Mutuality in God VII   Leave a comment

Above:  Jonah Outside Nineveh

Image in the Public Domain

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For Ash Wednesday, Year 2

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty and Everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made,

and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent;

create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we,

worthily lamenting our sins, and acknowledging our wretchedness,

may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 144

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Jonah 3:1-4:11

Psalm 102

1 John 1:5-10

Matthew 6:16-21

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If we say we have no sin in us, 

we are deceiving ourselves

and refusing to admit the truth;

but if we acknowledge our sins,

then God who is faithful and just

will forgive our sins and purify us

from everything that is wrong.

To say we have never sinned

is to call God a liar

and to show that his word is not in us.

–1 John 1:8-10, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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Remorse for sins must precede repentance for sins.  Remorse is an emotion; repentance is an action.

Also, sin comes in varieties.  Roman Catholic theology divides sins into the venial and the mortal.  One can also categorize sin as being of omission or of commission, as well as being individual or collective.

The reading from Jonah 3 and 4 includes both individual and collective sin.  The titular character remains impenitent at the end of Chapter 4.  The sudden ending of the Book of Jonah invites we who read and heart that story to repent of our desires to see our enemies destroyed.  We need to feel remorse for then repent of our resentments that the repentance of our foes would ruin or does ruin.

Based on reading the Bible, I conclude that God would be thrilled if everyone were to repent.  Unfortunately, many people refuse to do so.  Love and repentance have to be voluntary.  “Yes” has meaning only if “no” is a feasible option, even if a bad one.

One advantage of following a church year is that one has reasons to focus on different priorities.  Lent is a time to emphasize remorse and repentance.  We can say “Alleluia” after Lent has ended.  Lent is a season to work on storing up treasures in Heaven.  Besides, as anyone who has cleaned out the residence of a deceased person knows, what we leave behind often becomes someone else’s burdens.

I draft this post during the COVID-19 pandemic.  That medical and economic catastrophe informs my thinking about collective and individual repentance this time around.  May we-as societies, nation-states, communities, institutions, et cetera–repent of thinking that what harms others has no effect on us.  And may we–as individuals–repent of all delusions that work against mutuality.  Excessive individualism, especially during a pandemic, harms others.  It violates the Golden Rule.

The counterbalance is to remember that the common good does not equal conformity.  Variety is the spice of life.  The common good embraces diversity and welcomes the eccentrics, the oddballs, and the stubbornly different.  God created me to be the best version of myself possible.  God created you, O reader, to be the best possible version of yourself.  So, feel free to be your glorious, even odd or eccentric self without endangering anyone.  Add spice to the world while loving your neighbors as you love yourself.  Do not permit anyone to persuade you that you must feel remorse for and repent of being the person God made you to be.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 5, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF ANTONIO LOTTI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENOVEVA TORRES MORALES, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS AND THE HOLY ANGELS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN NEPOMUCENE NEUMANN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PHILADELPHIA

THE FEAST OF MARGARET MACKAY, SCOTTISH HYMN WRITER

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