When I work with congregations experiencing conflict the Matthew 18 reading is one of the primary lessons we reflect on. Everyone acknowledges both the importance of forgiveness and the challenges of forgiving. One of the key aspects of forgiveness that needs to be upheld is accountability. It is one thing to love as God asks us to love and to forgive as Jesus describes. Yet neither love nor forgiveness mean failing to hold ourselves and others accountable for reconciliation, for changing behavior, for growing in maturity. True love includes holding myself and others accountable for hurtful words and behavior with the expectation that efforts will be made to make amends and behave in healthier, more mature ways that respect the dignity of others. It’s heady, heartfelt, difficult, and potentially transformational work when one strives for reconciliation.
There was, of course, no reconciliation between the Hebrews and the Egyptians in that race through the desert and the parted waters. And a pretty heavy dose of punishment from God, drowning the Egyptians as the waters rushed back. No conversation there about learning, growing, forgiving, reconciling, just protection and punishment. Last week I mentioned how people remember and tell different sides of the same story – how those who perpetrate violence, oppression, and injustice, remember what happened one way, while those who were the “victims” of oppression and injustice remember what happened another way. Who doesn’t want a punishing God reacting to oppression? I know I do. Every day since the late evening of Nov. 8 I have cried out for God to BE GOD!!!
Alas. God works through us. We have to do the hard work of containing and eliminating injustices and working to reconcile the wrongs of this world.
So. None of this is where I am actually going this week. What about you? Are you preaching on the RCL or the Narrative Lectionary? What readings are speaking to you? How is God speaking into your ear, your thoughts, and prompting you? Have you had the time, the space, the energy to listen this week?
This is the 11th Hour Preacher Party. We’re here all day to help, listen, pray with you, support you. Pull up a chair, grab a mug, and let’s party.
The Rev. Terri C. Pilarski is an Episcopal priest serving in Dearborn, MI. A member of the RevGalBlogPals and blogger since 2006, she blogs at seekingauthenticvoice.blogspot.com
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