bridge between them one brick at a time; offering both forgiveness and restoration.

But what strikes me most lately about this story is what Peter must have felt like. Have you ever had the experience of being really, really forgiven? Of having done something you felt was shaming and dispicable.....the kind of thing that you find painful to even remember and think about? Do you know what it's like to have the person who you hurt truly forgive you? Then you know something of what Peter felt that morning.

Such experiences of forgiveness in our lives are extra ordinarily powerful in themselves. But they also point us to the Ultimate Forgiveness that comes to us from God in Christ. In fact, if we have never experienced such moments, it is harder to imagine the possibility that God might forgive us. Such moments can be life transforming; healing wounds in our lives that are decades old and opening us to radically new and different possibilities for living our lives.

We need such moments....both from one another, and in our relationship with God. They free us from lives based in guilt and shame and fear and open us up to the possibility of lives lived in freedom and love.

We'll talk more on Sunday; and also at the Bible Study Brunch on Saturday at 10:00.
Hope to see you at both.



Leanne and Maren Tigert and Tirabassi said...

One of your most wonderful themes -- wow -- I just thought I must find you and see what you are up to ... forgiveness well, of course.

Sending love and don's love too. Maren

Peyton said...

I’ve always found it interesting, and personally convicting, that Peter doesn’t go out of his way to start the conversation of forgiveness. Jesus has to put Peter in the corner and press the issue.

Like Peter I’ve often thought that the best way to “forgive and forget” is to continue on as if nothing happened and hope things will work themselves out. If I’m the first out of the boat when Jesus calls then perhaps he will forget the times I denied him. He’ll see that I’m ready to do my best to serve him now and then all I’ve done before will be erased.

I don’t have to mention, I think, that this plan seldom works (and when it does it only puts a superficial patch over the bleeding wounds). If I pick up the pieces of my own mess and continue as nothing happened then I begin a short slide down a slippery slope to autonomy. I can fix everything and there’s no need for Christ’s forgiveness when my own ‘good ol’ common sense” can get me through any problem.

Fortunately for Peter and me, Christ is in the business of backing us into a corner and showing us we need to be forgiven. It’s puzzling. It hurts. It’s just what Peter needs to realize that the forgiveness Christ gives works infinitely better that the forgiveness he could have proscribed for himself.

Jeremy said...

Ah, I'm sad to have missed this while away on business! Maybe it's just a similar grad school thing, but I feel a lot of resonance with what Peyton said about autonomy. We're supposed to be so darn smart, eh? We can take care of it, we can figure it out...I mean, really, that is what we're trained/taught to do, right? Having spent several years with mainly myself as teacher/source of "information" really wasn't a healthy place to be. I wish I could say that this self-constructed wall was built by a fierce love like Peter's, but I can't really say for sure. But the embarrassment over forgiveness - I'm right there.

Also, while I'm posting, I have to say I messed up and misplaced the recorder, so there won't be any audio for this past week. Sorry! Been tearing the house apart looking for it...