In a moment of so much uncertainty, it can be easy to lose hope and feel as if God has left our side. God, however, reminds us in Isaiah 41:10 that he will strengthen us and help us. In the middle of this pandemic, it’s important to take seriously all the recommendations experts are giving us, and at the same time, trust that God is with us. He has always been with us, but maybe we have not allowed him to strengthen us, because we didn’t see all the pain and suffering in our communities like we are seeing now, or maybe we thought we could handle it on our own.
1. What have been the things that in our busy everyday routine have kept us from seeing God’s presence in our lives?
2. What have you been struggling with pre-pandemic that is now much more evident now?
3. What is a practice you could take on that helps you connect to God, especially in moments of uncertainty and pain? Is it prayer, music, doing something for others, sitting still for 10 mins a day, journaling?
How could they not know?
When Jesus, hanging from the cross, asks for the forgiveness of those who have betrayed him, I am truly confused by his plea that they do not know what they are doing. I mean, the same people who followed Jesus on the roads, asking for and receiving healing, became the ones who turned him over to the state. The same people, who sat in the green grass, eager to eat and learn in the community became the ones who called for his crucifixion. The same people who shouted “Hosanna”, stood by and listened to his horrific cries from the cross. How? How could they not know? Perhaps the people had forgotten, or maybe didn’t know, that their liberation was bound together with Jesus. Perhaps they didn’t realize that there is no sin without consequence.
What Jesus knew, and what his disciples also believed and displayed is that asking God to forgive their oppressors is not some act of piety, a way to show that we are, indeed, holy and good Christians. No, the example that Jesus gives us, in his pain and betrayal, is that forgiveness is just a step in the path towards fulfilling God’s promises. We see this clearly in the ministry of the disciples, where Peter, in Acts 3 says “I know you acted out of ignorance” when they handed over Jesus, making him a suffering Messiah, a tortured savior. He says “Repent, therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out”. He then boldly declares God’s promise that “times of refreshing” would “come from the presence of the Lord”, and points towards a “time of universal restoration that God announced long ago”. These are the promises of God!
What the disciples, and Jesus from the cross, show us is this; this naming and forgiving of sins, the call to repentance, and the reminder of God’s promises serve as a blueprint towards a better life and a better world. Stephen followed the blueprint, in Acts 7, who in his last breath prayed “Lord, do not hold this sin again them”. Seeking forgiveness for his murderers, he looked to the heavens and still tried to point people to Jesus. Paul followed this “forgiveness formula” in Acts 13 where says that it was the ignorance of the people; ignorant even though they had heard the scriptures, ignorant even though they knew the word, it was the ignorance of the people that they did not recognize Jesus The Christ. And because they did not know that they were crucifying their Messiah, they could not recall the promises made to their own ancestors,
that their Holy one would not experience corruption.
Today, our people still stand in ignorance. We too have forgotten, or maybe don’t know, that our liberation is bound together. There is still no sin without consequence. Like Jesus and the disciples and all Christ-followers called to the gospel, we must call out sin by name, asking God’s forgiveness, so that we can make the clarion call to repent! To turn away from societal sins, and through repentance, we can see God’s promises made real in our lives.
We must name and forgive the sin of refusing people healthcare so that we can repent and get to the business of creating health systems that welcome people and provide health treatment to all. We must name and forgive the sin of denying universal income so that we can repent and see a day where all of humanity is housed, clothed, fed, and enjoy the basic fundamentals of a life of dignity. We must name and forgive the sin of placing economic profit over the wellness of people so that we can repent and see the day where we no longer allow our vulnerable communities, our ailing family, our poor siblings to die off in order to salvage an unjust economy; saving the bottom line of corporations while casting away the very lives and bodies of our neighbors. We must name and forgive the sin of propping up predatory banking systems that right now threaten our homes and churches with a foreclosure so that we can repent towards an economy that creates stability and provision for all.
Forgive us, Father. We do not know what we are doing.
This pandemic is uncovering so much sin for us to forgive, but also, it is shedding light on how much promise there is for us if we choose to repent. Like the generations before us, we have a choice. We can forgive and forget, but God calls us to forgive and repent. Instead of offering or even receiving forgiveness, and then casting lots to see what more we can take from the most vulnerable in this world, let us repent so that we can finally see the Time of Refreshing, a “time of Universal Restoration that God announced long ago”.
Offer healing words, resources, and support.
To be prepared means to make ready. Preparation is important because it helps you put measures in place before starting. The future will remain bright when it’s well equipped, prepared, and led.
1) How do you envision 2021?
2) What are we doing now to get there?