Unfolding God’s Covenant Within Us

December 8, 2019

There is a difference between becoming unraveled and experiencing the unfolding of God’s love that surrounds us and is within us.  In the Gospel this week we are invited to embrace the need to repent.  We are invited to experience the unfolding of God’s healing when we are forgiven.  So often lives become unraveled in a moment, things are said, rightly or wrongly, things are heard rightly or wrongly and what becomes unraveled is the relationship itself.  That happens with our relationship with God when we sin.

John the Baptist shouts to all who would hear to repent.  He offered a water ritual for cleansing and for establishing a new commitment.  So often in our lives the relationships we have, the communication on a daily basis can easily become unraveled.  Recently I had an interchange with a good friend.  I have known him for over twenty years.  We had gathered and as we were discussing a certain issue, our differences of opinion about the issue were extreme.  Neither of us would budge.  We left it, but there was a lot unfinished and no peace was to be had.  A few weeks later I heard through our mutual friend that there had been a medical issue with his child. During this crisis, he never sought me out, he never asked me for prayers.  The relationship obviously had unraveled.  I offered prayers and left a voice message, but a text came back saying there was a lot said at our last conversation, and some residual feelings.  I apologized for our differences and offered my support.  Then I began, as most of us would, to re-analyze what took place on that night and at that conversation.  While I will always feel I was right and he never will, it was more about the intensity.  I probably put him in a position where he felt unheard and disrespected.  Twenty years of connection unraveled in 15 minutes.  I doubt it will ever be the same between us or maybe the friendship may never have been what I thought it was.  Even justifying myself that way, I am not working on the unfolding of forgiveness.

People went out to the desert to see John.  They went to the shore of the River Jordan.  They traveled and as they went, what they wanted to see, or what they wanted to experience became clearer because they were heading in that direction to see and hear and experience something.  Forgiveness is a powerful experience that is life changing.  To get there one must travel within oneself.  I have had a lot of time to think about my twenty year relationship and I have come to see a part of myself that would not let an issue go no matter what, out of righteousness, out of pride, out of preservation of what should be seen as right by everyone.  I have to make that inner journey to let go of the need to be right and move to a place of reflection about how things were communicated and how I made my friend feel.  To do this I have to unfold the possibility that underlying issues might have prompted the intensity of my fight.  Does it come from a place of jealousy?  A place of privilege?  A place of power?   Something caused me to lose sight of compassion.  That is the unraveling.

We are called to repent, we are called to go the extra mile, we are called to unfold the great gift of forgiveness.  God’s covenant, the new and eternal covenant, will begin and end with Jesus.  He is the living covenant who dies for our sins.  When we unfold the layers of love, the commitment of Jesus to carry the cross, our present skirmishes are nothing compared to the reality of God’s love.  Unfolding the compassion and mercy so freely given to us takes a journey, just like those traveling to the desert.  With every step more realization happens.  The One who comes after John, the One who is mightier and will Baptize with fire, is the one who will share with us ultimate forgiveness.  Follow Him.

When the unraveling of relationship happens, the unfolding of God reminds us it will never happen with Him who saved us.

Reverend  John J. Ouper