Power of Forgiveness

exploring the power and nature of forgiveness

Forgiveness

  • Fidelity

    A decade ago, on an early December day, I received a call from the local funeral director.  A man from the neighboring town had died after an extended illness.  He was a Vietnam veteran who had long suffered symptoms of trauma from his war experience.  The family had no pastor: was I available?  I was grateful for the opportunity. Meeting with his family, I received a deeper sense of the man, his substance, the impact of his life on those closest to him. What I remember most vividly, however, are his memorial service and the viewing that was held the night before.  The latter took place at the funeral home, and was filled with fellow veterans.  They were transparent in their woundedness, comforting the family...

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  • Accepting God’s Forgiveness for Our Racism

      Some of the Pharisees near him said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?”  Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’  your sin remains.  –John 9:40-41  Those of us who are white Christians in America need to accept God’s forgiveness for the persistent racism of our dominant culture and for our collusion and participation in its destructive and devastating impact on countless human lives and whole generations of people.  As a pastor, I believe that the church is particularly situated to take the lead in this process of transformation within our society.  Recognizing that God’s for-giveness is the gracious, unilateral power that removes seemingly immovable obstacles, that  lifts crushing...

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  • Nelson Johnson on Forgiveness

      “My hope for Greensboro is that this horrific experience, this tragedy in the taking of five lives, can be transformed by the power of the Spirit, into a case where there is more generosity, and more justice, and more respect for the essence and the dignity of humankind.”  –Rev. Nelson Johnson Reverend Nelson Johnson is the Executive Director of the Beloved Community Center  in Greensboro, North Carolina, and Pastor of Faith Community Church . With his wife Joyce, he was instrumental in encouraging the establishment of the first Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the United States. Nearly 34 year ago, on November 3, 1979, Nelson was wounded when members of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party attacked an anti-Klan march in...

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  • Forgiving Place

    “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man  has nowhere to lay his head.” –Luke 9:58  Jesus demonstrates the remarkable capacity to be “at home” everywhere.  It is a defining characteristic of his ministry.  Jesus’  practice of forgiveness is  manifested in an openness and availability to all  people and to the various contexts where he meets them. Let’s follow this dynamic in Luke Chapter 9.  As the narrative begins, Jesus is gathering the Twelve together, empowering them and sending them out to proclaim the Realm of God and to heal.  This is the first time they will travel on their own, though not without resource:  he grants each of them the authority that is his.  Simultaneously,  he instructs...

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  • Forgiving Other Generations May Be Necessary In Order to Forgive Our Partner

    In his excellent piece, “The Process of Forgiveness in Marriage and the Family,” psychologist Dr. Paul W.Coleman offers an  important insight: “Often, a spouse may have to forgive a parent or grandparent before he or she can fully forgive his or her partner.  As a rule of thumb,the longer a marriage problem has existed despite repeated efforts to resolve it, the more likely it reflects unresolved hurts from one’s childhood.  Betrayal, abuse, deceit, unreliability, neglect, and criticism are common experiences for many children, who then grow up and reexperience those hurts from their spouse.  And even in loving, nondysfunctional families, a child may experience  pain associated with low income,  the death of a loved one, or the chronic illness/disability of a family member, all of...

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  • “I See You”

    “He has sent me to proclaim sight to the blind.”–Luke 4:18 My friend Susan lived with her family on the African continent for a number of years.  She fondly remembers the way people in Botswana customarily greeted each other in the midst of daily life: “I see you!,” they would say, taking care to make eye contact with one another. Seeing each other is an essential way that we practice being human with one another.  To say, “I see you!,” in any number of expressions, is to affirm that another person is fully visible to us, someone to be acknowledged, someone worthy of our respect. We who are graced are visible to God; we are infused with divine imagination, recognized, accompanied, affirmed.  The call of...

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  • Released for Fulfillment

    It is like a snapshot.  Luke offers us a portrait of Jesus at age 12, a confirmand of sorts (Luke 2:41-52).  It is the only such account of Jesus’ life between toddler-age (Matthew 2) and the advent of his public ministry, when he is around 30 years old.  Here is Jesus, to us quite young, but at the cusp of adulthood in the culture he is raised in. The family has traveled to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover, a yearly sojourn that was a big deal, requiring enormous investment and attention.  Their participation is essential to their self-understanding and the practice of their faith.  Though not explicitly said,  this would be a particular time for Jesus to be mentored in his faith obligations....

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  • Forgiveness and 9/11

    The message, “After Darkness . . .Light,” is inscribed on the plaque next to the pool of reflection, where twin fountains of water rise upward from squares representing the footprints of the World Trade Center towers.  The 9/11 Memorial Garden of Reflection in Lower Makefield, Pa, is a beautiful, deeply moving experience for people who enter.  It has been constructed with loving care.  The names of all 2973 victims of the terrorist attacks are inscribed on glass.  People leave flowers, pictures, and other expressions of love and tribute.  The names of the seventeen Bucks County residents who were lost, including nine from Lower Makefield, are remembered on panels by the reflection pool. The garden is planted with maple and redbud trees in their honor.  People come...

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  • Intercessor

    “Jesus answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”  She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”  Then Jesus answered, “Woman, great is your faith!”  –Matthew 15:26-28, NRSV The story of Jesus and the “Canaanite woman” resonated deeply as I prepared for a Peace Retreat that would address themes of diversity in the church, inclusion, and interfaith dialogue.  It reminded me of Jesus’ sojourn in the wilderness following his baptism, a time of struggle and choice that clarified–in the flesh–what names like “Son” and “Beloved” would really mean. The Holy Spirit that led (even drove) Jesus into that wilderness seems to be moving again in Matthew 15, leading,...

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  • Access to God’s Reign, Wholeness in Our Human family

    “The spiritual gift of healing is not restricted to those in a specific economic category.”  –Dr. Harold Dean Trulear In my post earlier this week, “The Story Within the Story,” I reflected on Mark 5:21-43, the interwoven tales of healing for two “daughters” in God’s family, one the twelve year old child of the synagogue leader Jairus, the other  a previously marginalized, unnamed woman who had suffered a debilitating flow of blood for twelve years.  I focused particularly on the woman, how she suddenly becomes visible and in an act of faith draws power from Jesus, interrupting the established narrative and taking the entire story in a new direction. I marveled at her inspired access, her claim to a force for healing that would not...

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