Summary: Reconciliation doesn’t come easy. It didn’t come easy for Jesus who died to reconcile us to God.
“Peace Through the Cross”-Sermon for CATM October 29, 2006
He was imprisoned in 1964 for fighting against injustice and racism. He was released 1990 because foreign governments pressured an evil regime to reform with severe economic sanctions.
He was a hero, a pace-setter. He was voted president of the country that had unjustly imprisoned him for 25 years. He had enough moral authority to do whatever he wanted.
He could have turned the majority of the nation against their former oppressors with a snap of his fingers.
He could have achieved vengeance and retaliation on a scale rarely seen in history. And few would have criticized him. All would have understood. We’ve seen it before.
Instead, he established this: Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
A kilometer or so from where you are sitting there is a school named after him. I’m talking, of course, about Nelson Mandela. Wherever he goes in the world he is recognized as a great man, a brave man, a forgiving man. One of the greatest men of your or my lifetime.
But it’s this word: Reconciliation, that he brought into the modern vocabulary. What does it mean?
To reconcile means to bring into agreement or harmony, make compatible. It’s a loaded word because it’s easy to say it...Can we all say the word: Reconcile?
It’s easy to say but it’s really, really tough to do. Why? Because the word itself suggests that there is disagreement, disunity.
There may have once been unity and harmony, but it has been lost. There was once peace, but peace has been lost. Relationship has been lost; it’s been replaced...by hostility
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa was set up to investigate crimes committed and violence and human rights abuses that occurred under Apartheid, that country’s policy of official racial discrimination and to restore the dignity of victims and to make recommendations on rehabilitation and healing of survivors, their families and communities at large.
A huge part of the process was creating a process whereby the doers of evil, the perpetrators of oppression and abuse, received amnesty, an official pardon during which the abusers were forgiven their crimes.
The end goal, like I said, was peace. The Truth and Reconciliation Committee is no more. It has completed it’s work in South Africa.
Reconciliation is why South Africa did not descend into civil war or genocide.
Now, our key scripture today identifies another problem in the world. To put it simply, God’s creation...us...was in a place of broken relationship with God, our creator. The reasons were, at least on the surface, not too hard to understand.
God made us to live in a love relationship with Himself, a relationship of mutual love and caring. A relationship where our well-being was tied into recognizing the facts of who God is and who we are. That is, quite simply, that we are human and God is God.
But humankind chose to assert itself as though it were like God. The serpent said: “...You will be like God, knowing both good and evil,” if you do this thing that God specifically forbade them to do.
And the man and the woman were convinced that this would be a good thing, and so they disobeyed. They entered a distortion of their relationship with God. They believed a lie. This distortion led to their banishment from God’s presence.
And shortly after that the fruit of this lie became clear. Murder entered the world. And all kinds of sin and selfishness and wickedness.
And God, who is holy and righteous and pure, was grieved because the choices of men and women were continually evil. There was separation, disagreement, disunity. Harmony had been lost. Relationship has been lost; it’s been replaced...by hostility.
Each of here today knows what this feels like. We know how it feels to be really far away from God. We know what if feels like to be empty. We know the sting of guilt. We know that terrible sense of God’s absence. The reason we know this is because all of us sin. And sin, like it did for the first man and first woman, separates us from God. That’s the bad news.
But our scripture passage today leads us to and through the good news. It tells us that God made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.
What does it mean to have peace with God? I’ve heard people say that if Jesus walked in the room they would walk right up to him, pat Him on the back and say, “Hey, How’s it goin’? Very, very casual. As though it were a meeting of equals. Not really understanding just who it is that would be entering the room.
Sometimes, if our understanding of who God is too small, if our understanding of our own sinfulness is too casual and hasn’t really been thought through, we don’t really get that there is a difference between us and God. This can get a little complicated too.