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Every time I think about the word “forgiveness” I think about what Reverend Samuel Wells had said when he was dean of Duke Chapel,

“God’s justice is forgiveness.” God’s justice isn’t revenge or retribution but forgiveness.

We live in a society that drinks the kool-aid of retribution and punishment. We want people to pay the price for the wrongs that they have committed toward us. And this is the corrupt picture of what so-called freedom and restoration look like.

And the church has also not helped by preaching a one size fits all approach to forgiveness. The same forgiveness that we might offer to a friend, partner, co-worker, or fellow parishioner, over a harmful word or a situation of harm is not the same thing when it comes to those of us who have been abused, harmed, manipulated, or taken advantage of by others. It isn't an excuse to hold unforgiveness, hate, and bitterness but simply to name that the journey towards forgiveness is arduous, difficult, and complicated.

And most significantly that the outcome isn't necessarily a restored relationship or even releasing someone from their harmful actions but for ourselves to be free at least in some capacity.

Jesus himself seems to be consumed with this idea that we need to forgive others and even the audacity to say that we must pray for and love our enemies.

These are some of the themes we will explore as we talk about the petition of the Lord’s prayer, “Forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors.”

1. Forgiveness is a necessary component of any relationship to thrive. It is what brings the relationships back to an equilibrium when harm is introduced. And at some point along our journey, harm, intentional and/or unintentional happens. It is what keeps us in communion with one another, it is the grace we offer to ourselves and one another, it is the ability to forgive.

2. Forgiveness, in contexts, where the harm manifests itself in abuse can be a lifelong journey. In these contexts, the goal is not to restore the relationships to the person or persons that caused the harm. The goal is to be free, to heal, to live. And it is not overnight. It is a process. It takes therapy. It takes a community that we can entrust our stories to.

We will dive deeper into forgiveness this Sunday andI hope you will gather with us.

  • Writer's pictureJason Gaskin

Growing up I loved to take part in electronics and put them back together. There were many times that I took something apart and then I couldn't figure out how to put it back together. My sister's cd player stopped working and I offered my services. I took part in the entirety of the stereo. Only to realize that one I could not fix the broken cd player and now two I couldn't put her cd player back together.

I have found for most of us deconstructing our faith is the easier part of our journey. We name the toxicity of how our faith journey might have harmed and disappointed us. Maybe causing us to rethink our relationships with family and friends. Rethink what it is we read and our spiritual practices. We might even in this process fully abandon anything that looks and smells like the church experiences we have come from. Our deconstruction becomes a bunch of pieces that we are now left to figure out how to put back together.

And this is the challenge on our faith journey is how to discover a faith that enlivens us and grounds us. One in which our wounds can be healed. This is the part that takes work.

Someone recently said on an NPR show I was listening to, "Don't aim at what you are trying to avoid... look at where you want to go." I am captured by how simplistic yet how profound these words are.

Are we trying to extrapolate all the fears, triggers, and shame inducers so that we might not feel those feelings? So we surgically carve out a faith, a community that won't ever hurt us or challenge us? Yet so many of us begin our pursuit of deconstructing and reconstructing our faith in this way.

Albeit each of our journeys are different. Some of us have been deeply harmed by the church and that will deeply affect our journey. Some of us were just bored with our faith... and so we started to pursue other ways that might enliven us. Others of us simply want to continue to pursue a more meaningful pursuit of Christ.

My journey is different from yours. Your journey is different from mine. But I do think there is space to learn from one another. Over the last 10 years, I have found deep meaning and vitality in the traditions that have been carried down for generations. One of these traditions is the continued practice of praying the Lord's prayer. And maybe the traditional prayer, "Our Father, who art in heaven..." is limiting and might wreak off the places we are trying to leave... I have found that the church has found life in this prayer in the myriad of translations and languages.

And that this prayer was introduced to a group of disciples eager to "learn" how to pray again. Jesus was introducing the difficult task to his disciples of reconstructing their faith. Jesus gave them a prayer that comes from various Jewish prayers. One that addresses the divine and human relationships.

Our experiences have shaped what we believe about prayer. But I want to ask in a fresh and new way how might we reconstruct this spiritual practice in a new way that might give us life and vitality as we together learn to pray again.


I took this picture of Micah Gaddy breaking the communion bread and breaking and dispersing it on the grass after one of our worship gatherings a few weeks ago.

Our traditional view of discipleship for children and adults is sitting in a circle with a teacher explaining what it means to follow Christ.

For me this picture displays discipleship. It embodies a holy and sacred action that the Eucharist doesn’t just nourish the human body but all of creation.

Starting a New Faith Community where people come from a myriad of religious backgrounds has formed and shaped us in many ways. We all come from religious traditions that have beautifully shaped our lives while other parts have been traumatic, disappointing, and harmful.

I recognize the challenge it can be to come into a community that practices Holy Communion each week.

For many of us Holy Communion has been a guarded practice in the life of the church. It was a closed table for those who were faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, had sincerely repented of their sins, and were members of that particular church.

We as a community have sought to reframe the practice of holy communion in a radical way. And in particular that this table is open to all. Open to those who profess Christ, open to those who haven’t developed language yet enjoy delicious bread and juice, open to those who question and doubt their faith, open to those who are agnostic and atheist, open to those who don’t know, open to those trying to figure out their journey. And most importantly open to children.

Our hope is that through this practice is that we might recognize that we are in deep solidarity with one another no matter where we are on our journey as we go out into the world each week.

Particularly important and significant is that we are teaching and offering to our children the beauty of this practice and a radical open invitation to participate in this sacred act.

This in itself can be challenging when children, particularly young children, can be loud, wiggly, and boisterous, which can sometimes impede the solemn nostalgia of this practice in former contexts that we have come from.

Traditional in many contexts is that the leftover elements of bread and juice are disposed outside into creation or are consumed by the priest/pastor. For some, this act is because the elements have been consecrated so it is desecrating to throw them in the trash or to pour the juice down the drain.

I take on a more theologically practical view that we are joining with all of creation into this holy work of bringing about the restorative work of Christ by dispersing the elements outside our gathering area.

In the previous churches I served there tended to be one person who cleaned up after Holy Communion. Their practice was often to throw the leftover bread in the trash and then pour the juice down the sink. I would ask them politely to disperse the juice outside and to break the bread up and throw it outside.

And then the next time we participated in Holy Communion… the person would throw the bread in the trash and the juice down the sink. This service and practice was engrained deeply and no wet behind the ears pastor was going to change this.

Yet now at Storied Church people like my friend Amy would take my son, Isaac, and other children outside after worship and break the bread up for the birds and squirrels and pour the juice into the ground week after week. It became an exciting communal process. Adults and children together dispersing this meal that brought our community together for creation to feast alongside us.

We have a lot of conversations in our community about children. How much are children involved in our Sunday morning gatherings? What programs should we think about creating for our children? How should children act in a worship space? And these are vital conversations that our community needs to have and journey together in search of the answers.

But at the same time, this picture of Micah (who also makes sure that our Christ candle is lit before our worship gathering) is also held. After our worship gathering, he has taken the bread himself, takes it outside to break it into pieces, and disperses the bread.

I think about all the different ways we have been harmed by this sacrament of Holy Communion. The ways in which some of us might have been harmed and hurt by it. It made us feel like we didn’t belong and weren’t included. And then I see how Micah and the other children are learning and experiencing this holy practice in a new and life-giving way.

A sacrament that says that they belong, one which invites them into this holy work of being the hands and feet of Jesus. A practice that invites the messiness of being a child and figuring out the world.

And it displays to us the essence of discipleship for children showing all of us that we are all in this holy work together and that none of us are left out of this narrative.


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