Forgiveness: The Gift of Pentecost
(Posted May 26 2023)
By Rev. Pat Kriss
“Go to church to learn about forgiveness; come back to become a forgiver! Go to church and learn about kindness; come back to become a kind person! If things go like that, you will be a true image of Christ after going to church only 10 times on 10 Sundays!” -- Israelmore Ayivor
Oh… if it were only that simple as the quote above.
This Sunday is not only Pentecost Sunday – the official “birthday” of the church. It’s also part of Memorial Day weekend. Jesus himself tells us in the Gospel for the day that he has bestowed on all of us, his followers, the ability to forgive sins, or to “retain them.”
I think we tend to forget about this gift of the Spirit because, frankly, we don’t want the responsibility. Do we forgive or not? It seems easier to leave the forgiving up to God than to live up to the role of the forgiver.
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The Road to Forgiveness
You see, Jesus not only told us that forgiveness is imperative if we wish to be forgiven ourselves. He also said that forgiveness is inextricably paired with OUR obligation for justice-seeking. That means it’s not enough to absolve people of their wrongdoings. We must ALSO see to it that the one who sins makes the person who was victimized whole in some way. By now we all understand too well that “thoughts and prayers” are not enough to undo the carnage that guns have wrought when in the hands of the mentally ill. We must also seek to end the suffering that human violence creates day after day after day.
The Gift of Pentecost and Memorial Day
Which brings me to the connection between the Gift of Pentecost and Memorial Day. It’s been argued for a very long time how and where Memorial Day came to be in the post-Civil War era. At least four Southern states have claimed that it was the women of their locale that started the tradition. But, really, what matters is the core of the story.
It was Southern springtime a few years after the end of the war when a group of women went with flowers and wreaths to place on the graves of their Confederate sons, slain in combat. When they were done and about to leave the cemetery, they looked over at the unadorned graves of the Union soldiers also interred there, who never made it home, back up north. In one accord, the women walked over to that area of the burying ground, and also laid flowers on those Yankee sons’ final resting place.
The sin, I think it goes without saying, was the sin of wartime violence. But the story is not only one of forgiveness. It is the story of justice. The flowers on the other soldiers’ graves was not justice in itself. It was the walk that these women took to the gravesites that acknowledged that all our sons and daughters are one, all children in the same family, to be loved and respected equally.
This Sunday come with your “Jelly Jars” from Lent of your own change, and we will combine them to help victims in Ukraine and for the survivors of the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria.