Lord Jesus Christ, You reign among us by the preaching of Your cross. Forgive Your people their offenses that we, being governed by Your bountiful goodness, may enter at last into Your eternal paradise; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
I was ordained in the early 1990’s which meant my first decade and a half of ministry saw the funerals of elderly men who had served in World War II and the Korean conflict. On several occasions, as they drew near to the end of their lives, these men would finally unburden themselves of terrible things which war had asked them to do. I heard stories of wrestling in the mud and killing with a knife. I heard of shooting and destroying fellow human beings. I heard of POW’s scrabbling for a morsel of food. I heard regrets and pleas for forgiveness.
I learned quickly that rationalizations were not what they wanted. They had heard those before. They did not need to hear that self-defense made what they did acceptable or that soldiers were authorized to kill on behalf of their country. Such rationalizations did not wash the blood from their hands which they could still see after that wrestling match in the muck of Okinawa. They needed something far stronger than a rationalization. They needed forgiveness.
Jesus’ death on a cross is a brutal scene, it is humanity at its very worst. I think too often we have sanitized it, making our crosses into art or even a logo. Crucifying a man is a terrible thing, an inhumane thing to do. But from that cross Jesus forgave the soldiers who pounded those nails.
Yes, O Lord, reign among us by the preaching of the cross in all its truth. Forgive us our offenses which are many and serious. Bring us, governed by Your goodness, to Your eternal paradise where people are no longer broken and barbarous humans wrecked by sin. Bring us to the healing and life which You created. Amen, come, King Jesus!