Running to Forgive

Scripture Focus: Genesis 33.3-4
3 He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother. 
4 But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.

Reflection: Running to Forgive
By John Tillman

A prodigal son, who betrayed his family’s trust approaches home. He is limping. He is fearful of rejection. His hopes are focused on survival. 

But the wronged party abandons dignity and pride and runs to the prodigal. He embraces him  and kisses him, welcoming him rather than harming him. Esau running to meet Jacob and the prodigal’s father running to meet his son, are extraordinarily similar scenes. (Genesis 33.4; Luke 15.20) Esau and Jacob must at least have been in the back of Jesus’ mind when he told of the prodigal.

Of course, the actual forgiveness and reconciliation between Esau and Jacob is limited. They are each still only human. Their trust is limited. Their faith in one another is justifiably small. In the future, violence will dominate the relationship. But in this moment, in a limited way, Esau demonstrates the welcome of the gospel. The wronged party shows undeserved mercy. 

Not only is Jacob and Esau’s situation different from Jesus’ parable, it is different from our own situation.

Our spiritual sins are worse than Jacob’s familial ones. We are scheming, rebellious thieves and liars, but worse than a dispute over inheritance, we have joined an insurrection against God our Father and King. We have chosen war instead of peace. We have chosen lies instead of the truth. We have chosen hate instead of love.

Our ability to bargain and appease God is non-existent. Jacob is no penniless prodigal repenting from the pig pen. He is wealthy and prosperous and he sends valuable resources ahead of himself to appease the justifiable anger of Esau. We have no such offerings to send that can appease or compensate for our rebellion and sin. When we come to Jesus we have nothing to offer him of value. We have only the filthy rags of our sins clinging to our backs.

Jesus is truly righteous and makes a sincere offer. Esau was wronged by Joseph but Esau was also sinful, violent, and had despised the birthright Jacob stole. Esau’s offer of protection and forgiveness is suspicious and he is untrustworthy. Jesus, however, is fully righteous. He makes us a fully genuine offer that we can have full faith and trust in. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive them.

May we also be willing to rush that forgiveness to those around us. Let us be faithful. Let us be just. Let us run to forgive.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “If your brother does something wrong, rebuke him and, if he is sorry, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times a day and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I am sorry,’ you must forgive him.” — Luke 17.3-4

Today’s Readings
Genesis 33 (Listen – 2:59)
Mark 4 (Listen – 5:01)

Read more about Faith After the Storm
How many times do we go to Jesus in prayer, without faith but with bucket-fulls of complaints…”Don’t you care, Jesus?”

Read more about Meals Together, Forgiveness to Go
What if all our meals were markers—altars of forgiveness and belonging? Come to the table. Lay down your burdens. Offer forgiveness.

Faith After the Storm

Mark 4.39-40
Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

Reflection: Faith After the Storm
By John Tillman

How tired Christ must have been to be asleep during the storm. 

Mark gives us the beautiful eyewitness detail that Christ’s head was on a pillow. Jesus had healed and preached all day long. Then he had preached it all again to his disciples who had heard the stories but, just like the crowd, had a hard time understanding.

Jesus was beaten down by the demands of his work so much so that the wildly rocking boat, the crashing waves, and even the boat filling up with water didn’t wake him. In the midst of this terrible storm, Jesus slept on until his shaken disciples shook him awake.

The disciples don’t seem to wake Jesus because he can save them from the storm. They merely wake him to complain about his treatment of them. “Don’t you care that we are going to drown?” The drowning seems a foregone conclusion. There is no direct request, merely bitterness and accusation. 

How many times do we go to Jesus in prayer, without faith but with bucket-fulls of complaints and accusations.

Don’t you care, Jesus?
Why don’t you answer?
What’s wrong with you?

When Jesus calms the storm, the disciples’ fears should be as calm as the sea, but instead they are heightened. The disciples are more terrified than before. 

Jesus asleep on the pillow is a punching bag for our emotions. Asleep, he cannot hear or dispute our complaints, our fears, our version of events. But Jesus standing and rebuking the storm rebukes us as well. “Quiet. Be still.”

Jesus standing and commanding the storm is intimidating and disturbing. He is no longer someone we can shake awake and push around. He is no longer the servile employee behind the desk of God’s complaint department. Instead he holds power that cannot be debated with. He is someone who demands our service, demands our compliance, We may be as terrified by a Jesus who calms storms as we are by the storms themselves.

As we examine our hearts this weekend, spend some time contemplating the fearful question of the disciples, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Though we still have no faith after the storm, he is willing to do great things through our lives. If the winds and waves listen to his rebukes…we can too.

Be stilled and calmed by Christ this weekend.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. — 2 Corinthians 4.6

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Genesis 33 (Listen – 2:59) 
Mark 4 (Listen – 5:01)

This Weekend’s Readings
Genesis 34 (Listen – 4:18), Mark 5 (Listen – 5:21)
Genesis 35-36 (Listen – 9:33), Mark 6 (Listen – 7:23)

Join Our New Facebook Group:
This weekend, in our new Facebook group for email subscribers, we will continue a series of short live videos discussing some simple, practical tools of spiritual practice using modern technology. Join the group to discuss them with us.

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Read more about Thanksgiving Stirs God’s Heart
When Simon (not yet called Peter) saw what Christ had done for him and his partners, he skipped right over being thankful to being fearful. “Go away from me! I’m not worthy. I don’t understand! You don’t know how sinful I am!”

Read more about Prayer from the Belly of the Beast
We may not be in the beast’s belly because of wrongdoing, but because our world is filled with beasts. But regardless of how we came to be there, our prayer may be sharpened, amplified, and have greater effect on our hearts.