Tag Archives: Forgiveness

That was yesterday

Traditional qamutik (sled), Cape Dorset 1999 Image credit: Ansgar Walk via Wikimedia

Traditional qamutik (sled), Cape Dorset 1999
Image credit: Ansgar Walk via Wikimedia

He had a story to tell. Our minister thought the youth fellowship should hear it. After all, you did not often get the chance to meet someone who has lived and worked with Eskimo people. When our guest concluded his story, he took questions. An opportunity not to be missed and the inevitable question: “Is it true the Eskimos rub noses instead of kissing?” Yes! They actually press the tip of their noses together. What other option was there? In the extreme cold climate only the eyes and the nose were exposed to the elements – Americans resorted to the same custom during the big freeze at the turn of the year. One important lesson – many of the people would be insulted to be called Eskimo today. They are the Inuit people and it is important to remember it.

We learned something else that evening. The Inuit people lived by the principle of never carrying the day’s evil experiences, its troubles or its quarrels, over into the next day. Two of them might be engaged in a violent dispute, heated words spoken and blows exchanged. And if it took place late into the evening, the night would usually erase the quarrel, and next day they greeted each other like lost brothers. If someone were to exclaim, “I thought you were enemies – you were fighting last night!” back would come the answer: “But that was yesterday!” There is a challenge for us, a great way to meet life – to be able to say, “but that is past; that is forgotten; that belongs to yesterday.” Early in a New Year could be an opportune time to examine the pattern our lives have taken in the light of the Inuit’s daunting philosophy. What a wonderful and tremendous difference it would make if we were capable and willing to follow the Inuit dictum: that was yesterday. Think globally; think nationally; think personally; it is mind-blowing – “forgetting what is behind and straining to what is ahead, I press on . . . .”

Of course there are things we cannot forget, things we must not forget however much we would rather forget them. It gets my back up and I get tired of hearing it, that statement so often made by news-readers, police, government ministers, chief executives. There are lessons to be learned. Sometimes it appears to slip off the tongue with professional ease! A statement which attempts to respond to criticism, by public, media or politicians, of an unhappy state of affairs, of mistakes made in the public domain, etc. Now I cannot disagree that mistakes are made, that events can take an unsatisfactory twist requiring an assurance that the confession is more than an attempt to get off the hook, more than an empty promise. And in every avenue of life, personal or collective, there will be things we must not forget until the lessons they contain are well and truly learned. The Christian and the church are not excluded.

What I say is this, forgetting what is behind and straining to what is ahead, I press towards the finishing line to win the heavenly prize to which God has called me in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13-14

                         

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God believes in us

Shell seekersIn her book The Shell Seekers, which became a best seller after it was featured on television, Rosamunde Pitcher tells of the death of Penelope, a principal character in the story. Olivia, Penelope’s daughter, is responsible for the funeral arrangements. She finds the visit of the vicar who is to conduct the service much easier than feared. She thanks him for his kindness and care, especially, as she explains, because her mother was not a religious person and possibly did not believe in God. “I wouldn’t worry too much about that,” the vicar assures Olivia, “she may not have believed in God, but I’m certain God believed in her.”

The story reminds me of a saying of William Barclay which I once found difficult to accept. He said: “Without us, and without what we can do, God is totally helpless.” I ought to have known better having read John of the 4th Gospel’s account of the post-resurrection lakeside meeting of Peter, one of the Twelve fellow travellers with Jesus. Peter’s circumstances and those of Penelope were different. Peter did believe. He was a disciple who had cause to consider himself a failure. His behaviour was despicable, unforgivable in his eyes, he had betrayed the Master. In all probability Peter could be remembering the evening when he told Jesus in no uncertain terms: “If everyone else runs away from you, I will never desert you” – but he did. Three times courage failed him; three times he denied all knowledge of his Master. In his gracious restoration by Jesus at the lakeside, not only was he restored and forgiven, he was entrusted with an important and responsible task. Here is the affirmation, the assurance that in spite of ourselves, God believes in us:

 Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

“Yes Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said to him, Take care of my sheep”. (John 21:15–17)

When I am gone take care of my flock: for Peter this would turn out to be a life of continuous care for Christ’s sheep. What a privilege; what a responsibility, a clear signal that God believes in us.