Fourth Sunday in Lent – March 14, 2010
1 Samuel 16:1-13 • Psalm 23 • Ephesians 5:8-14 • John 9:1-41
I love the progression of reconciliation described in the parable of the Prodigal Son and throughout the psalmist’s ponderings. I’m sure many of us have lived a high life in a similar vein to that of the Prodigal; we’ve worked hard, made good money, and then enjoyed the fruit of our labor. We think, “I deserve it. After all, I worked hard for it.”
But then tragedy hits – unemployment, divorce, a parent or child are diagnosed with a life-stealing illness – and all of a sudden we feel like we’re drowning in a sea of despair. Try as we might, there is nothing we can do to make everything “all right” again. But what if in that moment, we come to our senses…as some might say, we experience a “Come to Jesus” moment? Instead of spinning our wheels while trying to make things better, we confess that we can’t handle it on our own. We need help…we need what our compassionate Heavenly Father has to offer.
After ending up in a Jewish son’s nightmare – starving while squalid pigs are becoming fat – the young man in Luke 15 comes to his senses. He hatches a plan to regain access to his father’s resources, a partial reconciliation at best. Will it work?
In a beautiful manner our loving God is like the prodigal’s father. Notice that in this story it is the father, not the son, who re-establishes the broken relationship, repairing it so that it exceeds even its former glory. In Psalm 32:2 the psalmist notes (I believe with relief), “Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him.” He recognized that as long as he “kept silent” and “covered up [his] iniquity” (vs. 3 and 5), his “body wasted away through [his] groaning all day long.” But once he acknowledged his sin to God, admitting that he couldn’t handle the crush of it all on his own, then he experienced reconciliation through forgiveness. The guilt disappeared. “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.” (vs.1) Reconciliation for Christians goes beyond forgiving iniquity, of course, and includes restoring right relationships on a number of levels – including one’s relationship with creation itself.
2 Corinthians 5:16-20 answers the question, “Now what?” Now that we’ve been reconciled back to God, God invites us to participate in the reconciliation journey of others as ministers of reconciliation. For example, imagine a parent in a developing county cradling a deathly ill child in their lap, a child sick with diarrhea and dehydration. While not pleasant to talk about in polite company, it is nonetheless a necessary topic as diarrhea is the second leading cause of death among children under five globally. Nearly one in five child deaths – about 1.5 million each year – is due to diarrhea. (WHO, 2009) The needless death of a child from a preventable and treatable disease is a jarring tragedy in a parent’s life. It becomes a critical incident that may force them to be face to face with the need to change how they live and how they relate to their environment (creation). Knowing that God’s intentions for the world are that “never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days” (Isaiah 65:20) we can be confident in knowing that God’s view of these deaths is the same as our and the parents’ view – as tragic, and something that needs to end. It’s a signal to the family and to us as potential responders that relationships are out of whack, and that they need to be restored in alignment with God’s plans.
God invites us to be a part of their reconciliation journey. God doesn’t only care about reconciliation between people and God, He desires holistic reconciliation – people with God, people with themselves, people with their neighbors, and people with creation.
When people enter the reconciliation journey through a faith-based organization, they show these parents that they can be reconciled with creation and have a transformed relationship with water. For example, the parents can learn which water sources are polluted, and how to purify that water when they get it home, so that their children avoid getting diarrhea from drinking contaminated water. They can start practicing the newly valued behavior of washing their hands with soap before eating and after relieving themselves in order to prevent diarrhea in the children that they feed. They can find out where to obtain and how to mix up an oral rehydration solution to treat their child who’s come down with diarrhea in order to prevent dehydration. And they can visit their neighbors and share this good news of how to help their children survive. All of these small and basic steps contribute to the reconciliation process, transforming the family’s relationship with water and with creation, giving life instead of stealing it. And in the process of being a minister of reconciliation, I think we are transformed a bit more too.
As Chris Rice sings, “Come to Jesus…and live”.
- How have you bargained with God in order to regain His favor? Is that what is really necessary?
- Think back to a time when you experienced the full cycle of confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation – What does reconciliation feel like?
- In what ways does your relationship with creation need reconciliation?
- What can you do to be a minister of reconciliation to the poor who suffer from lack of clean water?
Thank God for the gift of clean water and pursue your role as a minister of reconciliation to the poor.
By Julie Hettinger