The Rev. Calvon T. Jones, Assistant Minister, the Memorial Church of Harvard University. File photo by Rose Lincoln.
By the Rev. Calvon T. Jones
Memorial Church of Harvard University
(The following is a transcript of the service audio)
What do you do when you are heavy? What do you do when it seems as if you can't take anymore? Preaching but heavy, singing but broken. You may be a professor at the illustrious Harvard University, but you are crumbling as I speak. You may be a banker, architect, or maybe a teacher, but you're heavy. Walking through life with great accomplishments, walking through life with great accolades, but you are heavy. Somebody in this place today is heavy. It seems as if the more you try, the heavier the load gets. The more you pray, the heavier the burdens get. And what makes it even worse is that these bags that you carry, most of them you did not choose.
Is anybody heavy? Maybe you may not be heavy right now but you have been. You've experienced great loss in your life. You've experienced great grief. What do you do when you're heavy and you did not ask for these bags? What do you do? How do you forgive others? Who hurt you? That mother who walked away. That father who walked away. Those siblings who broke your heart. That relationship, that girlfriend or boyfriend, that left you wounded. What do you do after the divorce? What do you do after losing that best friend? How do you forgive? How do you wake up and say, "God, you are yet king," when it appears that your world is crumbling?
I don't know about you, but many people have a theology where they cannot be honest. The epitome of Christianity stands on the foundation of forgiveness. Church fathers have told us that you must forgive because Christ forgave. You must forgive if you've been a baptized believer. But what do you do when you say you forgive out of your mouth, but every day you cannot move forward because of the wounds, molestation, sexual assault, not being affirmed of who you are. Wounds, brokenness. Forgiveness is not easy. Truth be told, some of us right now are having a difficult time releasing the people who hurt us.
It can be five years, six years, 15 years, or 20 years. It is not easy to forgive. So it's fascinating that we find a Christ who is king, who stands in a place that many of us would never ask and says, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they're doing." Reverend Alanna, I got to be honest, there's a lot of people who hurt me, and they knew what they were doing. I saw the knives in their hand. I saw when they backstabbed me. I saw when they tried to set me up for failure. I saw when they did everything they could to take my breath away. Have you been there? It's not easy. It would have you walking around angry, having a difficult time to enjoy the basic moments of life.
And I know it may seem facetious, and it may be a caricature psalm, but many of us look like this in the spirit. Angry, held hostage by what others have done. Christ was supposed to be king, to redeem those who had been relegated to the margins. He wanted to give healing to those who had not been seen. He wanted to heal those who were sick. He wanted to see those who were invisible. Yes, he healed on the Sabbath. Yes, he dined with prostitutes. Yes, he challenged the religious order, but he was only trying to make the world a better place. He was hurt. Scripture says he wasn't even received by his own in Nazareth. But he was king.
And then he's found being brutalized with something over his head saying, "King of the Jews." And he utters out of his mouth heavy by the wounds that society had placed on him, heavy because he answered the prophetic office, he says, "Forgive them for they know not what they're doing." I don't believe that Christ was saying that this was easy. I believe that Christ was saying that, "I have to lay down these wounds that others have placed upon me for myself." How many of you have gotten to a point where you say, "I'm tired of the resentment. I'm tired of the bitterness. I want to move forward. Too heavy." So maybe the forgiveness to Christ was, maybe I need to let go of the anger.
Maybe I need to let go of the resentment. Maybe I need to let go of the bitterness because it's been holding me down in my own prison for too long. Just maybe I have been allowing people to live in my soul rent-free, and I got to let it go. Maybe forgiveness is, I have to release everything on me although I want them to pay, although I want vindication to happen, but I have to get to my next destination. Forgiveness is not easy, but maybe forgiveness is, I have to free my soul from resentment, bitterness, and anger. I believe Christ was angry with the political order of that day. I believe Christ was angry with how the religious sect had been, "Hallelujah," putting other people aside. Can you see?
First Christ, although they mocked him he really knew he was king because a king knows within his soul what true freedom is. I may be on this cross. I may be being seen as someone who does not have power, but I have power because the more I can let go, the freer I can become. Whatever it is. I don't know who I'm talking to today. Whatever has been holding you down, you have the power to let it go. Every bag that I put down, it's not easy. It may be that you may have shame, but this is for you whatever it may be. Trauma, hurt, pain, brokenness, depression, whatever it may be. One by one, forgiving allows you to free yourself that you can begin to have mobility.
Number one I believe is that Christ was not negating his pain. Christ was not negating his agony. Christ was not negating the shame and the humiliation on the cross because he had been called the Good Shepherd. Well, what shepherd finds himself on the cross? What king finds himself on the cross by the political power of Rome? But Christ knew that if I could let go, I will free myself. Forgiveness, number one, frees you from anger, resentment, and hurt. But forgiveness also allows you to make way for transformation. Christ stood there. Christ the King stood there being mocked by the crowd. Stood there as the soldiers intimidated him or tried to intimidate him.
Stood there as one criminal on one side said, "If you are the Christ, save yourself." There will be people who will think because you let go of the baggage that you're weak. But Christ the King is really strong because it takes strength to say, "No longer will I allow a society to dictate my identity. No longer will I allow others political power to determine my journey." But when you can put down the bags, transformation will happen. When Christ put down the baggage, grace was given to even his enemies. When Christ put down the baggage, kingdom was realized. A criminal, the one who we deem less, the one in which society would not even encounter, looks to Jesus.
After Jesus has ultimately given forgiveness for the things that had happened in his 33 years, for the things that were happening around the cross, this criminal looks to him. "Remember me when you go or come into your kingdom." Jesus responds, "Surely you have a place in paradise." To you it may sound like a weak king. To me it sounds like a king who let go of the baggage that society, or the world, or the political order of that day tried to put on him, and he opened up a way for the least of these. As you leave this place today, I beckon unto you to ask yourself, "Can I walk with Christ and forgive those who have hurt me?" Amen.