A reflection on words of forgiving from the cross …
When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!”
After 18 or so years of ordained ministry, I have to say that one of the saddest things that I have seen in the churches where I have served is failure to forgive.
People who an’t forgive. People who can’t be reconciled.
The saddest part is not just that it’s people from the community of faith looking outwards – it’s between people within the community of faith.
And often these are good people who have understood the model of giving of oneself to and for others. But we can’t earn our way into paradise just with good deeds. There’s that niggling issue of reconciliation and forgiving.
We stand in witness to the very basic principles of faith, one that we reiterate in one way or another every time we celebrate Holy Communion, saying: “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.”
Christ has died. And with his precious, diminishing breath, he chose to speak words of forgiveness.
“Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”
Father, forgive us, for we still haven’t a clue about what we are doing. And apparently we have to depend upon you to forgive us, because it seems that we can’t forgive one another.
Even as we see you hanging on the cross because people couldn’t seek reconciliation with one another.
Still – I suppose at least it puts us right there, doesn’t it?
Right with those cynical bystanders.
After all, who needs to pay attention to a discredited rabbi, executed as a treasonous criminal? Why listen to what he has to say?
How sad. How terribly sad.