Last Sunday afternoon I had the opportunity and privilege to spend time with several members of the youth group and three of the group’s adult leaders. It was a real gift and blessing for me to be able to teach and lead a session. I’ve been thinking about my time with off and on for the past week.
Our youth ministry continues to be a real area of strength and celebration in the life of our parish. Under Gwen’s leadership now for nine years, the group has certainly ebbed and flowed over time. This year is as strong as I’ve ever seen it.
Last Sunday was a time for young people to come together for a lesson and a time of sharing. The agenda didn’t include an outing or a fun activity like bowling or laser tag. Rather, we got together to watch some segments of a film on the power of forgiveness. We also saw a brief clip from the movie “Les Miserables”, again dealing with the power of forgiveness to transform a life. Following the movie we went to church. There we heard some Scripture passages challenging us to show mercy and to forgive, in the same way we have been forgiven and are shown mercy by our loving God. We touched on the fact that forgiveness doesn’t mean that what happened is somehow “okay”. Rather, it means that we are free from the burden of carrying around anger, resentment and the poison that can grow from hanging on to hatred and bitterness.
Following our reflection and sharing time, everyone wrote down on a piece of paper something for which we’d like to be forgiven. One by one, we walked to the large blue ceramic bowl on the Lenten table and lit this piece of paper on fire, offering up to God this area of life that is calling out for a new start and forgiveness. As each one of us took our turn to light our piece of paper and watch it burn, the rest of us prayed for that person, that they would know God’s love and forgiveness in their life.
Lent is a time of new beginning, of calling forth new life from death. This simple reflection and activity was one that was a blessing for the young people, adults and I.
How about you? If you were to have been there, what would you have written on that piece of paper? For what do you long to feel God’s love and forgiveness? It’s always a good time to ask! This is hard spiritual work, make no mistake. Offering and seeking forgiveness are profound and holy disciplines, and they lead to life.