~by Pastor Mike Middaugh
This past Sunday, the first Sunday in Lent, we turned our attention to Jesus’ words from the Cross “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” These words, spoken by Jesus even as he was being crucified, are the defining mark of his ministry. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Our sinfulness drove God’s Messiah, our Savior, to the cross, and our sins were placed upon him as he was there. Yet, he looks down and sees the people below and with unbounding love and compassion seeks forgiveness for the multitude.
As we experience this forgiveness Jesus came to give it changes our lives in three ways:
A New Freedom
No longer does our sin have power over us…
“All of A.A.’s Twelve Steps ask us to go contrary to our natural desires” says Alcoholics Anonymous’ Big Book; “they all deflate our egos. When it comes to ego deflation, few Steps are harder to take than Five. But scarcely any Step is more necessary to longtime sobriety and peace of mind as this one.”
What is step five that A.A.’s co-founder and author of the Big Book considers so necessary? It is “admitting to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” This step is so crucial because our wrongs weigh heavily upon our hearts. And this is not just true of wrongs associated with alcohol or any other substance, it is true for all the wrongs, sins, and shortcomings of our lives. True freedom is only found by acknowledging these things, and our inability to overcome them.
As we come to understand Jesus work upon the cross, part of our new reality and new life is realizing our new freedom. No longer does sin have control over us, no longer are we captive to the weight of our own failings. These have all been placed upon Jesus, and in his death, and ultimate victory of resurrection, our sins have been defeated.
For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. Romans 6:14
A New Future
Because of forgiveness our lives here and now can be different. No longer captive to sin or weighed down by the knowledge of our failings, we are freed to live a new life of hope. We are invited to embrace God’s design for his creation, living as he has called us. We are freed to fulfill our true callings. To care for creation, to contribute to society, to find joy in creative beauty.
Our new future is not contained to the here and now, not nearly. We are summoned to embrace a great hope for the life that is to come. A life free of failings, a life absent of longing, a life where sadness has been vanquished. The gift of forgiveness is a new hope. A hope that cannot fail us. We will be united with our God, our savior, the very Lord Jesus.
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32
A New Fellowship
We are freely forgiven, and now we are blessed to freely forgive. If we were not a people of forgiveness we might feel like it was our job to hold out forgiveness and “make others pay.” But, we have been forgiven. God alone is judge. As we have experienced mercy we are encouraged to be a merciful people.
This changes the nature of our fellowship. Grace defines how we now live, as a family, as a congregation, and as members of our society. They are to know we are Christians by our love. Forgiveness is loves prime display.
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13
If you would like to read a weekly lectionary reflection for the season of Lent, the Southeastern District has provided one HERE. Please note that Calvary will not be following the lectionary readings for the Sundays of Lent, therefore the readings listed will be different than our Sunday readings.