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Leaning Into Lent: Resurrection Living through Reconciliation — Debra Paxton-Buursma

And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And Christ died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Christ who died for them and was raised again.16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to God through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to God in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And God has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making the appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made Christ who had no sin to be sin[b] for us, so that in Christ we might become the righteousness of God. II Cor 5: 14-21(NIV, adapted for gender inclusivity)

As post resurrection people, we lean into Lent having already received God’s righteousness. It’s a love story extended to everyone through Jesus – the ultimate story of justice and mercy. Jesus followers are invited to receive and compelled to do justice and mercy. God’s redemption story slants our steps differently as Christ’s ambassadors in the ministry of reconciliation. We are welcomed into big, deep Christ-love to become the righteousness of God. What does that look and sound like in our everyday interactions and relationships?

Lent liturgically leads up to an annual Easter celebration; however, Old and New Testaments remind us that until Christ comes again, our life liturgies tilt daily toward reconciling broken relationships. The world still groans with injustice, looking at and treating people according to worldly standards. The world frames societal, institutional and personal judgments regarding difference through powerfully value-laden hierarchies of perceived competence, beauty, and strength. Resurrection living includes Jesus’ life leading up to death and resurrection to understand more about the ministry of reconciliation. Resurrection living looks for opportunities to reconcile; shifting worldly judgments toward justice and mercy by overturning the tables of injustice, interceding to catch hurled stones, and marching in parades that demonstrate a new kind of kingdom. Resurrection living means passing a communion cup with and receiving fragrant offerings from those the world judges as unworthy.  Leaning into Lent means living with the irony that moments of resurrection cannot happen without wading into the muck of the world.

reconciliation-sculpture

Bryan Stevenson, an attorney schooled in legal judgments, founded Equal Justice Initiative dedicated to defending those wrongly condemned and imprisoned. Bryan leaned into the irony of worldly justice through the ministry of reconciliation, taking up the cases of those wrongly accused and sentenced – often people labeled with mental illness, intellectual disabilities, speech impairments, and poverty. In doing so, Bryan listened to people misjudged by human standards, defending and discovering human dignity along the way. Long into his career, defending people and fatigued from the difficult work of overturning intractable unjust legal tables of racism and ableism, Bryan made a discovery. We are all broken. He wasn’t working for the broken, he was broken, working with the broken.

“Our shared vulnerability and imperfection nurtures and sustains our capacity for compassion. We have a choice. We can embrace our humanness, which means embracing our broken natures and the compassion that remains our best hope for healing. Or we can deny our brokenness, forswear compassion, and as a result deny our own humanity…there is strength, power even, in understanding brokenness, because embracing our brokenness creates a need and desire for mercy, and perhaps a corresponding need to show mercy… you see things you can’t otherwise see; you hear things you can’t otherwise hear” (Stevenson, 2015, p. 290).

Bryan’s experience reminds us that being ambassadors in reconciliation requires recognition that we are all broken…and redeemed. Our work involves less judging and more listening and learning, ready for the righteousness of God to shine through us and through those we least expect.

Lean into Lent during these last few days before Easter and everyday, filled with hope realizing that Christ reconciles us to see and hear people anew. As ministers of reconciliation, be ready for wonder and surprise as you become the righteous of God and as God glimmers shine through those you least expect. It’s called Resurrection and it shows up every day.

Creator God, Thank-you for reconciling us to you and inviting us to join you in resurrection living as ministers of reconciliation. Embrace us – broken, wounded, condemned – with your love and righteousness. Equip us as ambassadors to lean into darkness of injustice. Cast off our worldly ways of seeing and judging. May we see you in those we encounter and may they your light through us.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Debra BuursmaDebra Paxton Buursma is an Associate Professor of Education at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her academic interests span education and the arts, focusing on special education, literary skill development, and culturally responsive pedagogy. She is also the mother of three beautiful children, one of whom is a first year McCormick student, Derek Elmi-Buursma.

Stevenson, Bryan. (2015). Just Mercy: A story of justice and redemption. New York: Spiegel & Grau.