Not to Condemn the World but Save it.

second sunday in Lent
by Teresa B. Pasquale

I. Forgiveness & Justice

I just returned from North Carolina where I spent five days inside the depths of issues, ideas, inspirations, hardships, and companionship around issues of race, culture, ethnicity and identity with many people of color inside and outside the Episcopal Church.

In the plight against issues of race, racism, and marginalization the Gospel teachings give us the template for responding to hate in the world and prejudice in the hearts of others.

The message to offenders and those offended is one in the same; choose forgiveness and in it find your own [and the world’s] salvation. We are saved inside of the act of forgiveness.

The lectionary reading for this week reminds us with no ambiguity of this truth:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” [John 3:16-17]

II. Who & What Can Be Redeemed?

The virtual world, as I return into it, after my electronically silent pilgrimage into the Appalachian hills, is buzzing with discussion of topics of toxic leaders and their legacies.

People are spinning furiously and typing fervently over issues of angst that have reached beyond their tipping point, from the aggressive leadership of Mark Driscoll (lead pastor of Mars Hill Church) and his recent book-selling scandal, to those that decry the hurtful acts of Fred Phelps (anti-gay pastor and picketer) as he lays on his deathbed.

Are their crimes, whatever they may fully be (only their own heart and God can know the depths of them), worthy of retribution, retaliation, or hate? Are they, alternately, worthy of love, compassion, and grace?

III. The Labyrinth of A Just Heart

Somehow we often think if we forgive we cannot, in turn, act out against injustice. We create paradigms in which justice cannot sit in the same house as forgiveness.

Through this untenable dyad we can often move so rapidly into the space of justice and action that we find ourselves on battlefields of righteousness weighed down with a heart full of hatred. We don’t get far carrying that load.

What would it mean to empty our heart of hate before we acted? What would it mean to hold the terribly difficult tension of carrying forgiveness into our righteous battlefields of faith and morality? What would it mean if the battlefield looked more like a labyrinth, where we work our way to the center to return out to the exterior with a new depth of understanding? What if that understanding allowed us to move beyond revolution, past reformation into the space of transformation?

The place of transformation is the only place we can transcend ourselves to embody authentic righteousness.

IV. Wrestling with Forgiveness

As I return back into the world after a weekend teeming with the potential of and in the world whirring in my recent memory, I am hopeful. I am hopeful that we are learning the lessons of our recent pass as a culture, as a community, as a people of faith and a nation in flux.

I believe the improvisational nature of those coming into adulthood today holds a potential for holding the tension between forgiveness and justice.

I was wrestling with the tension inside myself, today, to let go of old hurts, old cruelties, and the ways in which people have manifested hate in my own life. It was a Lenten process; it was a pause for atonement given and received.

Then, like social media kismet, Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s face popped on my Facebook feed with a call to join his “Forgiveness Project” and enter into a 30-day plight towards forgiveness.

Archbishop Tutu closes his call to the internal action of forgiving with: “Forgiveness is the journey we take towards healing ourselves and our world … there is no one who is beyond hope and nothing that is unforgivable. I know forgiveness will change your life and change our world.”

V. A Call in the Wilderness

If you would like to join me on a plight towards a forgiving heart, and in doing so, a plight to change the world, you can grab Archbishop Tutu’s newest book (out March 18th) The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World. Then join me [register at the website link above] on May 4th on a 30-day pilgrimage towards embodied and emboldened forgiveness.

This is my Lenten challenge for you, and a call to bridge out of Lent into a more healing self and healing world. I think forgiving hearts can change the world. I think we are just the people, in just the time, in just the context of the world, to make that happen.

Throughout history we have moved through the spaces of revolution to reformation, but what changes hearts, lives, and works most efficiently towards grace-full justice is transformation. Forgiveness is the gateway to transformation. Walk through the gate with me.

Let’s follow Jesus and live into the words he said so clearly in a moment which seems without redemption, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

If nothing else, my time at the New Community Conference and The Wild Goose Festival Planning retreat reminded me of that calling, viscerally, as I saw many powerful voices speaking from places of hurt without hate, and redemption with deep forgiveness.

Enter into a Lent of forgiveness with me. Let’s start changing the world today by changing whatever is holding back the Spirit’s call in our hearts.

Teresa B[ennett] Pasquale is on the National Executive Council for the Episcopal Peace Fellowship [EPF], a trainer on the history of the Doctrine of Discovery [legislation/issues of colonization & the church], facilitates a “Dinner Church” worship service for 20’s/30’s and those hurt/disenfranchised by church, and a therapist who works specifically with issues of “sacred wounds” in mind, body, spirit, and communities. She works hard to be a bridge between places, ideas, and communities of difference, and is on the planning committee for The Wild Goose Festival [theme of “living liberation”] and TransFORM’s Missional Living Conference. She authored a book on traumatic experience and healing titled Mending Broken and is working on a second book on religious trauma & sacred wounds titled The Journey of Desert Flowers.

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