Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Glory of the Lord

... the whole congregation drew near and stood before the Lord.  And Moses said, "This is the thing that the Lord commanded you to do, so that the glory of the Lord may appear to you."  Then Moses said to Aaron, "Draw near to the altar and sacrifice your sin offering, and make atonement for yourself and for the people; and sacrifice the offering of the people, and make atonement for them; as the Lord commanded."   -- Lev. 9:5b-7

I was thinking earlier today about God's grace.  Grace to me is undeserved forgiveness:  forgiveness, even though we have sinned.    Sin distances us from God.  Whether we recognize this or not, we feel its effects.  When we return to God, even in the silence of our hearts, God, who knows our hearts, embraces us with his love and forgiveness.  God forgives even the worst sinner.

Recently, I learned the stories of two people who were affected by undeserved forgiveness.  Mitch Albom tells the story of Henry Covington in his book "have a little faith: a true story."  Henry Covington had a difficult life from the beginning.  Then as an adolescent, he began to make one bad choice after another -- from bad to worse, actually.  He himself said that he broke every one of the Ten Commandments.  When he reached his very lowest point, he begged for God to help him change his life.  God did.  And then, Henry Covington devoted the rest of his life to helping other people like himself turn their lives around.  The sacrifices he made to offer his neighbors a helping hand are astounding.

From a very unexpected source, television's "Undercover Boss," came the story of the Chief Development Officer of Subway, Don Feltman.  He came to Subway from the music industry.  His habitual drinking as a musician wasn't compatible with the cooperate world so he hid it as well as he could.  Until one day, when he had an "on the job meltdown" and collapsed.  After rehab, Fred deLuca, the CEO of Subway, gave him a second chance.  One can hear in Don's voice, as he tells his story, the depth of his gratitude.  In this show, he in turn looks behind the rough exteriors of some of the employees he meets, finds out their stories, and lends them a helping hand.

If you can take away all the specific ancient rites of sacrifice, the message in Leviticus resounds with meaning still today.  That message is:  Repentance brings into view the glory of the Lord.  God knows when we are truly repentant, we don't even have to say the words aloud.  God forgives.  And this forgiveness, totally undeserved as we know it to be, fills us with gratitude and the desire to change our lives.  We in turn are asked to reciprocate, to forgive others as God has forgiven us.  In this way, God's glory will abound.

Mark W. Thompsen writes beautifully of this forgiveness in "Jesus, the Word, and the Way of the Cross."  "Only love that is willing to share human suffering and bear with human faithlessness and rebellion is capable of sharing transforming grace and forgiveness with us.  Only Divine vulnerable love which does not crush our resistance but persuasively draws us out of brokenness and overwhelms us with grace and forgiveness is capable of transforming our lives.  Compassion, grace, forgiveness and trust emerge from an encounter with compassion, grace, forgiveness, and trust." (pg. 129) 

I believe that it is when we experience forgiveness, unexpectedly and undeservedly, that "the glory of the Lord appears" in full force.  I'm sure that anyone who has experienced this would agree.

Dear God, your grace overwhelms me, fills me with light and wonder, and moves me to share it with others.  In this, I believe, thy will is done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.  Love always, Pam

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