Readings –Genesis 29:15-28; Psalm 105:1-11, 45b; Romans 8: 26-39; Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
Theodore Parker was a well-known and widely quoted New England pastor of the 19th c. In 1850 he wrote – I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends toward justice.
The arc of history bends toward justice; it curves toward justice.
This theme was picked up in the 1960s by Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement. John Lewis was on the curve of history. The People of God are on that curve of history. We want to be on the curve of history, on the main line, not on a siding. Forgiveness enables us to stay on the curve, to stay on the main line with God. Forgiveness enables us to avoid distraction and to stay on the main line that curves toward justice.
There are so many potential distractions. In the letter to the Romans St. Paul would not be distracted. He was imprisoned; he was heading to Rome, and most likely to his execution on account of his faith. Yet he wrote—We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose…. If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us…[Nothing] will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. St. Paul, he, would not be distracted from the arc of history that bends toward justice.
And how about poor Jacob? He worked seven years for his true love, Rachel, only to have his uncle give the older sister, Leah, to him on his wedding night. It must have been really dark that night. When morning came, he discovered Leah, and not his beloved Rachel. Laban followed the custom of the day, the older daughter first. Jacob cried out – Why then have you deceived me? I cannot imagine the anger of Jacob, yet somehow, he remained focused on Rachel, he forgave his uncle and received Rachel for another seven years of labor. Jacob walked with God, forgave his uncle, rather than being distracted.
In our troubled times may the words of our collect be our prayer – Increase and multiply upon us your mercy [O God]; that with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal….
God’s mercy enables us to forgive others, those who distort, and those who distract us from justice. Just as we have been forgiven, forgiven for things done and for things left undone.
I am told that the best athletes have short memories. They keep their eye on the next pitch, the next play, the next shot, the next catch. They are focused on their next action, and how it will unfold. The past is past. As someone said – They keep their eyes on the prize. That’s what God’s mercy enables, forgiveness so we may move forward along the arc of history that bends toward justice.
Eyes forward, eyes on the prize, is what the Psalmist called – “continually seeking [God’s] face”.
John Lewis, Martin Luther King, Jr, Theodore Parker would not be distracted. The faithful People of God will not be distracted.
Again, returning to our collect, it reminds us that “we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal”.
Our God is the God of Mercy; our God is the God of Forgiveness.
The People of God are to be the People of Mercy; the People of God are to be the People of Forgiveness.
We will not be distracted even by “hell or high water”.
We will walk with our God on the main line, on the arc of history that bends toward justice. Rejoice and Be Safe.