Year C – Lent 4 | Isaiah 55:1-9; Psalm 63:1-8; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13; Luke 13:1-9
The opening passage in this week’s reading has an amazing confession: “the Israelites no longer had manna.” This could be taken negatively if read in isolation; however, it is given as positive proof of God’s blessing. The temporary supply during wilderness wanderings was replaced by annual harvests in the land of promise. The passover celebrated in Gilgal was a watershed. It was God’s forgiveness manifested. Confession of sins is a source for joy, not shame. Shame is shed when sins are named and forgiveness received.
Psalm 32 celebrates forgiveness. It does not dismiss sin. It acknowledges it and presents it before the Lord. The Lord forgives the guilt associated with sin. Forgiveness is removing of that guilt and is possible only when sins are named with intent to shun.
The state of forgiveness means manna is no longer required. As a new creation, we enter into a new ministry. We become ambassadors for God proclaiming the message of reconciliation. The diplomatic discussion of sin is surrounded in language of God no longer counting them against our account because of what Christ has done.
The gospel story of the prodigal son is one of the most powerful representations of God’s forgiveness. It didn’t matter if the wayward son’s confession was sincere or just desperate, the Father already forgave. Forgiveness does not have to follow repentance. We can forgive those who hurt us whether or not they confess their sin.
During Lent, we focus much on sin and forgiveness. These terms are misunderstood outside our Christian community. Assuming sin means only shame, and forgiveness means forgetting about things without accountability, the Christian focus can be scorned. However, understood in the context of God’s abundant supply – whether in the wilderness or out – sin and forgiveness are themes that encourage us to feel the cost of God’s forgiveness through the death, burial and resurrection of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.