When we hear the word ‘reconciliation,’ we probably all think of different things. The politician thinks of conflict resolution; the therapist thinks of inner healing and integration; the ecologist thinks of finding a renewed relationship with nature rediscovering the balance between what consumes and what sustains; the mediator thinks of getting everybody to live in peace with each other; the accountant thinks of balancing the accounts. Everybody will understand reconciliation in different ways.
This afternoon, Good Friday, which begins the three most important days of the Christian year, I am going to explore reconciliation from the perspective of faith. For the Christian reconciliation is what God brought about on that first Good Friday. At the moment that Jesus died on the cross, God brought about reconciliation between humanity and God. The relationship between God and humanity that was broken by Adam was restored by Jesus Christ, often referred to as the second Adam. As we just heard in the letter of St. Paul:
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.(II Cor.5.18)
But it wasn’t just the relationship between God and humanity that was torn apart, but the relationship between God and the whole of creation was shattered. Remember the story in the book of Genesis where Adam took the fruit he was forbidden to take at the bidding of Eve and with the connivance of the serpent….it seemed that everything was falling apart. But Good Friday was the point of reconciliation, the point when it was put together again. St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians wrote:
For in Jesus Christ all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, [How?] by making peace through the blood of his cross.(Col.1.19-20)
St. Paul is clear that God is already reconciled to humanity and creation. Indeed, this reconciliation between God, humanity and creation is the basis of all other forms of reconciliation, whether it is between individuals, societies and nations, whether it is that form of inner reconciliation which we all seek but which so often seems elusive.
Now, I can hear you thinking, ‘Just a minute. What’s he talking about? How can we be reconciled to God, because we are always falling out of relationship with him. How is creation reconciled to God, because as human beings we are doing a pretty good job of mucking it up more than it’s ever been mucked up? How can we be reconciled when the gap between wealth and poverty grows ever wider both in this country and across the world? How can we be reconciled when religious fundamentalists seem to be holding countries to ransom, indiscriminately destroying all in their path? How can we be remotely reconciled when there is the constant battle within us all between doing the right thing and doing the wrong thing? Didn’t even St. Paul recognise this when he wrote, ‘I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.’ (Romans 7.15)?
And this is the paradox, while God has reconciled himself to us, we are still seeking that reconciliation because we have not grasped or fully understood it. We have not yet made God’s reality our reality……we are working on it and this, we know, is the journey of a lifetime.
Reconciliation is at the heart of who we are. The human soul cries out for the reconciliation which will make it complete, a reconciliation which involves others because we cannot be reconciled to God unless we are reconciled to our neighbour. This God-given cry for reconciliation starts deep within us and reverberates around all of creation. And the cry has been answered definitively on that first Good Friday. We are people of reconciliation – remember St. Paul reminding followers of Christ that they have been given a ministry of reconciliation, a ministry which is fed by the cross, experienced through stories and enabled by worship. We are people who are called both to be reconcilers and also to be reconciled.
First talk of Good Friday Devotion (2015) in Rochester Cathedral on the theme: ‘Reconciliation – The Point of the Cross’
First image: ‘The Tortured Christ’ by Guido Rocha