Again [as mentioned in the previous post], I’m preparing for a Sunday focus on forgiveness. It has me recalling “An Order of Farewell to a Pastor” from our United Methodist Book of Worship – and, more specifically, a portion of that Order dedicated to confession and pardon. In part, the liturgy reads:
Pastor: I thank you, the members and friends of __________ United Methodist Church, for the love and support you have shown me while I have ministered among you. I am grateful for the ways my leadership has been accepted. I ask forgiveness for the mistakes I have made. As I leave, I carry with me all that I have learned here.
People: We receive your thankfulness, offer forgiveness,… We express our gratitude for your time among us. We ask your forgiveness for our mistakes. Your influence on our faith and faithfulness will not leave us with your departure.
Pastor: I accept your gratitude and forgiveness, and I forgive you, trusting that our time together and our parting are pleasing to God…
NO! This is not some cryptic way of announcing my departure! In fact, it’s sad, isn’t it, that such words should only be spoken amidst farewells?! Truth is, I do not want to put off for some other day words that can and should be said today…and every day.
Dear Family and Friends and Neighbors and Parishoners and…,
I am under no delusions. I am not perfect. I acknowledge my brokenness. I know I have made [many] mistakes and stepped on [many] toes! No matter how many degrees I put up on the wall and no matter how many years I can say I’ve been a Christian and no matter how much I study and pray and preach, I will always be incomplete [in this world]. Though I can not think of any ways I have deliberately hurt any of you, I know that my brokenness, my mistakes, my incompleteness can and do hurt others – in ways I am aware of… and in ways I may not even be conscious.
Very simply and plainly, then, I ask you to please forgive me—and to trust that my heart is for Christ… and for you… and for us in Christ.
Here, I am a diehard in believing that there’s nothing we can not do together (including forgive) — if Christ is at the heart of it all.
And, here, I am convinced of the essential place of “horizontal forgiveness” [between me and you] and not just “vertical forgiveness” [between me and God… and you and God]. Jesus said that “the Kingdom of God is among us.” We pray that God’s Will would be “done on earth as in Heaven.” (And then there’s the “kicker:” the declaration that we’ll be forgiven by our Father in Heaven as we’ve forgiven others here on earth!) Given such a promise and prayer [and threat], how can we talk of getting to Heaven some day as individuals if we aren’t working at it and practicing it—here, now, together?! Dear Friends, forgiveness and forgiving is not an option! It is fundamental to the Life of Christ – and the Life He inspires! In more ways than we can conceive, our healing and our wholeness are intimately wrapped up in our neighbor — and in our ability to forgive that neighbor and accept our forgiven-ness!
I so ache for healing. I ache to be what I am meant to be in Christ– even as I ache for you to be who you are in Christ: the Christ in me embracing the Christ in you.
With you, then,
in the “dance,” in the rhythm, in the “breathing”
which is reconciliation and forgiveness and healing,…
in letting go of our fallen brokenness
and affirming the risen Christ in each other,…
in and through the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.