Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Forgiveness? Reconciliation?

John Shea writes:

There is a long-suffering lady
with thin hands
who stands on the corner of Delphia and Lawrence
and forgives you.
"You are forgiven," she smiles.
The neighborhood is embarrassed.
It is sure it has done nothing wrong
yet everyday, in a small voice
it is forgiven.
On the way to the Jewel Food Store
housewives pass her with hard looks
then whisper in the cereal section.
Stan Dumke asked her right out
what she was up to
and she forgave him.
A group who care about the neighborhood
agree that if she was old it would be harmless
or if she was religious it would be understandable
but as it is...they asked her to move on.
Like all things with eternal purposes
she stayed.
And she was informed upon.
On a most unforgiving day of snow and slush
while she was reconciling a reluctant passerby
the State People
whose business is sanity,
persuaded her into a car.
She is gone.
We are reduced to forgetting.
"Prayer for the Lady Who Forgave Us"

Blanket forgiveness without repentance? I'm not sure about it.

But there is something very beautiful in the woman's assumption that we all need forgiveness. And there's something very true in all the passerby's assumptions that each one of them is the only one who doesn't.

I wonder what happens in worship when I pronounce forgiveness of sins. Do we feel that? Do we know we need it? Does it leave a pathway open for reconciliation? Or does it just make us upset?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Getting back in the swing

I've had a full year in the appointment to St. Mark UMC in McAllen. I've commented to so many people that I kept forgetting going into it that the first year of any given appointment is one in which you feel like the visitor they handed the keys to and said, "Well, guess you're in charge!"

For the first time ever since I came into full time ministry, I'm taking the week after Annual Conference off for vacation. And I'm thinking this week about what it means to get back in the swing of things.

The swing of things will be more familiar now. I won't have to guess or as about nearly as much. Maybe a rhythm will develop that will be helpful for everyone.

The swing of things will also be seductive. It will be easier to do things "just like last year" without stopping to contemplate whether that's a good idea or not. It will be easier to ask only the same people because I'm pretty sure they'll say yes. It will be easier not to risk. But I'm not sure that's how the kingdom comes.

I was watching the choir at one of our annual conference worship sessions. They swayed back and forth to the rhythm, but at one point, the pianist added an extra beat and they got turned around. They didn't break--they just kept going in the new pattern, the song kept moving and we all kept singing along with them.

Here's my hope for "the swing of things"--that we could add just an extra beat somewhere, get turned around and keep swinging together for the sake of what God calls us to do.