2 Corinthians 5:20 – 6:10

20So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

6As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. 2For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! 3We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry,4but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, 7truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; 10as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

6“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 3But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

5“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.6But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

16“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

  • Reconciliation?
  • What are we talking about?
  • The action of making one view or belief compatible with another?
  • The Restoration of friendly relations?
  • How do you define reconciliation?
  • What are the Biblical examples we have of concept?
  • Jacob & Esau?
  • Joseph & his Eleven Brothers?
  • King David & Mephibosheth?
  • The Prodigal Son & his Father?
  • The woman caught in adultery & Jesus?
  • How do we understand reconciliation as followers of Jesus, today?

The interesting thing about the word “reconciliation” in ordinary Greek usage is that it is not a “religious” term. That is to say, it does not appear in cultic contexts where people speak of seeking to appease God by offering sacrifices, nor does it have anything to do with cleansing guilt or receiving divine pardon for sins. Rather, it is a word drawn from the sphere of politics; it refers to dispute resolution. So one could speak of the diplomatic reconciliation of warring nations or, in the sphere of personal relationships, the reconciliation of an estranged husband and wife. So the key insight here is that even where Paul uses the verb “reconcile” with God as its subject — a remarkable paradigm shift — he is speaking about overcoming alienation and establishing new and peaceful relationships. God has taken the initiative to overcome our hostility and alienation from him and to restore us to peaceful relationship with himself.  The call is to be disciples and seek reconciliation with God and neighbor.

Almost a century ago, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about the cost of discipleship. His time was one in which much was demanded of those who profess to be followers of Jesus — those who seek to bear the message of salvation in a broken and fearful world. Almost 50 years ago, the Presbyterian Church confessed reconciliation as the heart of the gospel and the “peculiar” need of reconciliation in Christ. Today we embrace the Belhar Confession and its witness to the reconciling power of the gospel. Perhaps we, too, find ourselves in a time in the life of the church and the world when much is demanded of us who profess Christ as Lord — a time when Christ’s work of reconciliation feels particularly urgent.

In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he calls us to this work, writing, “if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation.” Indeed, in Christ, on the cross, God was reconciling the world to Godself and entrusting the ministry of reconciliation to Christ’s followers. We are ambassadors for Christ, carrying on his work of reconciliation.

This is messy work. Theologian Robert Schreiter, in his book “Reconciliation: Mission and Ministry in a Changing Social Order,” names the challenge. Reconciliation does not mean hasty peace. It does not take the place of liberation for the injured nor for the perpetrators of injury. Reconciliation is not a managed process that we achieve just by moving through a series of steps. Rather, reconciliation begins when we experience the power of God’s reconciling grace to break open our old lives and usher new life in its place. It is messy and powerful work.

If we are to set about this reconciling work together in faithful, Christ-honoring ways, I believe that we need time to rebuild our relationship with God and rebuild our relationship with other beloved children of God.  Lent is the perfect time to do that messy and powerful work.  Lent is the perfect time to repair our relationship with our creator and repair our relationship with our neighbor.

Reconciliation is something we are about, something that we do, and something that makes us a new creation.  “Be reconciled to God” is an invitation “to faith in the message that the reconciliation has been carried out.”2

What if this was a way to move through the season of Lent?

When we received the cross on our forehead tonight, we are invited to remember that it is in Christ and through Christ that reconciliation is possible. Yet, we are also invited to remember that as we leave the church with the seal of the cross of Christ, we are Christ’s ambassadors of reconciliation. We are sent as representatives for Christ, in Christ’s stead. Like Paul, we are apostles, sent ones, messengers, and our calling as servants of God (6:4) “belongs to the work of atonement itself.”3  This is what ministry is all about.  That ministry can begin anew on this Ash Wednesday, and we can use the next 40 days to prepare to be ambassadors of Christ’s reconciliation!

My prayer is that we use this season wisely!  Not by giving up chocolate or beverages, but by refocusing upon our relationships with a loving Father, and God’s beloved children, our neighbors.

Commentary provided by Jessica Tate, Susan Hedahl, Karoline Lewis, Eric D. Barreto and Sara Birmingham Drummond.