Carstairs-Bancroft United Church
May 8, 2020
DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC
By Rev. Maria Szabo Berces
Source: Jane Sturgeon, World Press
Beloved Carstairs Bancroft United Church Members,
On this Friday – five weeks after Good Friday – I am sharing an “Our Daily Bread” message with you that I found very disturbing and moving at the same time.
The pain and suffering about which this reflection talks is dreadful beyond imagination, and in a different way than the affliction of our time. Death and losses caused by other human beings can’t be cured or avoided by any vaccine. We can see the extent of the damage what sin – that our yesterday’s reflection touched on – is able to cause.
Therefore, the prayer found on the scene is even more astounding. It’s not surprising that the writer compares this voiced grace to Christ’s. It really sounds impossible.
But isn’t it what we are all called to grow into if we want to follow Jesus? Although it sounds – and it truly is – unachievable by ourselves, in Christ and with Christ we may get closer to this aim. As Jesus told his disciples: “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit …” (John 15:4-5)
In our world of suffering, pain and losses – caused either by humans or a virus – forgiveness can be a precious and valued fruit of our faith. We need to be more gracious and forgiving with others, and also with ourselves.
How can we bring forth this fruit? I believe it is possible by asking the Source of Love that we may taste the unconditional forgiveness granted to us in Christ’s cross. As a result, we will be gifted to share this forgiveness with others. This can make us able to pray like that woman did. And this enables us to live – or die – during challenging times with grace and peace in our hearts.
Grace and Peace to You All,
Father, forgive them.
READ LUKE 23:32–43
Liberators found the following prayer crumpled among the remains of the Ravensbruck concentration camp where Nazis exterminated nearly 50,000 women: O Lord, remember not only the men and women of goodwill, but also those of ill will. But do not remember the suffering they have inflicted upon us. Remember the fruits we brought thanks to this suffering—our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, the courage, the generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out of this. And when they come to judgment, let all the fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness.
I can’t imagine the fear and pain inflicted on the terrorized woman who wrote this prayer. I can’t imagine what kind of inexplicable grace these words required of her. She did the unthinkable: she sought God’s forgiveness for her oppressors.
This prayer echoes Christ’s prayer. After being wrongly accused, mocked, beaten, and humiliated before the people, Jesus was “crucified . . . along with [two] criminals” (Luke 23:33). Hanging, with mutilated body and gasping for breath, from a rough-hewn cross, I would expect Jesus to pronounce judgment on His tormentors, to seek retribution or divine justice. However, Jesus uttered a prayer contradicting every human impulse: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (v. 34).
The forgiveness Jesus offers seems impossible, but He offers it to us. In His divine grace, impossible forgiveness spills free. – By Winn Collier
REFLECT & PRAY
God, Your forgiveness is a strange, impossible thing. In our pain, it’s hard to imagine this possibility. Help us. Teach us Your love. Amen.
How has God’s impossible forgiveness changed you? How can we help others experience true forgiveness in Him?
In Psalm 22:17-18, crucifixion was prophetically described some 600 years before it was invented: “All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.”
In the first century, the common attire for a Jewish man included five pieces of clothing—shoes, turban, belt, loincloth, and outer tunic. The soldiers stripped Jesus naked and after crucifying Him divided His garments as their spoils for performing the task. Then they gambled for the tunic (John 19:23-24). – By Bill Crowder
Used with permission