Ambassadors of Reconciliation

Ambassadors of Reconciliation

The apostle Paul tells us that we are ambassadors of God's reconciliation, following in the work to which Jesus was committed.

2Cor. 5:16   From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way.  17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!  18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation;  19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.  20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

I have noticed an unlovely habit in myself of late.  I too easily and too frequently find myself paying attention to the things I do not like in others.  This habit, of course, is not unique to the days of pandemic -- but I have noticed it more in the last month or so.  I suspect that this bad habit of mine is not unique to your pastor either, and that many of us struggle to restrict whatever critical thoughts we have to be about our own behavior.  Paul's letter to the church in Corinth offers a significant clue.  We are to stop looking at others from our point of view, and begin looking at them from God's point of view.  That is, to remember that, like us, they are first and foremost a child of God who is deeply loved by God.  Paul then goes (as we say in the South) "from preaching' to meddling'!"  He points out that God was "not counting our trespasses" against us, but was committed to a message of reconciliation.  If we let the bad habit of self-righteousness and self-justification lead us to endless unhappiness with others who we perceive to be flawed in some way . . . it inevitably leads to division and hostility, and misunderstanding, and ultimately to violence in one form or another.

Today's poem is Walt Whitman's "Reconciliation."  Whitman was profoundly affected by the Civil War, writing "Beat Beat Drums!" in response to the call to arms in the North.  He walked the battlefields of the war - still strewn with the corpses and amputated limbs of the fallen -- and was deeply changed.  After "Leaves of Grass" (first published in 1855), his most profound poetry often connected to the war and, later, to the death of President Lincoln.  He kept editing and adding to "Leaves of Grass" and the 1867 edition included "Reconciliation."

The poem is beautiful and I love the order of the lines.  Whitman begins with the hopeful "conclusion" in the first four lines that  war and all its deeds of carnage must in time be utterly lost, that the hands of the sisters, death and night, incessantly, softly, wash again and ever again -- this soiled world.  Then he turns to the appalling scene which has prompted the reflection, "a man as divine as myself is dead..."  This simple and short poem gives you a picture which is indelible and powerful.  The "enemy" is discovered to be someone who in every significant way is just like him.  So, it is time (though too late) to offer instead of hostility -- a kiss.
By poet -- Walt Whitman.  1867

Word over all, beautiful as the sky!
Beautiful that war, and all its deeds of carnage, must in time be utterly lost;
That the hands of the sisters Death and Night, incessantly softly
wash again, and ever again, this soil’d world:
... For my enemy is dead--a man divine as myself is dead;
I look where he lies, white-faced and still, in the coffin--I draw near;
I bend down, and touch lightly with my lips the white face in the coffin.
Prayer -- Lord of reconciliation, lead us today in our own path of reconciling not only to you but to one another.  Help us to follow the apostle's advice and no longer view others from a human point of view.  In Jesus' name.  Amen.

Paul Lang