From now on, we regard no one from a human point of view… in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. (2 Corinthians 5:16, 19)
This coming Sunday, as we find ourselves in the thick of the Lenten season, we come to one of the best known passages in all of the New Testament: the Prodigal Son. It is a parable that teaches us new lessons with each additional reading. And we will see what grace God has for us there on Sunday.
Paired with it, we find this passage from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, which speaks about reconciliation.
When I was in the final stages of my ordination process, I had one of my examining committees wonder at the lack of the word “justice” in my faith statement. (Bear in mind that after a decade in ministry, I now understand how important using that word truly is.) At the time, however, I upheld a viewpoint that God’s justice is reconciliation – something I still know to be true.
There is a misunderstanding of reconciliation in our world today. Most people assume that it means “forgive and forget,” which is never actually possible. Instead, reconciliation implies a much deeper process in which we do not forget what has transpired, but we do learn from it and reconcile to one another so that our world may continue onward. Sometimes that means a relationship beginning anew. Sometimes it means it ends. In all cases, however, God is at work so that no one is left unchanged and all find new life – if they are brave enough to seek it.
Our passages this Sunday do something essentially important for us who follow Christ: they move us beyond simply our need to come home again to the new life we are meant to live.
We do need to come home again. To embrace God. To seek Christ’s presence daily. And, we need to seek out all the ways that God’s work in our life pushes us into a new life of ministry.
Specifically, to the ministry of reconciliation.
We are called to see the world set right side up again – which means topsy turvy from what it is now. We are called to build relationships where we can so that the family of faith will grow stronger. Most importantly, we are called to love, no matter what. Because God loves us no matter what.
Now, love in all things does not always look identical. Sometimes it will look like justice. Sometimes equity. Sometimes repentance. Sometimes forgiveness. Sometimes embracing. Sometimes releasing. But always, love will seek the full life of another. And in giving ourselves to this cause, we will find the same is already within us, because God has placed it there.
So enter worship this coming Sunday as a chance to come home to the overwhelming grace of God. Then leave again ready to serve the ministry of reconciliation to which we have been called. Not because you have to, but because you can.