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Forgiveness is a Habit Part 1
Our Lent journey this year has us exploring forgiveness. Henri Nouwen once wrote “To learn to be part of a church is to learn to forgive and be forgiven.” We like the forgiven part. Forgiveness is of course central to the Gospel message- Jesus died on behalf of our sins. When Paul describes the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, he starts with the forgiveness found in Jesus. That forgiveness granted as a gift of God is not something that is kept solely for us. We grant that forgiveness to the people who have wounded, hurt, and sinned against us. What we find though is that forgiveness is not an event, but rather an embodied lifestyle. That lifestyle comes with habits. Last week we talked about the habit of prayer as an important strategy to learn to embody forgiveness.
This week I want to explore a more communal habit: the Lord’s Supper. I grew up in a church that practiced the Lord’s Supper only twice a year. One of those weekends was usually Memorial Day, which means many in our church did not participate that Sunday as they were out of town. I think I went through college participating in the Lord’s Supper two times. All that changed when I was called to pastor a church that practiced the Lord’s Supper every other week. The women would bake fresh bread for the time of communion. The whole sanctuary would smell like bread, building anticipation until the time of the supper. As I was not in the practice of participating in the Lord’s Supper, it got to a point to where I could not eat a piece of bread without thinking of Jesus’ sacrifice on my behalf. That of course is the point. Because I was taking part in the Lord’s Supper so often, bread became an important reminder of the forgiveness found in Jesus.
The Lord’s Supper points us to a sacrificial love that we do not deserve, but is freely given by the God who cannot help but forgive. Every time we take the bread and drink the juice together, we are swept up in that story once again. We are reminded who we are in Jesus – forgiven people who have been called to forgive. We are reminded again and again that Jesus is within us, giving us the sustenance we need to live the forgiven life.