Presbyterians Today

SEP-OCT 2016

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4 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016 | Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay Sue Sue Washburn is the interim editor of Presbyterians Today and pastor of Reunion Presbyterian Washburn is the interim editor of Presbyterians Today and pastor of Reunion Presbyterian Church Church in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania. in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania. UPFRONT | Sue Washburn Everyday reconciliation Mending the tears that keep us apart O n September 12, 2001, I was in the playroom of my parents' house with my kindergartner and toddler. I vividly remember sitting on the steps while the kids played. I was still rattled from the downing of the Twin Towers and the crash of Flight 93 sixty miles from my home. My husband was stranded in Seattle since his flight to New York City had been canceled, and so I went to be with family. Sitting on the carpet, watching my kids play with blocks and dinosaur toys, I realized that it's too easy to take things for granted. I assumed there'd be another day to apologize or to say, "I love you." I felt entitled to nurse my anger. I'd withhold forgiveness until tomorrow or the next day. For the people who went to work in the World Trade Center or got on one of those planes, there wasn't a next day. In the aftermath of that event, I made the decision to try to live a life reconciled to the people around me and to God. I'd try to end each day in peace so that if tomorrow did not come, my family and friends would know that I loved them. I would pray so that my relation- ship with God could grow. I would mend the little tears in my relationships before they became big, gaping holes. I would try to practice everyday reconciliation. The parent that I've become grew out of that moment. I hug my kids when they leave the house, even when they roll their eyes. I tell them I love them. I apologize when I lose my cool, hoping that I'm teaching them the importance of prioritizing a relationship over a storm of feelings. I do these things with my husband, too. Our marriage, like most, is full of ongoing reconciliation. We move apart in annoyance or frustration, then intentionally span the distance with a touch, a kiss, or a kind word. Since I've been called to ministry, I spend even more time mending relationships, carefully trying to stitch together the fabric of the congregation. Am I perfect? Not even close. But I try to reconcile as I go, a little at a time. This issue on mending relationships is full of many ways to think about reconciliation. But what strikes me the most is that mending relationships is something we need to practice, in our homes and in our churches. And the more we practice, the better we get at it. We learn that we can let go of our egos, tell hard truths, admit to being wrong, and help create a better world. We do this through Christ, in Christ, and with Christ. So much big reconciliation work needs to be done—between races, political parties, theologies, and religions. We look at the gaping holes between us and feel overwhelmed. But we can't do nothing. Oftentimes when strangers find out I'm a pastor, they tell me they are Christian but do not go to church, usually because of a fight. I sigh, nod, and reply that I'm an ice skater. With a puzzled look at the change in topic, they usually ask questions about my skating. So I tell them I don't actually go on the ice. I don't practice. I don't do any skating, really. And then I explain. Following Christ, the reconciler, requires daily practice, like skating. Church is the place where we learn reconciliation through words and then practice it in deeds. We hear God's story of reconciliation in Christ and then we enact it with each other. During the liturgy we shake hands with people who may have (gasp!) sat in our pew. Sometimes we reconcile over issues as mundane as paint color. Other times the issues are more impor- tant, like when it's time to call a new pastor or whether to perform same-gender marriages. So much big reconciliation work needs to be done— between races, political parties, theologies, and reli- gions. We look at the gaping holes between us and feel overwhelmed. But we can't do nothing. Jesus' life shows us that reconciliation starts small, as a baby born in an empire. He shows us that everyday choices matter. Each time we choose to eat with someone or touch someone or talk with someone, we can make the hole that keeps us apart a little smaller. Each time we cry out for justice, offer forgiveness, and give of ourselves, we help to close the gap. Each time we practice reconciliation, we are living into the call Jesus places upon our lives. The good news is that we don't have to be perfect. We just have to practice.

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