Dear friends in Jesus Christ:
I greet you in the strong name of Jesus as we finish the Lenten journey and prepare for the feast of Easter.
I am hunching that a good many of you have used these days of Lent to give yourself over to the practicing of some new discipline through either abstinence or doing. Across the last several years there has been a renewed interest in the church about the ways in which we are formed in Christ Jesus. In the nineties Dorothy Bass edited an important book entitled Practicing Our Faith: A Way of Life for a Searching People. A few years ago Bishop Robert Schnase blessed the church with Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations. (I commend both of these books to you for you reading and re-reading).
Craig Dykstra says "Christian practices are not activities we do to make something spiritual happen in our lives. Nor are they duties we undertake to be obedient to God. Rather, they are patterns of communal action that create openings in our lives where the grace, mercy, and presence of God may be made known to us. They are places where the power of God is experienced. In the end, these are not ultimately our practices but forms of participation in the practice of God." I would add that the practices are both personal and communal but never private.
During these Lenten days I have been thinking a great deal about the practice of forgiveness. I did not necessarily begin this season with a plan to spend a lot of energy focused on forgiveness as a Christian practice, but for a number of reasons it took a prominent place on my radar screen. This was mostly as a result of things that I was invited to help tend through my work. As these things came to me the fractures in relationships especially in the body of Christ simply could not be ignored. So beyond the work, I needed to claim anew the reality and power of forgiveness.
After all God’s message to us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is that we are forgiven and invited to live in forgiving and reconciling ways with one another, the world and the creation. Throughout his earthly ministry Jesus the Christ preached, taught and practiced forgiveness. He did it as he walked the dusty roads. As he broke bread. As he healed the sick. As he hung on the cross. As he appeared to his disciples following his awesome and glorious resurrection.
To forgive and be forgiven is indeed to experience the power of resurrection. Let’s claim this Christian practice again this Holy week and Easter.
Yours in Christ,
Gregory Vaughn Palmer