Reconciled to God

“Reconciled to God”

2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2 (5:20-21) – March 2, 2022

            I am part of a local pastors’ group. We have periodic Zoom calls, and we support each other and encourage each other. This group has been gathering together for almost two years, since shortly after the pandemic shut down happened in March 2020. Some jokester in the group was talking about the difficulties and challenges of this whole long pandemic and COVID experience. He said that this had been the longest, Lent-iest Lent he had ever experienced.

            Isn’t it the truth? Hasn’t this whole long period of time been similar to an especially challenging Lenten journey? A huge, overlong Lent-iest Lenten expedition? Except, here we are again, at the beginning of another Lent, in 2022.

            Except, we have already been through such a challenging time. Months and months of separation, of Zoom calls and meetings, of fear and anxiety and disgruntlement. And for many among us, months of worry and grieving so many losses. Losses of normalcy. Losses of expected events, holidays, weddings, graduations, and other gatherings. On top of which is the loss of many loved ones who may have died of COVID, or of something else. But, the weariness and mourning of so much continuing loss, separation and grief can be overwhelming.

            And now, we add Lent to the mix. Yes, we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, as Paul reminds us in Romans 3. This is a clear truth. We know where we fall short, and we sorely feel our grief and losses. Yet, this is not a time to wallow too much in our sinfulness.

               That is why these words from the Apostle Paul seem especially moving to me on this Ash Wednesday. As Paul says, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

            We are far enough past the beginning of January to look back and see where New Year’s resolutions have failed and promises made to ourselves often lie broken. When Paul quotes from Isaiah 49 in verse 6:2, this is a prophetic wake-up call from the Apostle Paul. We reorient our lives before God in just this way: Be reconciled to God! As Paul shouts (in the imperative verb form!), “Hey, you! Be reconciled!” It’s not just a polite suggestion.

            Digging deeper, our commentator Karoline Lewis says, “Reorienting life before God often necessitates a radical call outside of oneself to be reconciled to others. Being reconciled to God is not just another individualistic resolution or self-improvement step. Instead, it means being messengers of reconciliation, working together in a cooperative grace, and participating in God’s reconciling activity to win back the world.” [1]

            Paul calls himself Christ’s ambassador, official representative, or political emissary. By extension, we are all Christ’s ambassadors; we are all sent with His message of reconciliation to the world. That’s not only to the world, but individually, too. We are ambassadors to our neighbor next door, to the friend down the street, to the relative we call on the phone or those we send a Facebook or Instagram message to.

            Yes, we can see the ambassador part, and the message of reconciliation part, but what do we do with our sin? Paul tells us right here. God reconciles all of us (to Godself!) by making Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the righteous one who knew no sin (!!) to be sin for us. Jesus shouldered all that huge burden of sin so that you and I might become the righteousness of God, as Paul says in verse 21. [2]

            This action of God is a liturgical or symbolic action, as well. Through this reality, God enacts the transfer of sin. God trades Christ’s righteousness for our sinfulness: something of immeasurable worth for something completely worthless. Or, as I learned in a straight-forward anagram decades ago, it’s all God’s grace. God’s riches at Christ’s expense. Praise God!

            I turn to some suggestions from Karoline Lewis. Now that we are embarking upon another Lenten journey, what will you – will I – do for Lent to be meaningful to you?

            Instead of giving up something for Lent this season, instead, why don’t we choose something to embrace? “Not something “to do” but something “to be.” Something that gives you joy, that nurtures you. It’s okay to have joy during Lent. It’s okay to think about how you will take care of yourself during Lent. It’s okay to imagine a Lent that does not have to have as its primary mood that of sacrifice. Your starting point for Lent matters. You can suffer through Lent. Or, you can choose to move through Lent from a place of wonder and gratitude: wondering where God might show up, what God might reveal in this dormant time, this time set aside so as to anticipate life, a time that looks forward to glimpses of new creation [and resurrection].” [3]  

            What a good suggestion! I encourage you to do something that gives you joy in the Lord, and leads you back to that place of wonder, that place of nurture where you can feel God’s presence with you. Suggestions? Walk in nature. Sing in the shower. Listen to soothing music. Read and journal. Play with your children (or grandchildren). Garden. All of these involve God’s creation, and all of these can be stress-relievers. Be creative! Find joy, wonder and gratitude this Lent, and you will find yourself closer to God.

            Amen, and amen.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!


[1] https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/ash-wednesday/commentary-on-2-corinthians-520b-610-5

[2] https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/ash-wednesday/commentary-on-2-corinthians-520b-610-10

[3] https://www.workingpreacher.org/dear-working-preacher/choose-your-lent

Be Reconciled to God

2 Corinthians 5:20b – March 1, 2017

2-cor-5-20-reconciled-words

“Be Reconciled to God”

Saying “I’m sorry.” People can say “I’m sorry” for all kinds of things, from stepping on the back of your shoe on accident, to crashing into your car and totally destroying it. Sometimes, people think it is okay to accept an apology, and other times, it isn’t.

Did you ever think what God’s thoughts are? On us, saying “I’m sorry” so often, for almost everything, it seems? How does God feel when people ignore God’s rules for days, weeks, even years—and then, once one of God’s big rules—the Ten Commandments—get broken, people sometimes say, “I’m sorry.” And then, expect everything to be all right with God!

It was kind of that way with King David. He was a powerful king later on in his reign, commanding great armies that conquered large areas surrounding Israel. As with many really powerful people, David felt more and more like he was an absolute ruler, and nobody could give him counsel, or tell him “No, you can’t do that,” or “That’s a bad idea.”

Remember how King David saw the young, beautiful Bathsheba, wife of one of his generals, Uriah? Uriah and the rest of the army were away fighting a war, and King David had Bathsheba brought to him. King David slept with the beautiful Bathsheba, she became pregnant, and David ultimately had his general Uriah killed because he wanted to cover up his sin.

But, God knew what happened. Eventually, God told the prophet Nathan, and then everyone in Israel found out what happened, too. And, the baby died shortly after he was born.

King David was devastated. As a result of his grief and shame and guilt, he wrote Psalm 51. This is most of that psalm. I want everyone to listen for the grief David feels, as well as his guilt, and sadness at disappointing God, and how he says “I’m sorry” to God.

51 Be merciful to me, O God, because of your constant love.
Because of your great mercy wipe away my sins!
Wash away all my evil and make me clean from my sin!

I recognize my faults; I am always conscious of my sins.
I have sinned against you—only against you—and done what you consider evil.
So you are right in judging me; you are justified in condemning me.
I have been evil from the day I was born; from the time I was conceived, I have been sinful.

Sincerity and truth are what you require; fill my mind with your wisdom.
Remove my sin, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear the sounds of joy and gladness;
and though you have crushed me and broken me, I will be happy once again.
Close your eyes to my sins and wipe out all my evil.

10 Create a pure heart in me, O God, and put a new and loyal spirit in me.
11 Do not banish me from your presence; do not take your holy spirit away from me.
12 Give me again the joy that comes from your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.
13 Then I will teach sinners your commands, and they will turn back to you.

For millennia, the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament traditions have highlighted  this penitential attitude. King David’s eloquent request for God to hear him and forgive him stands as one of the most moving expressions of “I’m sorry” ever penned.

But, what if people can’t quite relate to rich and powerful King David? What then? What if David seems too high and mighty, or a bit too distant, too removed? I was just a mom and a housewife for years, before I went to graduate school in my forties. I didn’t think I had much at all in common with David.

Or, did I? You and I all know that people have a tendency of being self-sufficient, self-involved, going their own way, pushing others away, and often not particularly caring about others. God has a name for this kind of attitude, and it is sin. I bet you can recognize it.

“I don’t need any help! I can do it on my own! I’ll do it my way! I don’t need God. I don’t need anybody else meddling in my business, either.”

You and I—we may not have openly been involved in adultery, or murder, or a cover-up on the scale of a congressional investigation, like King David. But, that does not matter to God. Sin is sin. We have been talking about sin for the past few weeks, in our services centered around Jesus and His messages from the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus always wanted us to focus on our inside attitude and reception to God.

It is that sinful, selfish attitude that separates people from God. And what’s more, it separates people from one another. It is a barrier that separates each individual from every other individual. However, let’s look at this verse from 2 Corinthians 5. “God is making His appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

Did you hear? God wants to overcome that barrier of our sin, of self-involvement and self-sufficiency. Paul says that God took all our sin and put it on Christ, so that we could be clothed with His sinless righteousness.

“In Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” So, God is not counting trespasses! God is merciful and forgiving! God wants to be reconciled to us! God’s arms are indeed open wide! Our Lord wants us to come close.

Paul says, “Now is the acceptable time. Today is the day of salvation.”

God is waiting with open arms. We can’t receive God’s forgiveness if we aren’t familiar with God ourselves. Do you know Jesus? Are you close to Him?

Now is the acceptable time. Now is a good time. God is waiting.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my regular blog for 2017: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and my other blog,  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!)