So, when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come offer your gift. (Matthew 5: 23-24)
If Jesus were an usher in our churches, I wonder if He would ever allow an offering to take place. Imagine all that He knows: the enmities, slights, grudges, and judgments we carry into our services. If we peeled away the layers of Sunday decorum, what would we have? Reality in all of its glory and beauty, and in all of its mess and squalor. There’s a reason why He came to die for our sins. There was plenty for Him to die for.
In college, I was taunted into attending a charismatic Episcopal Church. When it came time for “the Peace,” the priest made it clear that everyone must make peace and have communion with each other before they could receive God’s communion.
I was flabbergasted by his admonition and was initially appalled by the chaos that ensued. I watched husbands and wives put their heads together. I saw children and parents reconcile, and brothers and sisters say sorry. I saw the priest have his own moment with a parishioner. Everywhere you looked people were making peace with each other. Although my “High-Church” sensibilities were challenged, my heart was deeply moved. I’ll never forget the outpouring of grace I saw on that day 40 years ago.
What would happen to our Sunday worship if we all made peace with each other before we went to God’s altar? What would happen to the community, to our relationships, and to ourselves?
Good thing Jesus isn’t the usher, or else we might never get to the offering, or the sermon, or communion, or the dismissal. But hold on: since Jesus is the Head of the church, shouldn’t He also be the head usher?
The next time we’re in worship, I encourage us to consider if Jesus wants us to make amends with someone. Before we give Him our gifts, we might need to consider how to offer the gift of reconciliation to those we have offended, and to receive that same gift from those who might have offended us.
- Picture yourself in worship. Look around. You see many of the same folks in the same places. Who would Jesus have you make amends with, forgive, reconcile with, judge less?
- Let’s extend and deepen the above questions. Look at yourself. Is Jesus calling you right now to make peace with yourself, your humanity, your failures and foibles, and your desperate need for grace?
- Before you make the final gift of your whole life to God, what’s the work of reconciliation you need to do?