Never Too Late
“When you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your sibling has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your sibling, and then come and offer your gift.” – Matthew 5:23-24 (NRSV, adapted)
In 793, Vikings raided the monastery at Lindisfarne in England. Also known as Holy Island, it was the most sacred site in the Kingdom of Northumbria. Desecrated. Its altars dug up, its valuables stolen, its inhabitants killed or led away in chains.
In 1993, on the 1200th anniversary of the attack, a delegation of two arrived from Norway at St. Mary’s Church on Lindisfarne, bearing gifts. A bust of St. Olaf, the country’s patron, and a letter of reconciliation.
A sign at the front of the sanctuary tells how the community welcomed the visitors, worshiped with them, and shared the eucharist. It concludes: “So, although we had not previously realized that we were still at war with Norway, peace was definitely declared.”
Jesus doesn’t outline any statute of limitations on our offenses. (Nor, thankfully, any expiration date on his forgiveness.) He only says that the moment we remember we’ve hurt a sibling, we should stop whatever we’re doing and seek to be reconciled.
Whether it’s been 1200 years or 12 minutes. Whether they realize the war is still raging or they believe the armistice was declared generations ago. It’s never too late to repent of the pain we’ve caused. And it’s never been so long that we should neglect the work of repair.
For your prayer, go listen to this song by Lyndsey Scott. As the lyrics say, “It doesn’t matter how long you have forgotten, only how soon you remember.” Amen.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.