Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Luke 22:20 repentance, forgiveness, sacrament, reconciliation, friendship, atonement

I was thinking today about the process of repentance, which generally consists of coming to understand that there's a better way and learning to love that better way and wanting to live that better way, and loving the author of that better way.  And I was thinking about how discouraging it can feel when you are at the point where you understand the better way and appreciate that better way and are struggling through the process of coming to want to live it more than you want to give in to the allure of the alternative, which also has its attractions.

There's that long part of struggle as your better self seeks to override your indulgent self.  The battle swings back and forth and you are unhappy with your setbacks that inevitably come as that struggle continues. It's easy at that point to feel like a hypocrite approaching God, knowing what you know about your heart's struggles between the earthly and the heavenly.  And it's tempting to fear approaching Him honestly about your mistakes.  I find that at such times I unrealistically hope in my heart of hearts that He has been too busy to notice them, and my  disgust with how long the battle's been going on inclines me to feel like He must be disgusted too.

But the news of the gospel is that God is totally approachable and that admission of failure by a child who honestly wishes she had done better and is willing to keep trying to do so, is welcomed with love.

"This cup is the new covenant made at the price of my blood, which is shed for you."

A covenant is a sacred promise between God and me.  He never breaks his promises.  I, being human, in spite of my efforts, break that new covenant that I made at baptism, consistently, with sin.  And usually it's with a sin that I've committed many times before, in spite of my desires to abandon it.

In Old Testament times the sacrificial traditions were meant to mend that break between God and his children, offering sacrifices to atone for the sins of those offerers, making them feel worthy again to approach God and be welcomed.   God was to be revered, honored and feared, and reviewing one's status with God in the times between sacrifices when the sins would accumulate before expiation had been given was sobering to a God-fearing individual. .

But Jesus' sacrifice was one, over-arching, universal one which "wrought out [the] perfect (complete) atonement through the shedding of his blood" (Doc & Cov 76:69).  And in the verse in Luke he explains that his life and his death is a new sacrifice which signals a new covenant between God and man.

 "'By my life and my death [He says] I have made possible a new relationship [covenant] between you and God.  You are sinners. It is true.  But because I died for you God is no longer your enemy, but your friend.'  ~William Barclay

As I struggle with my own recurring sins I need to move out of the Old Testament way of thinking (okay, once I get these sins better taken care of then I'll feel better about discussing my sins with God) to a New Testament way of thinking (okay, I'm still working on these sins, but my desire and my covenant is to ally myself with Jesus who's atoning sacrifice can be brought to bear in my life now, making God much less scary to approach).

When I approach God on my own my predominant feelings are a sense of failure and a wish that my sins could be unmentioned. Approaching God wrapped in the covering, love-soaked, atoning cloak of a Savior I've covenanted to follow who is God's beloved Son and who pleads the cause of those who seek to do and be good (Doc & Cov 38: 4) is an opportunity to realize that I can be received with compassion by a Father who not only sees all my sins that I struggle with, but also desires, above all, to assist my further alliance with his Son.

I still feel badly about my sins, either way.  Neither path will allow me to ignore them.  And both require that I continue the struggle.  But the latter path is the one Jesus offers us.

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