THE SEVENTEENTH DAY OF APRIL IN THE YEAR OF GRACE TWO THOUSAND AND SIXTEEN.
This visit to the cardiologist is supposed to be routine, and that is what it proves to be–routine. We like It when a medical visit turns out to be routine. On this occasion, Dr. Doyle asks a few heart questions to bring my cardiac history up to date. His nurse shoots an EKG and the doctor reviews it. He feels my ankles and carotid arteries, then listens to my lungs and heart all over the chest and back. We chat a little and he rejoices that I have dropped a few pounds. Finally he stands, smiles, shakes my hand, and says, “Everything looks fine. See you in six months.” No procedure needed. No injection required. No new medications. Just a word: Your heart is sound–carry on with life.
It reminds me of the conclusion of the Old Testament ritual for reinstating a cured leper back into the covenant community (Leviticus 14:1-32). Under the Law of Moses, an Israelite who contracts leprosy becomes ceremonially “unclean” and is required to move outside the camp. Even when cured, the former leper has to be certified as cleansed from the disease and also from its stigma that has isolated him or her from the covenant community. What joy the former outcast must feel to hear the priest pronounce him clean and officially present him back to God and to the people (Lev. 14:7, 11).
There is an ancient Christian custom of confessing sin and hearing a pronouncement of forgiveness (“absolution”). I am not talking about individuals confessing specific sins to someone in private, but the recitation of a general confession by the whole congregation together, to which a member of the faith community responds in the name of Jesus Christ, assuring us that we are forgiven. There are beautiful forms for this in the Book of Common Prayer (go to: www.bcponline.org/ ) and elsewhere, but I would like to offer a totally-biblical alternative as well.
I have prepared a series of short responsive readings from Scripture for congregational use. Each set includes three parts: a word of confession, a pronouncement of forgiveness and a word of thanks and praise. These readings fit well before the Lords Supper or perhaps near the beginning of a worship assembly. You will find them at: edwardfudge.com/written-ministry/ . This is all the permission you need to print them, copy them, or to forward them to others. Please use them freely to the glory of God.