Psalm 97, 99, 100; 2 Chron. 29:1-3,30:1-27; 1 Cor. 7:32-40; Matt. 7:1-12
If I could live up to Matthew 7, I’d be a better man and a better priest. No doubt about it. So much in these twelve verse: we could spend a lifetime exploring the wisdom, and the immense challenge, of them. And I’ll fail these verses 29 times before lunch, on a day when I’ve at my spiritual peak. Which is why I need your forgiveness, friends. Each and every one of you reading this: some of you I’ve let down in very specific ways, ways you can name (and sometimes, ways I too can name). Such painful truths, we can talk about over coffee later and face to face, if you wish.
Maybe most of you, I’ve sinned against in vaguer ways: perhaps I didn’t live the Gospel loudly enough, or phrase things in a way clear enough to prepare you for the day that lay ahead after you were done reading my daily ramblings. Perhaps I was too busy (or you thought I was because I’d somehow sent the “I’m too busy” message) for you to reach out to me when you needed me. Maybe I’d sent the message that it was I and only I who could help you out, and I really was unreachable, and so you didn’t reach out to someone else whom God had put there in your life specifically for that moment. Maybe I just didn’t talk to you in language that reached your soul, having failed to be Jew to Jew, Greek to Greek, strong to strong, weak to weak, all things to all persons that I might in all cases save some, as I Corinthians 9 could be paraphrased–maybe Steve Wilson got in the way of the Christ within me, and so failed to reach out to the Christ within you. If so, my apologies now.
I guess what I’m saying here is that I wish I could tell you I’ve always attended to my log before your speck, that I’ve always measured you with the same cup I use on myself, that I’ve always done unto you as I’d have you do unto me, that I’ve always given you what you ask for when it’s what you need. But I haven’t. On the whole, I’m a better man with the Gospel in my life than I’d have been without it, but I’m far from perfect, deeply flawed, absolutely a sinner in need of God’s forgiveness and yours. Which is the good news, isn’t it? That even though I–and you!–aren’t all that and a bag of chips, God yet chooses to work within us, to extend His grace to a broken world through us, and moment by moment to reveal His love to our ‘not yet all that and a bag of chips either’ neighbors. God doesn’t need you, or me, or us as a species or a parish, to be perfect: He works with us as we are because the very working-with is how He brings us ever closer to the perfection we long for in one another. Your forgiveness of me, my forgiveness of you: it’s how God’s forgiveness of a broken and cruel and stupid world reveals itself inch by inch, second by second. It’s not whether we understand Matthew 7 that matters: it’s whether Matthew 7 is unfolding in our broken souls more today than it did yesterday.