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Focus from the Rev. David F. Sellery, Priest-In-Charge, St. John’s Church, Salisbury, CT It is Finished -Mark 14:1-15:47

Forty days is a long time… long enough for God to wash the earth with the waters of the Flood… long enough for a fasting Jesus to come face to face with the great work before him. Forty days certainly is a long time… but has it been long enough for us to get on with the serious business of Lent… long enough for us to repent… long enough for us to align our lives with God’s purpose for us? Let’s consider these questions in the context of this week’s gospel… the Passion… the culmination of Lent… the threshold of the Resurrection.

St. Mark's account of the Passion is not as long as St. Matthew’s. But it is sufficiently detailed to convey Christ’s complete surrender to the will of the Father. From all the great lessons found in this gospel… Christ’s faithfulness to the Father… his humility… his courage…let’s focus on one single, powerful lesson: To love is to forgive.

Forgiveness is the cornerstone of our New Covenant with God. It repairs the rupture of sin that invaded Eden. It tempers the Old Testament wrath that rained fire and brimstone. It moderates the ritual rectitude of Leviticus. But the forgiveness of Calvary is no theological abstraction. It is a reality written in the blood of Christ. Throughout his Passion, Jesus shows us that to love is to forgive...and to forgive ...and to forgive. That is how love works.
In Luke, Jesus asks forgiveness for his tormentors: For they know not what they do. Then he forgives the penitent thief for a life-time of crime, saying: Equally important is what Jesus does not say. Pilate is amazed at his silence in the face of obviously trumped-up charges. Mark records Christ's silent submission right up to and onto the cross… no rebuttals, no recriminations, no threats of revenge.

In Mark, only at the last minute does Jesus break his silence crying: My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? At first glance this is a cry of despair. On further examination, it is a direct quote from David in Psalm 22, which precisely predicted the method of Christ's execution… more than five hundred years before the Romans had introduced crucifixion into Israel. To the end, in obedience to the Father, Jesus shows us he is fulfilling the laws and the prophets. Then finally, from the weight of our sins, as much as from the agony of crucifixion, he gives up his spirit.

Calvary marks a change in our relationship with God. He is no longer the distant, omnipotent umpire calling balls and strikes. He is the accessible, ever loving, ever forgiving Creator/Redeemer/Sanctifier… the source of all love. But that does not mean that God has become the enabler in chief. There is a world of difference between condoning and forgiving. God always forgives; he never condones. St. Augustine
cautions us that: "No one is redeemed except through unmerited mercy, and no one is condemned except through merited judgment." We can always rely on God's mercy. But, we should never presume it is a green-light for sin.

In the Lord's Prayer, only one petition is conditional: that our trespasses will be forgiven as we forgive those who trespass against us. Surely, we all need forgiveness, so we all have a need to forgive. It is a simple and benign concept, until it is seriously challenged. And then it becomes a harsh reality. Overlooking a minor mistake is easy. But what about relationships that have become toxic ...when words have become weapons... when attack breeds counterattack ...when lives are wasted and families destroyed over arguments that have long since lost their meaning? All that calls for some really serious forgiving.

The internet is replete with listings of family conflict counsellors. The libraries are stocked with volumes on reconciliation. Doubtless, they have merit. But the true path to healing relationships is the way of the cross... the way of humility conquering sinful pride… the way of love… repenting, forgiving, reconciling... knowing that beyond the Calvary of our conflicts lies the joy of the Resurrection. Peace is always within our reach, through the door of forgiveness. Jesus has shown us the way.

For forty days we have walked the way of repentance. We have been taught the lesson of
forgiveness. Now, from the cross, Jesus tells us: It is finished. We are saved. We are forgiven.

Let’s spend a lifetime saying: “Thank you, Jesus.” Let’s get on with celebrating the Resurrection by spreading his love around. That’s why we are here… doing a happy, holy job that’s never finished.
eDevotions from The Rev.Bob Dannals Daily Devotionals -Based on RCL Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday, Year B: Isaiah 50:4-9; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Mark 15:1-39

They compelled a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross . . . Mark 15: 21

The precise way in which Simon is identified suggests he and his family might have become members of that early church. On the road to Calvary on that fateful day, Simon, a Passover pilgrim from North Africa, was pressed into service to carry Jesus’ cross. And Jesus let Simon help him!

Challenge and Opportunity:

There is a sense in which all of us passing by are eventually compelled to carry the cross… Christ’s, our own, and the burden of another. We all carry eventually some of the world’s guilt, pain, and suffering. We don’t always deserve it, we don’t always bring it on ourselves. Like Simon, most of the time we’re trying to mind our own business, keep our head down, hoping not to be asked, commissioned, or pressed into service. And then it happens: the church, our country, our parent, our spouse, our partner, our conscience summons us to lift some of the burden, relieve some of the pain. The irony is that most of the time it ends up being life-giving.
Clergy Confidential: Finding God in Daily Chaos by Tim Schenck Parkland Dreamers

“Dreamer.”

It’s an odd epithet. These days, it evokes this country’s immigration debate. But it also conjures up naivety and a lack of being rooted in reality. We hear it used in just such a pejorative way when we read the story of Joseph and his brothers from Genesis. They say to one another, “Here comes this dreamer,” just before they threaten to kill him and throw him into a pit.

Now at one level, this was literally true. The precocious youngest child of Jacob had a couple of dreams foretelling both his greatness and the future servitude of his older brothers. Sharing these visions didn’t sit well with his elder siblings, who already resented him for being their father’s favorite son.

But the world needs dreamers, visionaries who are able to see new possibilities. People not held back by convention or old patterns of thought and belief. Human beings often get stuck through the power of inertia and dreamers help us break through conventional wisdom to experience stunning, unexplored vistas of dynamic alternatives.

In a sense, Jesus was the ultimate dreamer. He laid out a vision of hope and peace and transformation. He envisioned a world where justice rolls down like water; where swords are beat into plough-shares; where barriers between people are shattered; where the kingdom of God is realized in our very midst. His words and actions ushered in the possibility of a new world order where the poor and downtrodden are
lifted up and mighty oppressors are cast down from their thrones.

There have been some other dreamers in the news this week. Through passion and eloquence born of tragedy, the teen survivors of the Parkland School shooting have offered us a vision of what this country should be. They have shaken the forces of inertia and indecision and have helped all of us re-open our eyes to both the horror and the possibilities that lie ahead.

Many have pejoratively called these young people dreamers. The implication being that they are naïve and they’ll eventually grow up and realize they can’t actually make a difference in the world.

But I think they can.

And while many of the state legislators the students met with in Tallahassee essentially patted them on the head and sent them away with platitudes, I am confident they won’t be silenced. I heard a steely determination as I listened to their voices; a commitment to stay in this fight for the duration, along with an invitation to the rest of us to join them.

Yes, there will be pushback and setbacks and defeats. Gun violence and the forces that enable it are deeply ingrained in our country. Dreamers often cause resentment — whether that’s Joseph or Jesus or the young people standing up for an end to the killing. There will always be people who take the role of Joseph’s brothers or Jesus’ opponents or status quo politicians.

But we can’t lose the dream. We can’t stop looking to the dreamers. Wherever they arise and in whatever improbable form they take, we must help keep the dream alive. Because dreamers are some of the most important voices in any society. Those with ears to hear must listen.



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