Love means never having to say you’re sorry” according to Erich Segal’s novel (Love Story), written nearly fifty years ago. That philosophy deems responsibility for hurt feelings unnecessary. Regret becomes irrelevant. Remorse simply doesn’t exist.
If Segal’s philosophy had been prevalent in the early 1990s, then Nelson Mandela’s release from Robben Island prison on February 11, 1990, would have been just another day’s news item. South Africa’s president F. W. deKlerk’s promise would have merited little notice. But it was something much more than that! It was the beginning of righting a twenty-seven-year-long wrong, the first small step toward the Truth and Reconciliation Commission with its restorative justice and redress of abuse by way of rehabilitation.
Thankfully, our God is one who hears the cries of the needy. Psalm 99 names three of Israel’s intercessors: Moses, Aaron, Samuel. “They cried to the LORD, and he answered them.” The psalmist, in recounting the history with a covenant God, touches on the Exodus experience in his reference to “the pillar of cloud” and “the statutes.” This sovereign God is ”a forgiving God.”
We pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt. 6:12) in the prayer of our Lord. The woman who anoints Jesus’ feet with the ointment from the alabaster jar was forgiven many times and because of that forgiveness she can show “great love” (Luke 7:47). Perhaps that’s the core truth of relationship: When we can say that we’re sorry then we can be forgiven. When we can be forgiven, we can forgive. When we can forgive, we can experience restored relationships. Restored relationships foster love, which brings life to God’s community!
Forgiving God, may we willingly say we're sorry for the hurts and wrongs we've done. Help us to forgive others who've done so to us. In that way we can truly love one another. Amen.
In Exodus 33 Moses successfully argues that without Yahweh’s merciful presence Israel is no nation and that Yahweh’s and Moses’ efforts have come to naught. Psalm 99 mentions Yahweh’s royal rule, which brings to mind the human agents of that rule: Moses, Aaron, and Samuel. Each of these leaders facilitated Yahweh’s conversation with the people and Yahweh’s rule over them. The opening lines from First Thessalonians raise a question about the church’s understanding of evangelism. Paul and his coworkers experience a change in themselves because of the Thessalonians, who become a living proclamation of the gospel by virtue of their ready acceptance of it. In the Gospel reading, Jesus answers a question with a question and confuses his “audience” both then and today.
• Read Exodus 33:12-23. When have you most longed for a glimpse of God’s glory? How did God give you the assurance you needed?
• Read Psalm 99. Where in your life is forgiveness needed to restore a loving relationship? How have you experienced “a forgiving God”?
• Read 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10. As your Christian faith has developed, how have you seen it move “from head to heart to hands”?
• Read Matthew 22:15-22. How do you give to God “the things that are God’s”? What are some of those things Jesus wants you to give?
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.