We can all remember the excitement of being children at the sea-side in summer-time as we climb down the steps on to the beach. Here it’s crowded with people and the sand is churned up and littered with debris. There are lolly sticks, cigarette ends, empty drink cans, dog mess, half-made sand castles and everything else, including some sharp pebbles and sea shells. However, as we walk on down to the water’s edge we come to a place where the retreating tide has left the beach clean and smooth. Here the previous day’s debris has been washed away and the sand is left beautifully pure, untouched by man (or dog!). What a joy to walk barefoot across this fresh, warm and wet area of beach and let the tide wash gently over our feet.
All sorts – all forgiven
What a mixed crowd came to follow Jesus. It’s so much like this still, a mix of imperfect people, yet all ‘saints’ (forgiven sinners). In the loving and accepting family of Jesus, comprising all his true followers, no one keeps files on your past. For many people this is a refreshing change from the normal state of things in this unforgiving age.
Former cheats like Matthew and Zacchaeus, previously immoral Mary Magdalene, loud mouthed and impetuous Peter for example are accepted just as much as the others. They are joined later by Saul of Tarsus, the former persecutor of Christians. How encouraging, there is hope for us all!
Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Donald Coggan wrote of prayer in these warm, personal terms :
‘The beloved (Christian) consciously in the presence of the great Divine Lover…when the man of faith presses his littleness close to God’s greatness in prayer, his ignorance close to God’s wisdom, his weakness close to God’s strength, yes, and (greatly daring) his sinfulness close to God’s holy forgiving…’
In our world of ‘blame culture’ forgiveness comes as something startlingly new. To be able to stand at the ‘waters edge’ in life and feel the gentle tides of divine love washing over our feet is a wonderfully liberating experience. When, at the Last Supper, Jesus was washing the disciples’ feet Peter objected saying ‘ Not my feet only, but all of me’. Jesus replied that he whose feet are washed is clean all over. It is a blessed reality for a believer to know that, because of the death that Christ suffered on the cross, as believers we are totally accepted, loved and forgiven. God knows all about our faults and failures and yet loves us dearly. His love is infinitely wider and deeper than the oceans. I want to continue walking with him across the sea-washed-sands of a forgiven life.
When Jesus forgave Mary Magdalene she showed her response by washing Christ’s feet with the hairs of her head (Luke’s Gospel chapter 7). We should be doing something similar to show our love in response.
I remember hearing the story of a young woman seriously ill in a hospital. The medical staff were struggling unsuccessfully to help her. They just couldn’t diagnose the cause of the problem.
However, one of the ward nurses was a Christian and she was able to befriend the woman and chat with her in a way that the Consultant and the hospital doctors never could. Because of the friendly relationship that opened up the young woman eventually confided in the nurse. She told of her strong feeling of guilt over something that had happened in her life.
The nurse suggested that the young woman should go to the next Holy Communion Service in the hospital chapel, and during the Communion she should silently tell God of her sorrow about the past and ask for His forgiveness. The nurse then went off duty and was away for a few days. When she returned she found that the young woman had made a sudden and complete recovery and had gone home