The story of the Jewish people is full of events of hope : confidence that God will act on their behalf. When the people returned to Jerusalem following their exile after more than 100 years they saw that God was happy. God says through the prophet Isaaih, "See, I am doing something new."
How wonderful that after 100 years of hoping they will return home to Jerusalem. God acts on their behalf through a non-Jewish king and back to Jerusalem they go. We have an inheritance here through this belief in a happy God who enjoys fulfilling the dreams and hopes of the people even from what seemed such trying, even hopeless, circumstances.
When Jean and I married and created a few difficulties for our family : it has to do with that "Catholic priests don't marry" thing - we received a tremendous gift from my sister. Shortly after we married we received a package from her that contained a simple drawing. It is of an old tree stump with a single, fresh green leaf growing from out of the side of the stump. Below this drawing is the verse, "Behold, I make all things new." There are good reasons why we love my sister.
We began our Service this morning with reconciliation : forgiving each other and asking God's forgiveness as we prepare for the coming Easter celebration in a few weeks. When we celebrate this God who makes all things new we must ask, "Who is this God who is so generous?" The same Jewish people to this day begin each prayer time with the assuring phrase from Deuteronomy 6: "Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone!" This is the prayer, "Shema," and it reminds us that only God is the absolute One in our lives.
We need an entire season of Lent not so much to face our individual faults and need for wholeness in our God relationship. We rather need an entire season because it takes time to dig deeply into our understanding that only God is absolute. Those who pray to Allah pray also to this one God. And those who would be separated from us pray also to our one God. And yet, we are to have hope. We also are to make all things new.
We are a community of hope when we struggle with how to make peace and reconciliation through disagreements not only among ourselves but among all humanity throughout our world. This is so difficult and so challenging, but only God is the absolute one : so we hear, so we say.
We are a community of hope and make something new when we have Rev. Kathy preside at our Eucharist. She is newly ordained and called to serve. And what young woman in our community doesn't see that God can make that happen also to her?
We are a community of hope and make something new in our celebration of resurrection. To rise from death happens regularly in our lives when we are open to see it. And we see it better when it comes from our own resolve to welcome the one God into our life.
So, let's finish this season with the words of Jesus ringing in our ears. Let these words become our resolve to act as Jesus did on behalf of the woman who was made into a spectacle to satisfy narrowminded and unforgiving people. Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. You may go now, but from now on avoid this sin."
This is our challenge. We are to forgive because forgiving is not so much a great thing we do as it is a sign of the One God guiding us. And after we have forgiven remember that the work has just begun. After all, who among us believes if the woman was brought before Jesus again, that he would not forgive her again?