Fourth Sunday of Lent.  Preached at All Saints, King City, 27 March,
2022.  Readings for this Sunday:  Joshua 5.9-12; Psalm 32; 2 Cor 5.16-21, Luke

18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and
has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 
19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the
world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting
the message of reconciliation to us. (2 Cor 5:18-19)

Today I want to speak
about the ministry of reconciliation and what it means in our lives as church
and as followers of Jesus.  We hear the
word reconciliation every Sunday at the start of our 10:30 liturgy, as we pray
for reconciliation with indigenous brothers and sisters.  We pray it daily, so it’s important that we
understand it and that we sincerely commit ourselves to it.

Reconciliation literally
means to make people or parties friendly again. 
It’s from the Latin words “re” (again) and “conciliare”, meaning to
unite.   To reconcile therefore means to
bring together in harmony those who were once estranged or hostile.   As anyone who has been through marriage
counselling, or who has tried to bridge some form of estrangement,
reconciliation is hard work.    It
involves honest speech, genuine sorrow for past offences, and new forms of
being together.

As an example of how
difficult reconciliation may be, let me share a story from a friend of mine, an
academic who specializes in contemporary Rwandan literature.    You will recall that in 1994, the African
country of Rwanda suffered a terrible spasm of genocide in which at least half
a million of the minority Tutsi tribe were killed by the majority Hutus (
Rwandan genocide –
).   A
civil war followed, and eventually both sides had to learn to live with one
another again.

How do you reconcile with
a neighbour who has killed and raped your loved ones?   That was the problem all over Rwanda,
because the killings happened in villages, in churches, and in schools.   People often knew their killers.  You could take the leaders to the Hague and
prosecute them in the International Criminal Court, but millions of people had
to find their own ways to overcome hatred.

My professor friend
studied a process of reconciliation where those who had participated in the
genocide were sent to live with the survivors.    They moved in, helped to work the farms and
businesses of those they had killed, and helped support the families of their
victims.    As you can imagine, this was
a hugely difficult process for all involved, it required long and difficult
conversations, tears, and forgiveness begged and given.  The result was that people who had demonised
and killed one another were able to break the spell and see one another as
fellow humans, all bearing the image of God.

We are made in the image
of God as an act of friendship.   God wants our friendship.  As the American theologian Dallas Willard
says, God likes us, that’s why he invested in us and made us to friends.    The Genesis story of Adam and Eve’s
disobedience in the Garden, whether we choose to understand it literally
figuratively, s about humanity choosing to walk apart from God and go it’s own
way.   The way we chose is called sin, it
began with Cain’s murder of Abel and it stretches all the way to Mariupol, the
videos and images from which serving to remind us that sin is an objective

The story of our faith,
ever since Genesis, is the story of God pursuing our friendship, through the
prophets, through his Son, through the cross, and beyond to our present
day.   Over and over, God reaches to us
the hand of friendship, and, if choose to accept that hand in good faith, then
we are called to stretch out our other hand to someone else.   As Paul says, this is the “ministry of
reconciliation” that God calls us to in Christ.   As we are loved, so are we to love.  It’s that simple.

One of the things that I
give thanks for in the life of our Diocese is that we are beginning to take
this ministry of reconciliation seriously.  
Faithworks is reconciliation because it makes us friends with those who
have been estranged from society by poverty and neglect.   Our educations around race  and indigenous relations are reconciliation
because they call us to be friends with persons of colour from whom we have
been estranged by history, colonialism, and indifference.    Our work around creation is reconciliation
because it calls us to be friends with those who are most at risk from climate
change, and indeed to be friends with the planet God has given us.

All these causes are
worthy ones, but let us be wary going forward that we see them only as
political or social projects.    This
Fourth Week of Lent, as the cross comes more clearly into focus, let us
remember the great cost God paid to reconcile with us,  to put our sin and hostility aside so God
could again be friends with us.   Let us
remember that God’s love and friendship come to us at a price that God paid
freely and gladly.   And let us remember
that, if we accept God’s friendship, we must pay it forward if are to truly
live in God’s kingdom.