Good Friday – The Forgiveness of Jesus

A few weeks ago I got to spend some time with, Ian Cron, an author that I really admire. It was nice to discover how normal he is. I read his most recent book, Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me, often through tears. It was really enjoyable to talk with him about the theology behind his thoughts, words, stories, and memories. It doesn’t give anything away for me to tell you that his writing spurred a thought I had never had: forgiving Jesus.

Take a breath before you stop reading.

I believe Jesus is the perfect and divine Son of God in whom the fullness of God resides. I affirm the Apostles’ Creed, “Jesus Christ, [is God’s] only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.” I acknowledge He lived a sinless life. I am grateful that today we celebrate and remember his loving sacrifice.

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So why on earth would he need my forgiveness? (Jesus being in a place of need is another conversation)

Forgiveness isn’t always about what someone really did to us. It’s about what we perceived they did to us. The wounds we carry are real. Some have been inflicted upon us intentionally. But some of the pain we carry comes from the unintentional actions of the frail humans we live among. I suspect if you are like me there are a few people we’ve assigned blame to that haven’t done anything to injure us…like Jesus.

Maybe you grew up in a family or tradition where this kind of thinking was not acceptable. Prayers were nice not gritty, more rehearsed than raw. You just didn’t address God when you were angry, hurt, or frustrated…so the angst gets pressed down. When that happens it doesn’t take long before the unsaid and unacknowledged becomes toxic. A low-grade anger smolders beneath the surface. Once in a while it finds a fault line in the crust and erupts but never in the direction of the One you’re really mad at, Jesus.

As I read Cron’s book I had several things I needed to revisit with Jesus. I had to forgive him for cancer that took my parents. I had to forgive him for some of the losses in my life. I had to forgive him for personal and vocational failures that I had long blamed him for. But he didn’t do any of these things to me. I had assigned the blame to him and treated him like he did.

So on this Good Friday, as we remember his offer of forgiveness to us, might you need to extend the same to him?

Is your unforgiveness of Jesus derailing your life?

Maundy Thursday Memories

Today is what some call Holy Thursday, Great Thursday, and Maundy Thursday. It is the day the Christian church commemorates the Last Supper when Jesus shared the Passover meal with his disciples on the night before he was crucified.

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Today confronts me with how much I’m like those men in that borrowed room. I often don’t get what Jesus is up to. I drop the ball. I charge off ahead of him and at times lag behind him. I fail him. I’m not aware of His presence in my midst as much as I should be.

Today also brings two other important things to mind. First it is the second anniversary of my friend Greg’s death. It was sudden, tragic, and left a hole in our hearts and in our small community. He left a legacy of smiles, harassment, loving others, cheering them on, humor, failure, redemption, intensity, service, and running. I don’t know how many times I’ve thought and written about what a great friend he was to me…and many others. I didn’t deserve him. He was gracious when I was too busy to hang out. He consistently checked in on me when I left the ministry. He wanted the best for me and would do anything I asked. I miss him. But I think I miss the chance to respond to his kindness even more.

The other thing that happened on this day was when my friend Joel burst into our living room and washed my feet in front of my family. The church he was serving in had a tradition of having a foot washing service every Maundy Thursday night. We had talked earlier that day about what a challenge it was. I knew he didn’t really want to go and participate. I knew I didn’t either and was glad I didn’t have to. And then I forgot about it until all of a sudden the front door was thrown open. In he came sloshing a basin full of water while juggling a bar of soap and a towel. “Since Jesus did this for his friends, I want to do this for you.” That’s all he said. I sat motionless other than moving my feet at his direction. My children’s eyes unglued from the tv and were fixed upon Joel. We were all stunned. Humbled. Amazed. It was one of those moments that you never forget. It was one of those gifts you can never repay.

God has used many of people in my life but today I specifically thank God for Greg and Joel. Two men who are as imperfect as me yet were willing to be the presence of Jesus many times in my life. They showed me pictures of a different kingdom. They gave me glimpses into a reality that exists right in the middle of the world we’re living in.

Maundy Thursday

Today is Maundy Thursday, the day on which Christians commemorate Christ’s Last Supper. But do you remember what happened before the meal? Jesus took off his outer garment, wrapped a towel around his waist, filled a basin with water and washed the disciples feet. Then when he was finished he said, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:15)

I have had two experiences with foot washing. The first was when I was the wash-er. I was at a retreat with a group of high school students. At the conclusion of our last session I had them remove their shoes and socks and I washed their feet. I look back on that moment as one of the fondest times in youth ministry.

My other experience was much more difficult. I was the wash-ee. My friend Joel and I had met for lunch on Maundy Thursday. One of our topics of discussion was the foot washing service that would take place at his church that night. He was not looking forward to it. I tried to be encouraging but secretly was happier that it was him and not me. After lunch we went our separate ways. That evening I was sitting in our living room watching tv with my family. All of a sudden, Joel came through the front door came unannounced carrying a tub of water, soap and a towel. He didn’t greet anyone but rather went directly to me. As he knelt…putting his items on the floor…he said, “Jesus washed the feet of his friends and I want to wash your feet.”

We were all stunned. The tv was clicked off. My children watched this gift of love and friendship unfold. We all sat in a holy silence with the music of splashing water playing as a background score.

Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche Communities said, “To wash the feet of a brother or sister in Christ, to allow someone to wash our feet, is a sign that together we want to follow Jesus, to take the downward path, to find Jesus’ presence in the poor and the weak.”

When I think of Maundy Thursday that’s what I think of…a group of students who allowed me such a privilege and a good friend who showed me Jesus.

Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday, the seventh Wednesday before Easter Sunday, and it is the first day of the Season of Lent. Its name comes from the ancient practice of placing ashes on worshippers’ heads or foreheads as a sign of humility before God, a symbol of mourning and sorrow at the death that sin brings into the world. This is a somber day of reflection on what needs to change in our lives if we are to be fully Christian.

Fasting, or going without something, has long been associated with Lent. So I wondered yesterday, “What distracts me or takes my attention? What occupies space that could be given to reflection? What can I give up that would help me ponder what needs to change in me to be more like Christ?” The answer was easy: FACEBOOK.

In spite of how useful FB has been in connecting me with old friends and family members, I’ll confess it is the biggest distraction in my day. Sometimes on slow afternoons at the coffee shop Facebook feels like a needful distraction. But most of the time it keeps me from listening to the people who are right in front of me and prohibits me from reading anything meaningful or challenging.

So for forty days I won’t know if you lost a sheep in farmville, got whacked in mafia wars, if it was your birthday, who you became friends with, what cause you joined, or if you found a fish. Hopefully though, my mind and heart will be uncluttered.