A person tends to forget a lot of things that happened when you were four, but to this day I remember vividly the excruciating journey down the block to the home of my neighbor, Jessie Hancock.
Earlier in the day I managed to pick almost ALL of the beautiful flowers blooming in front of her house. It’s nice to consider the relative innocence of a four year old. Whether I really understood what I was doing is anyone’s guess. What I know for sure is that my mother’s reaction to being presented with a bouquet of flowers was not at all what I would have suspected – a gasp, a phone call, followed by a journey three doors down with my hand in hers. Amid relative innocence I knew for sure that the world was suddenly amiss and that I was definitely complicit.
It’s the first memory I have of sin which had passed out of the realm of adorable infancy and into the realm of serious business. Jessie Hancock was not pleased with what had transpired. That was apparent. At the same time, I remember my shame being met, not with need for revenge or restitution, but with exceeding compassion. I remember also that after the confessions were made, after the solemn promise “never to do that again” was uttered, Jessie Hancock offered me a gift to give to my mother – a bouquet of flowers, cut from whatever was left of her garden.
It’s a funny thing. Since that time so much has changed. I realize now I was dealing with only the tip of the iceberg in terms of human sinfulness. I have seen a world which cannot always claim youthful ignorance as the root of the problem. Self-centeredness, pride, prejudice, sometimes even outright hatred have seriously complicated the issue. What has remained clear are two things- the POWER OF FORGIVENESS and the INVITATION TO BEGIN AGAIN.
Holy Week offers us the opportunity to experience those things all over again. In the trial, the death, the sacrifice of Jesus on a cross, we stand perhaps in shame, perhaps in awe, perhaps in wondering amazement as did the Centurion, beholding the depth and breadth of God’s forgiving love in the face of human sin. Of course all of that prepares us for the amazing news of Resurrection, the amazing invitation to to follow the risen Christ, to find for our own selves a new beginning.
I pray that these days be all of that for you, a time of being amazed by God’s love, a time of beginning to live as never before. I pray that they will be gifts to be treasured for a lifetime.