First Thoughts on the Lectionary: February 16, 2014

5:23 So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you,
5:24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.

For some reason I remember this passage from the Sermon on the Mount more than any other passage. Every time I go forward to take communion, I think about this passage.

I have been a member of a church for over 35 years, and for 90% of that time was either on the staff or a lay leader. Issues can get very emotional in churches. For the most part, I understand this and am tolerant of the fact that people do not always see eye to eye within a church. I have had my battles, and have had my “enemies.” I think at the present time I am relatively free from those issues. I have always tried to deal amicably with others and with the few with whom it seemed that there never would be reconciliation, time has worn down the barriers and I coexist with former “enemies” in peace.

But there are those in my life with whom I have never reconciled and with whom I will never reconcile, and no amount of advice to “let it go,” has had any impact.

It is not so easy to reconcile.

I have always had “be open and honest with everyone” as my mantra. This actually isn’t very good advice. Dostoyevsky wrote a book based on the premise that this philosophy in life would lead to tragedy; it’s called The Idiot. It’s actually my favorite book. I didn’t learn a thing from it. Every time I read it, Myshkin still goes insane, Rogozhin still kills Nastassya, and Aglaya still runs off with a Polish count she doesn’t love.

And I still have unreconciled personal relationships.

There is going to be no turning point in this post where I tell you that I have found the answer. I haven’t. I have spent two days almost comatose thinking about how I would write this post.

In the situations in my life that have turned out the worst, I know that I would probably do nothing differently if they were to repeat. It is not remorse for “sinful” behavior that I feel. It is simply the reality that there has been some very strong pain felt because of my behavior, even thought I was not acting out of self interest or some other questionable motive. It was the situations where I had the greatest compassion that turned out the worst.

And they can’t be fixed.

Jesus says to reconcile with your neighbor. Sorry. My neighbor will not talk with me. Or with anyone who does talk with me. Walls have been built.

They say time helps. And it does. But truly bad interactions have a way of infecting other relationships. Someone inadvertently appears from the other side of the wall, and the pain comes back.

I know there are words of wisdom to be heard. I have heard many. This week, as I knew I had to write about these verses, none of them felt healing.

I have unreconciled relationships in my life, and they will remain so. Sorry, Jesus.


About Newell Hendricks

I have lived a good life. Maybe a counterculture life, maybe a normal life. I have written operas, built houses, been involved with cross-cultural education between Latin America and the U.S, and hardly ever had a job I have helped raise two wonderful children with my amazing wife. It's been a good ride. And I go to church. I've just finished a book of stories from my life, I am still connected to an organization in Nicaragua that promotes sister relationships between communities, faith communities, or schoold, and to the extent that my cancer doesn't pull me down, am attempting to share some of what I have learned, or at least tried out. Welcome, and let's share.
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