No forgiveness, no future

Forgiveness is never easy. It’s a process and can take a long time. I hope I’m not the only one who, thinking I’ve forgiven someone magnanimously, wakes up in the night a couple of days later, seething with resentment. Forgiveness is hard work, and yet it is the cement of community life. Jesus, who shows us the heart of our gracious and compassionate God, calls us to be a forgiving people. Forgiveness is part of the nature of God – and Jesus shows it:  for him it was  a crucifying experience, and for many of us it may feel like it. Without forgiveness there is little hope of transformation and new life, yet I know from painful experience how easy it is to get stuck in the pit of resentment. Nelson Mandela puts it succinctly, ‘Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.’

In the Scargill Community we learn about the liberating and humbling nature of forgiveness. There’s nothing more humbling than being forgiven when my weaknessess and failings are brought into the light of this grace. Community would become a very narrow place if there was no forgiveness. Our rule of life speaks of keeping our relationships open, honest and loving; a tough call, yet liberating.

Professor Jonathan Sacks, once the Chief Rabbi, says we need forgiveness as it ‘helps us sustain relationships, build marriages that last, stay close to our children and faithful to our friends. We say things that hurt and do things that harm. So do others to us. The mere fact that we can apologise and be forgiven is one of the blessed gifts of humanity, and it isn’t simple at all. It is underwritten by a certain view of the universe, the belief that God forgives’.

This last week we have been confronted with atrocities in the US, unresolved and (understandable) resentments over Mrs Thatcher’s life and death, and the ongoing relational struggles that go on in our churches and communities. A lot to process, a lot to struggle with – with God, ourselves and others as we dare to climb the ladder of forgiveness, even if we’ve only reached the first rung.

Forgiveness is not an optional extra, it is a process that brings healing to communities and ultimately to ourselves. If we want a future, then an attitude of forgiveness will be working its way into our hearts.

Loving Jesus give us your mercy and grace!


a one to one with Jesus

This week I’ve been reflecting on Thomas, that well known doubter of the New Testament. I actually have great empathy with Thomas, and I often wonder where he was when Jesus first appeared to the fearful disciples in the Upper Room. Perhaps he was the only one who had the courage to go out to that 1st century Co-Op to buy provisions. It can be really irritating when I meet people who speak with such enthusiasm about an incident or event that I should have been at and somehow, for one reason or another, I missed. I can imagine that Thomas was thinking that the risen Jesus, who had conquered death, could have managed to arrange to turn up when he was in the room.

Thomas’ response, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe,’ is the response of a person who is both frustrated and feeling rejected. “What’s the matter with me?” could be a fair description of how Thomas was feeling. “Have I not been just as loyal, if not more so, than my fellow disciples? So why I did I miss out?” He had missed out on the this life-changing encounter, and the shiny eyes and smiles of his fellow disciples would do very little to comfort the distraught Thomas.

He had to wait a whole week before Jesus came amongst them again, and this time Thomas was there. He was offered the most remarkable, life giving, transformative encounter: the invitation to put his hands in the wounds of the risen Lord. The wounds of love that had changed the world, that had showed us the depths of God’s love: Thomas was invited to put his fingers in them. Now that is a bit of a ‘Wow’!

Yes, Thomas was a bit of a doubter, as John’s account portrays. But Thomas’ encounter with Jesus gives hope to all of us who feel that we’ve missed out, that we’re in some way rejected, that God has passed us by, that we were “out of the room”. For the risen Jesus truly wants to have a ‘one-to-one’ with us.

Perhaps Bruce Cockburn’s words in his wonderful song “Somebody touched me”, can be our prayer this week – great song, great lyrics. Thomas was surprised that he had a one-to-one with Jesus: may we also be surprised by the risen Christ this week.

Somebody touched me
Making everything new
Somebody touched me
I didn’t know what to do
Burned through my life
Like a bolt from the blue
Somebody touched me
I know it was you

And on another note, I am sure that I’ll be out of the room if and when my team Spurs score a winning goal…