God is merciful .
This seems so obvious that it is almost pointless to write.
Here’s a question:
Is it really that obvious that God is merciful? To the average person on the street, is it clear that God has mercy ready to go for them?
In my life I have done things that I regret. Many things. I have hurt people and acted foolishly. Over and over.
In my life I have also gone to many Episcopal worship services. At most of these services there is a moment for the Confession of Sin, where the congregation collectively confesses their sins (or corporately, if you want the seminary language). At the end of this confession “the Priest alone stands” and pronounces the Absolution (or forgiveness) of God.
So let’s recap: I have done many things that I regret and committed many sins. I have also confessed my sins and have been absolved (forgiven) many times. That’s simple enough. It’s cut and dry.
It’s not really that simple, is it? I would like to think that when you read that last section, your mind went to the unresolved mess of regrets (big and small) that you hold onto. If not, I congratulate you, good and faithful servant. If so, its good to see that we are in the same boat.
I would be remiss if I did not bring some scripture into this post, so I will start with the lectionary text from several Sunday’s ago. The story of the two sons (or the Prodigal Son) is the classic reconciliation text. A son, who has committed a laundry list of sins, comes back to his father, repents, and is forgiven (in a very fantastic way).
Hold on to this story, I’ll come back to it.
My biggest issue with confessing and being forgiven of sins is that I don’t know where to begin. On top of that, confessing means bringing someone (or Someone) into the mess that I have created for myself. That last point has less do with my concern for others and more to do with my pride, but that’s for another post.
The issue of not knowing where to begin when confessing is where we come back to the story of the two sons.
Something interesting happens when the father sees the son walking towards the house. Fr. Jim Papile says that the father most likely recognized the gait of the son and remembered him sulking as a child, causing him to immediately realize who it was sulking toward him. Before the son can even get close to the house, before he can begin the long speech he’s devised to confess his sins, the father is running out the front door towards his son.
The son doesn’t even get around to apologizing before the father forgives him. The mere act of returning home, of turning from the sin and walking back into righteousness is enough for the father.
It is the same way with God.
God is ready to forgive before we are ready to confess. When we ready our hearts but have no words, God is ready to forgive. As we sulk our way back home, ashamed of ourselves and unable to imagine forgiveness, God is running towards us – furiously trying to communicate the Love that God feels for us.
If I look up from my shame I can see that God is in front of me, waiting to embrace me and welcome me home.
God is ready to forgive, in fact it has already been taken care of.
The question is: am I ready to be reconciled?
Look up. God is running towards you. Open your arms and embrace the Love that has been there all along.