A Lenten Message from Bishop Lane
A Lenten Message from Bishop Stephen Lane
This is the first in a 5 part series
The invitation to a Holy Lent in the proper liturgy for Ash Wednesday invites us into several disciplines: prayer, fasting and self-denial, the study of scripture, and repentance, among them. It also reminds us that reconciliation is a special concern of Lent; a time when members of the community who have been alienated from one another by sin are restored to the fellowship of the body. It is, in other words, a time for reaching out, for crossing divides, for offering forgiveness, for bringing one another back in.
If there were ever a time when a conversation about reconciliation was in order, I think it’s now. Our politics and our pandemic have left us feeling divided, isolated, and cranky - even in the church. And violence between nations has reached new heights in Europe. It’s time to think again about our call to reconciliation. I hope you’ll join me for a few minutes in each of the next five weeks to think and pray about reconciliation, about being reunited in Christ.
Our catechism tells us that reconciliation is the mission of the church: to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. And scripture tells us that reconciliation was the reason God sent Jesus to us: For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but may have eternal life. (John 3:16) The desire of God is to restore all creation to the unity God intended from the beginning.
And that means certain behaviors should be evident among Christians: not only the willingness to forgive others, but also the willingness to seek forgiveness from others, to recognize that we too are capable of hurtful behavior and sin. “ ‘You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.” 22 But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister,* you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult* a brother or sister,* you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool”, you will be liable to the hell* of fire. 23 So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister* has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister,* and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:21-24)
It’s not just if you have something against someone, but rather if you know that someone has something against you, that you go and seek reconciliation. And who among us in these days has not said, “You fool,” or worse, to public figures and to friends alike? Before we come before God in worship, we need to seek reconciliation.
It’s been said that the problem of our time is that it takes two to be reconciled and that “the other side” is not willing to come to the table. Let it be our commitment this Lent to be the first to pull up a chair and sit down. Perhaps our presence at the table will signal a new possibility for conversation and to see one another as God sees us - as children of one household.
Let us pray
Open our hearts, O God, and help us to see where we have hurt our neighbors. Then give us courage to sit down with them and talk it out. For the sake of your only son, Jesus. Amen.