July 22

Colossians 2:13-15

“God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross.” vss. 13b-14

There is a Cursillo retreat ritual, likely inspired by this verse, during which participants are given small sheets of white paper on which they are encouraged to privately make a list of their sins. When they have finished they are invited to use a hammer to nail those lists to a large wooden cross lying in the front of the room. In the context of the retreat, generally on a Friday evening, the act of hammering has a cathartic effect. And even if it doesn’t satisfy the intricacies of our particular theories of atonement, the ritual provides a potent image of forgiveness through the cross. Later, as the papers are gathered, taken outside and burned, there is a palpable feeling of thanksgiving for God’s forgiving mercies. Sometimes we need that kind of concreteness in our worship. It’s one thing to move through a litany of confession and absolution, but the visual presence of sin-lists, nails, hammers, and flames can touch even hardened hearts. Of course it’s not the ritual itself that brings forgiveness. All that is necessary for our new life has already taken place in Christ–it’s all a gift, and it’s ours whether we deserve it or not. The truth is that we can’t get enough of grace–and the more ways we can experience its cleansing power, the better off we will be.

Thought for the Day: What good retreat experiences have I had?

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