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OK Father I got that wrong

February 15, 2014

I’ve been away for a while. I’ve had a rest. I’ve travelled to see family and friends. I’ve seen beautiful things and enjoyed myself. I’ve seen mountains with snow on. I’ve seen my Mam and my sister. It’s been a good break but I’m also glad to be back. This is where I should be. This is where I’m happy to be.

So with a smile on my face I turned to the readings set for Sunday 16th February: What readings! 1 Corinthians 3.1-9 and Matthew 5.21-37 both lay into me. They set set such high standards for me that I feel utterly unworthy. I feel like shouting out, “Repent for the end is nigh!”. Perhaps I should have a placard too or a sandwich board, “Sinner! You’re all sinners!”.

And so you are. And so am I. So is everyone that I meet. Sin is anything that is not entirely of God, and I don’t know about you but I would be hard pressed to find anything in my life that is entirely of God, anything with not even the tiniest hint of self interest or pride. In fact if there were such a thing in my life, as soon as I found it I would feel proud of it, deeply proud that I could have something in me that was utterly sinless, and instantly taint it with the sin of pride.

The more I think about it, there is so much truth in those words from the 1662 Prayer Book confession: Almighty and most merciful Father, We have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep, We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts, We have offended against thy holy laws, We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, And we have done those things which we ought not to have done, And there is no health in us…

It may not be popular but that is an excellent description of humanity, good and bad people alike. In fact the chief difference between good and bad is the acknowledgement by the good that they aren’t perfect, and the commitment to be better, with the help of God. It made me think of the UKIP councillor who declared that the UK’s recent floods are God’s punishment of allowing Gay Marriage. Then I stopped and looked again. I prayed and asked to be able to look into Jesus’ eyes as he says these things. I prayed and I looked and I saw passion in those eyes, I saw anger at falsehood and hypocrisy, but most of all I looked into Jesus’ eyes and saw love.

I have done those things which I ought not to have done, And I have done those things which I ought not to have done – It is as though someone has seen right into my soul. Even more frightening someone has been spying on me! I am not what I could be  that is Jesus’ message to me, and following rules won’t make it any better. But remember, God so loved the world that he sent Jesus. Jesus loves me so much that he was willing to die for me. So this warning needs to be seen in the midst of the love that the Father has for me. The love that wants me to be whole and healthy. God loves me so much that he is not afraid to push me to be honest with myself about who I really am, and to push me hard.

That is what a real friend will do. A real friend will tell me when I’m out of order. A real friend will tell me that I’m being a prat. If a good human friend will do that for me, then why should I expect any less from Jesus? That is why I believe that Jesus said these words as a loving friend, not to condemn me, but to help me. We human beings are not all good, and full of love – that is wishful thinking – but we are all loved, loved and loved some more.

So that is why there there are such challenging words in Scripture. I, like everyone else that I know, need to be challenged to see the good and bad truth about myself. When I feel worthless, Scripture reminds me that I’m loved and of infinite worth to God. But the rest of the time I want to grow and so I need know how I can be better. Then I’m open to change. Then I can be healed. It is like an alcoholic, or any other addict, until they want to change there is very little that can be done, in fact little more than damage limitation.

So it is with me. Until I admit that I have a problem and want help, all that is possible is damage limitation. Until then God can save me and those around me from the worst of my actions but real healing isn’t going to happen. I need to say, “OK Father I got that wrong. I’m sorry. Please help.”

“OK Father I got that wrong. I’m sorry. Please help.” Such simple words but so powerful. Each time I say those words the Spirit can flow in and heal another part of me.

Sin has a bad press. Saying that I am a sinner sounds as though I hate myself. Hearing the Bible and the Prayer Book describe me as a sinner, sounds as though perhaps God is condemning me too. But nothing could be further from the truth: God loves me and God forgives me. God made me, and made me capable of so much good, so much love. That is what God sees in me. God sees the good and the love that I already know about but my Creator also knows all about the good and the love that he has put in me that hasn’t yet come out. Still more wonderful, as the Spirit cleans away the dark in me, even more space is created for the Spirit to pour God’s love into me.

  1. It’s similar to the Hawaiian practice of Ho’oponoono( , where you say “I love you.I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.” as a kind of mantra for reconciliation.

  2. I’d never heard of this but it does seem to say a lot about the power of confesssion and reconciliation. Thank you

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