This Week at Trinity, Beamsville
Friday, February 7, 2020
This week I made a small attempt at cleaning out some files. My present philosophy on that is to tackle minor spaces, incrementally, so as not to overwhelm my sentimental senses. In that particular moment, it was purging a thick collection of notes and scribbles, tucked inside a worship planning folder, accumulated with thought that they might be used someday.
Close to the middle of the pile was a one-page commentary, from September 2017, on a text from Jonah. I honestly can’t remember if Jonah was in our focus back then, but I can tell you that what I left highlighted in orange, is most likely what held my gaze the longest. It most likely tapped into my own heart’s needs as much as my longing to share its wisdom with all of you. Those highlighted sentences say this:
“I once had a person tell me that there comes a time and place when God
gives up on us and puts us on a shelf. I don’t believe that. There is no “shelf”
but only a persistent grace that keeps calling us back into God’s dream for the world.”
Bishop Tom Aitken (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) was the author of that text – and with all due respect to him, the words of grace are neither radically new nor breathtaking in expression. Yet, because there is always a yet, Bishop Aitken managed to say, with gentle strength and truth, what is so easily forgotten along the layered ways of life. Stuff piles up. Physically, but far more emotionally and spiritually, we become people burdened by past and present choices, words, and relationships. Far more than we might for anyone else, we judge ourselves. We move ourselves into spaces of no return… or at least, that is what we tell ourselves.
Thank God that no such place exists – at least those are my radically un-new words. Like my colleague Tom, I don’t believe that God has any longing or practice that puts Love out of reach. I also know and believe that’s far easier to say than to practice.
The place of forgiveness is where we’re trying to return again this Sunday. It sounds more than impossible to think about tackling such an enormous topic in the space of one morning service. Thank God, again, that this is a lifelong conversation and endeavour. None of us ever gets it right, all the time – and yet all of us have holy mercy on our side, calling us back to where God always dreams us to be.
With love to you all,
“Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly.
The hard truth is that all of us love poorly.”
(Henri Nouwen, ‘The First Step of Forgiveness’)