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Repentance, Forgiveness, and Grace: A Lenten Journey

                           Picture, if you will, me.  I am walking on East 51st Street an hour ago and I decide

                           to construct and develop a really decorative, general-all purpose apology.  Not complicated.

                           just the words, “I am sorry,” said with a little style.

                           Sorry for what?

Anything.  For being late, early, stupid, asleep, silly, alive.  Well, y’know when you’re

walking down the street talking to yourself how sometimes you say a coupla words out

loud?  So I said, “I’m sorry,” and this fella, complete stranger, he looks up a second

and says, “That’s alright Mac,” and goes right on.  He automatically forgave me.  I

communicated…

So I decided to test the whole thing out scientifically; I stayed right there on the corner of

51st and Lex for a while just saying “I’m sorry” to everybody that went by.  “Oh, I’m so

sorry, sir”…”I’m terribly sorry, madam”…”Say there miss, I’m sorry.”  Of course some

people just gave me a funny look, but Sandy, I swear, seventy-five percent of them forgave

me.  “Forget it, buddy”…”That’s ok, really.”  Two ladies forgave me in unison, one fella

forgave me from a passing car. And a guy forgave me for his dog.  “Poofer forgives the nice man,

don’t you, Poofer?”  Oh Sandy, it was fabulous.  I had tapped some vast reservoir.  Something

had happened in all of them for which they felt somebody should apologize.  If you went

up to people on the street and offered them money, they’d refuse it.  But everybody accepts

apology immediately.  It is the most negotiable currency.  I said to them, “I am sorry.”

And they were so generous, so kind…

Sandy I could run up on the roof right now and holler, “I am sorry,” and half a million

people would holler right back, “That’s ok, just see that you don’t do it again.”

–A Thousand Clowns, Herb Gardner, 1961

If repentance…the turning away from sin and back toward God…the turning away from hurts inflicted upon others, hurts suffered at the hands of others and back toward one another in community…lies at the heart of the Lenten journey, then the experience of forgiveness lies in the same place.  Apology offered, apology received…forgiveness received, forgiveness offered is regularly part of the warp and woof that makes up loving and faithful relationship with one another.  As Herb Gardner put it in the excerpt above, it is the most negotiable currency.

Forgiveness given and received is part of the gentle balm that soothes hurts, both large and small, in a church community as well.  As we move through this time together, let us reflect on the ways we need to repent…to forgive and be forgiven.  Then we will begin to understand the true meaning of grace.

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