This past Sunday I celebrated communion with the Sunday School Class called “Jesus’ Special Followers.” Many of you are familiar with this great class of adults who share at least two things in common: they love Jesus and they have some level of cognitive impairment. Week after week there is a loving team of volunteers who work with these students and their caregivers to provide safe and sacred space to feel loved, valued, and affirmed. This particular Sunday I was asked to gather with them in the Storey Chapel to participate in a worship service where we sang “This Little Light of Mine” and “Jesus Loves Me” and a few other choruses. They formed a choir and sang raucously and joyfully before quieting down for my brief meditation leading into communion. Just before sharing in the bread and cup of Christ, one of the class members ambled to the near center of the Chapel to sing “The Lord’s Prayer.” He sang the tune near perfectly as well as each word. Well, almost every word.
When it came to the line, “Forgive us our debts…” he sang instead, “Give us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” This sounds similar, but it is of course a completely different meaning. Who wants to be given debts? I have enough, thank you very much, so I certainly do not want to go around asking for more. I have no doubt you probably feel much the same.
Here was a gentleman who, one could argue, has been given his fair share of debts, physically and mentally. To my observation, he has far more debts than I do. Yet here he was singing “Give us our debts.” I am sure it was just a faux paux, a slip of the tongue, but still it set me to pondering.
Some of us have more and ask for more, some have less and even from their comparative poverty give away even more. After his song I was aware that I was indebted to him and all of the others who sang and gave and loved so liberally that morning in the Chapel. I was indebted and yet, as the prayer goes, he forgave even those debts.
Forgiveness really does set you free. If you are the one forgiven you are set free from the debt and the bondage created. If you are the one forgiving, you too are set free in that another’s sin or debt no longer has you defined or bound.
Maybe when we sing “Give us our debts” it is about being willing to take on the burdens of another; to lighten the load that someone else might be set free. Jesus said this much when he taught: “…if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:41-42)
Whatever conclusion you or I might draw from this wayward line sung in the Chapel, I know this much: I walked out of the Chapel with a lighter load than when I entered, all because of a man who cannot walk that well, talk that well and maybe not even think that well took on part of my debts. How can I not do the same thing for another?
Thank you good folks for the many ways you help lighten my load. Thanks be to God!