Last night I went to a beautiful Good Friday service. I’m currently visiting my friend Cheyenne in New York and honest to goodness we found this church by googling “Astoria Good Friday Service.” Our criteria was to find a church we could walk to who also had their schedule clearly stated on their website. This proves the importance of a good website for a church. Note: Churches, if you are trying to reach visitors or new members; your service schedule should be the EASIEST thing to find. How do you think you’re going to get people in the door if they don’t know when to show up? So it was just dumb luck (or the Holy Spirit) that we ended up participating in an incredible, spirit filled, reflective time of worship.
We heard an amazing string quartet play Joseph Haydn’s “The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour On the Cross.” It was first performed in 1783 in Spain. The worship leader would read a passage pertaining to one of the last utterances of Jesus and then we would listen to a sonata as we meditated on the reality of the actions that took place oh so many years ago. The music was indescribable. Art is meant to illicit emotion. So, for me, when you put art and Jesus together…I am a complete mess. I mean, we’re already dealing with the day that Jesus Christ was crucified for all mankind. Letting that fact alone sink in causes me to shudder with shame and humility.
I could go on and on with my thoughts on each of the seven words, but I want to focus on the first. The one that still haunts me this morning. The one I thought I had a better handle on. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Forgiveness. Forgiveness is tricky. There is a constant push and pull between forgiving and being smart enough to not forget. There is the focusing on those you must forgive and being honest about what you must confess and ask for forgiveness for. There is the never ending searching of your heart to make sure your forgiveness was pure. And there is the relief of being able to truly let go.
Since my divorce I think I’ve gotten better at letting things roll off my back. There’s a moment when you take a good hard look at a situation and think “That’s not a real problem” and go on with your day. It’s freeing. It’s growth. It’s grace. The flip side of that is when I deem a situation an “actual problem,” then I suddenly start a crusade to right a disastrous wrong. And who would know better about wrong-doing than me? I mean, I’ve dealt with DIVORCE…I clearly know a thing or two about sin. So you better step up to my personal moral code, please and thank you. Good grief. Who do I think I am? I’ll tell you what I am. A sinner saved by God’s love. Saved by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Saved by the nails.
Yes, I am killing it at the forgiveness of the “big things.” I have forgiven my ex-husband. And when I say “I forgave him” what I mean is that through the help of Jesus I was able to get to a place where I knew in my heart that I couldn’t heal until I could forgive. But who am I to decide what constitutes a big thing to forgive and a small thing to forgive? I fall short of the glory of God constantly. Every day. And you know what? Jesus died for all of that. The big things, the small things, the scary things, the hard things, the annoying things. My brain has problems even fully understanding everything he took on that day on the cross. But, being a child of faith, even when my brain fails me…the Holy Spirit fills me. And that is when I can feel his love and his understanding and his grace. That is when I grasp my purpose and his presence. That is when forgiveness doesn’t feel like a chore, but a gift.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The “them” in this exclamation is me. The “they” in this cry to the heavens is me. My sin. All my sins.
Father, forgive me. Father, lead me. Father, purify me. Father, teach me. Father, humble me.
Romans 4:25 “He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”