University Congregational Church
Nov. 10, 2013
II Cor. 5:16-21
I have a confession to make: I have a love/ hate relationship with online banking. Now I realize that online banking is easier, faster, saves stamps, and is a modern convenience that most everyone likes. I like it too. I can pay bills in a snap; check my balance daily; see what’s going on in my account anytime I want… it’s a miraculous thing! What’s not to love?
But! When it comes time to balance my checkbook (and I do balance it – even though my kids have told me it’s a ridiculous exercise), I have a love/hate relationship with my bank. I love it when everything balances on the first try. And I love that feeling – that I can double-check the bank’s figures and that I can get it right on the first try. It’s like how I used to feel when I could solve a calculus equation or a physics problem. Success!
However, it’s when I don’t balance on the first, or second or third try that I feel the opposite of love. And it only makes it worse to know that if someone has made a mistake, it’s gotta be me. Another confession here: I used to work in the accounting department of a grain company. We had to record and balance everything grain – the farmer’s account, the grain in the elevator, the sales of grain, the truckloads, weight and moisture of the grain. It was a heady feeling to get it all reconciled into one balance sheet.
That’s what we called it: reconciling. And that’s the crux of the matter. I love to reconcile but I don’t like it a bit when I can’t reconcile. This is an accounting statement and it’s a theological statement. The word reconciliation refers to the process of changing something thoroughly and adjusting it to something else that is a standard. When we move our time forward an hour, we are reconciling the clock to a new time standard. Now, if our bodies would adjust so quickly! In the Bible, reconciliation is the word
used to refer to the process by which humans are changed or moved to follow God’s example. And that takes us to our scripture lesson for today.
“Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other.
God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you. How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God. II Cor. 5: 16-21 The Message
When speaking of people – not bank statements or clocks – reconciliation is about relationships. In fact, we could say that the opposite of reconciliation is ruptured relationships. It can happen to any of us…
“My roommate is so annoying! She doesn’t clean up after herself. The place is always a mess. I don’t know what’s happened. We used to be best friends, but now I can’t even stand to be around her. I’m just sick and tired of her.”
“Did you see that Tom came in late again today? It seems like we’re the only ones around here who think that we should have to work for a paycheck. This is the third day this week that he’s been late. And he’s taking long lunch times, leaving early when he thinks he can get by with it. I don’t know if he’s been written up, but I’m tired of doing all the work while he skips out. I don’t feel like he’s pulling his fair share of the work load anymore and I’m fed up.”
“People in the church are such hypocrites. They go to church on Sunday and then the rest of the week they are out doing whatever they want. In fact, I’ve given up on God and the church. I don’t need any of it. Too much double-talk, too much hurt, too many talkers and not enough do-ers.”
Ruptured relationships – with God and with others. Not enough reconciliation. Where is there a need for reconciliation in your life? Is it with a family member? An old friend? Is it at work? Perhaps there is a ruptured relationship with you and your own spirit, you and the Divine.
In our scripture today, Paul calls us to see the Christ event as a new beginning. He describes it as a new creation – the re-enactment of Genesis 1 -2. God, who originally took what was only chaos and made it into a beautiful garden, has acted again. God has again broken through the chaos of human relationships. And now the light of life and order shines through the face of Jesus the Christ.
Paul says that this is a new beginning, when the universe is quite literally remade, reordered, reconstituted. It’s like tearing up the old check register and starting a new one with the right balance at the top. A new age has dawned. Time has shifted its course.
Better yet, we aren’t just bystanders. We are incorporated into the process of new creation. We are participants in this new relationship. The reordering of the cosmos that began in Christ now begins in us! And we are called to constantly be in the process of reconciliation. It’s not up to someone else to be reconciling toward us – it’s our job to initiate the reconciliation process.
We’re to be the first ones to offer an apology.
We’re to be on the cutting edge with forgiveness.
We’re called to extend grace to others – especially those who don’t deserve it.
We’re the ones who are to speak out on behalf of those who can’t speak for themselves – the poor, the outcast, and the children.
The word “reconciliation” is used in our contemporary culture for a variety of venues… it’s a word used in politics (Truth & Reconciliation Commission) (and it’s a legislative procedure)
It’s a word used in ethnic relationship – restoring mutual respect between individuals from different cultural backgrounds.
It’s a word used in liturgical traditions to describe the process of confession, penance and then the proclamation of forgiveness.
Reconciliation is even an anti-anxiety medication for dogs!
Anywhere there are ruptured relationships – reconciliation is needed – we are needed. Anywhere there are people labeled as adversaries, reconciliation is needed – we are needed. Anywhere there is war, reconciliation is needed – we are needed.
Francois Gauthron, is a veteran of the French military and native of Normandy. He has been giving tours in Normandy for the past decade. He has taken thousands of American veterans back to the sites where they fought in the war, helping them retrace their steps across the beaches, down country roads, and across fields where cattle now graze. A number of times he has been able to reunite veterans with locals who remembered them from the war years. Showing up unannounced in a village, they will be warmly welcomed by people who still remember the young American soldiers who liberated them during the Normandy campaign. One gets the sense from such anecdotes that a pilgrimage like this can complete a story begun long ago. For many of these men, the last time they saw France was when it was under attack, ravaged by bombs and gunfire. For them the prosperous farms and tidy villages of Normandy
today likely seem like a vindication for the sacrifices and hardships they endured as young men, proof that peace can flourish after the horrors of war. The most touching story told by Francois took place about ten years ago, a time when many veterans were returning to Normandy for the fiftieth anniversary of D-Day. Because most were in their 70s, the men knew it would likely be their last chance to make the journey. Francois’ story took place during a reunion of an American bomber squadron, which hired him to take them to sites connected with their war experiences. One evening Francois ended a long day of touring by taking the men to a local bar. The room already contained quite a few people when they entered, most of them men about the same age as the veterans. When Francois heard that they were speaking German, he guessed that they were veterans from the other side of the conflict. Conferring with the group’s guide, he received confirmation of his surmise. “Your guys dropped bombs on my guys during the war,” the other guide told him. “This could get interesting.” As the American vets entered the room, Francois watched with a bit of apprehension. It didn’t take the Americans long to overhear the conversations in German and figure out who the men were. There was a period of awkwardness as the veterans found seats, and then finally one of the Americans went over to a table where some of the elderly Germans were sitting. He introduced himself in German and struck up a conversation. Soon another veteran did the same. “After about ten minutes, everybody in the room was talking to each other and sharing stories,” Francois recalled. “The Germans talked about what it was like to be young and scared that the next bomb was going to land on them, and the Americans told them what it was like to be young and scared as they flew planes amid anti-aircraft fire. For two hours they talked non-stop, and at the end of the evening they exchanged addresses with each
other. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them are still corresponding to this day.” For those men, Americans and Germans alike, their war finally ended over glasses of beer in a French bar, more than fifty years after the armistice had been signed. www.spiritualtravels.info/articles-2/europe-2/d-day-sites-in-normandy- Let’s not wait 50 years to be ambassadors of reconciliation in our own battle-torn lives.