On Good Friday the worship service I attended featured a large wooden cross. We were invited to write down on a piece of paper a list of sins/shame that we each carried. We were then invited to come forward, with our piece of paper (folded for privacy) and nail it to the cross. In doing so we were invited to receive and experience the gift of forgiveness. I found this ritual to be healing.
My tradition teaches that Jesus took upon himself the sins of the world and as an act of profound grace, offers the gift of forgiveness. As the theologian Phillip Yancey so poignantly and provocatively puts it: 'There's nothing we can do to make God love us more (we can't earn it) and nothing we can do to make God love us less (we can't lose it).
Bottom line, God's love is absolute. By symbolically placing ones sins and areas of shame before God, we are graced with the gift of forgiveness. The word 'sin' is taken from an ancient archery term. A sinner is one who draws back the bow, releases the arrow and misses the mark. To sin on a personal level, is to miss the target, to be less than God would have us be.
The reality is we all miss the mark. I know in my own life that there are times when I said something or did something that I wish I hadn't and there are times too, when I wish I had said or done something but didn't. I think that is true for each person. We don't always get it right.
Yet, a piece that was missing for me in that Good Friday worship service, is that the ritual of coming forward was framed primarily in personal terms (where had I missed the mark, what shame do I carry). While taking responsibility on a personal level is important, I think it is essential too, to lift up those areas where we on a communal level miss the mark.
Imagine what happens when we on a societal basis acknowledge our collective sin of racism, climate change, homophobia, sexism, gun violence. We know what happens when we don't acknowledge such sin, we simply perpetuate sinful behavior (generation after generation) with devastating results.
I've come to understand that my Christian tradition is both personal and communal. And my understanding of who I am accountable to and responsible for, is continually expanding.
As a follower of Jesus I'm called to stand with those on the margins, with those who think like me and are different than me. I've come to realize too, that my community includes those in the natural word (birds, mammals, fish, plants, water, soil) with whom we are interdependent.
As Jesus continually teaches: The kingdom of God is bigger, wider and deeper than we humans can fully grasp. Do we believe this to be true?
On Good Friday I acknowledge areas in my personal life where I miss the mark. I lift up too, areas in my communal life where I am complacent or silent. The purpose in reflecting upon where I miss the mark, is to strive to live a more whole, hopeful, loving, expansive and courageous life. Who wouldn't want that?
It has been said, 'that we are Easter People living in a Good Friday world'. The promise of Easter is that love wins. Love overcomes. The promise of Easter is that not even the cross of the Roman Empire, could contain or constrain the infinite love of our Creator.
If we believe this to be true, then there is no area of need that cannot be met, no wound that can not be healed, no injustice that cannot be met. May it be so. Happy Easter.
With you on the journey ~ Kent Harrop