Saturday, August 1, 2015

Resetting the Clock: Reflections on Sin and Reconciliation (Pentecost 10, RCL Proper 18B, 2 August 2015)

RCL Proper 18B
2 August 2015

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church
Vancouver BC

         For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed science fiction.  I know that it is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I am intrigued by the imaginative ways that authors attempt to construct the future and how technology is a two-edged sword.  I admit that my first mobile telephones were Motorola flip-phones because they resembled the communicators used in the Star Trek television series and films!
         One of the recurrent themes in science fiction is time travel.  In the popular BBC science fiction series Dr. Who, the lead character is a ‘Time Lord’ who navigates forwards and backwards through the centuries and the millennia with the same ease as a power boat on a river.  Several episodes in the various Star Trek series involve going back in time in order to save the present.
         When these writers explore the mystery of time, they often put before their characters the classic dilemma:  If you change an event in the past, do you change the future?  The classic idea is that if you or I were to travel back into the past and changed an event that shaped our future, we would cease to exist in that moment.  In other words, what we do matters, not only in the present but also as part of shaping the future of all humanity.
         Believe it or not, but today’s conclusion to the tragedy of David, Bathsheba and Uriah is an exploration of time and the role that human beings play in the creation of the future.  David has united the northern and the southern tribes into a unified nation.  He has healed some of the wounds caused by the failure of Saul’s kingship.  He has established a new religious and civil centre in Jerusalem.  Then comes a fateful day when he sees Bathsheba bathing on her roof and he makes a choice with fearful consequences.
         David chooses to yield to greed and lust.  He is powerful and he uses his power to take Bathsheba and, when she becomes pregnant, he arranged Uriah’s death with the complicity of his general.  In so many ways David, the beloved of God, the favoured son, the friend of Jonathan, falls mightily into sin.  And his choice has consequences for the future.
         What Nathan says to David is this:  ‘There was a particular future for you and for the people of Israel had you remained faithful and obeyed God’s laws.  But you did not obey.  Your child with Bathsheba will die.  Your sons will rise up in revolt against you.  Your kingdom shall be shattered.  This was not God’s plan for you, but it is the future that you have just created.  God has forgiven you, but this future will come to pass.’
         Sometimes people think that forgiveness means forgetting the past and pretending it never happened.  This is a false and inadequate understanding of forgiveness.  Sin has consequences.  It alters the future that might have been had one not sinned.  Forgiveness, the process of reconciliation, means being willing to work towards a different future.  It is a process that is tinged with regret and sometimes with a longing for what might have been.  Those who have been wronged must be willing to be reconciled.  Those who have wronged others must be willing to acknowledge their fault and pledge change.
         Reconciliation takes place in many dimensions of our lives.  We are all familiar with our church’s commitment to reconciliation with First Nations.  It began with Archbishop Peers’ public apology and continues to this day.  We have established new jurisdictions where aboriginal bishops are leading First Nations into new expressions of Anglican life.  In the north we are committed to supporting First Nations in their efforts to participate as full partners in the development of their lands.
         But we need to remember that the future we are presently working towards is not the future that might have been.  Had the first European settlers and their descendants treated their aboriginal neighbours with respect and defended their rights as much as we defended our privileges, what would Canada be today?
         In our lives we know friends and family members who hold onto the wrongs that have been done or who refuse to acknowledge the wrong that they have done.  They cannot see how the future has been changed by their actions.  They are now swept by the currents of time that contribute to alienation and further hurt rather than take oars into their hands and navigate the currents towards safer waters.
         When Nathan confronted David with his sin, David had the grace and the courage to acknowledge his guilt and repent.  His repentance was a step towards forgiveness, but it did not erase the consequences his sin had unleashed.  But it did mean that there was the possibility of a different future, one in which God still was at work in David’s life and among the people of Israel.
         What you and I do today affects the future.  Our efforts to be faithful to our baptismal covenant can contribute to shaping a future in which every person, whether Christian or not, can grow into the full maturity of Christ.  Just like the time travellers of science fiction, we can influence the currents of time so that justice, dignity and peace become the qualities of the future of our neighbourhoods, our country and, we hope, our world.  We can reset the clock of history so that it measures the journey to the future as intended by the Holy One rather than distorted by human sin. 
         We do not need a star ship like the Enterprise or a blue call box like Dr Who’s to go to this ‘unexplored country’ of the future.  All we need is our faith in God’s love for us, our willingness when we fall into sin to repent and return to the Lord and our commitment to choose wisely by keeping the kingdom’s goals before us.  But the adventure is before us.


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