8 Apr 2017

Remission of Sins

Cristo Redentor at sunset, Rio de Janeiro
            In our society, when we hear the word "remission" we tend to think that someone has had a positive reprieve or turnaround in their medical condition.
            For us fans of the BCP, it takes us through the offices and the Eucharist, where we understand it to mean the cancellation of a debt or an exculpation of sins.
            More modern translations use 'forgiveness' but the subtlety is, in my opinion, important. The creed in Greek uses the word aphesis (ἄφεσιν) which means that the sins are treated as though they have never been committed. The great gift we acknowledge, that through the One baptism our sins will be remitted, should not be taken lightly.
            For this forgiveness is not merely a 'blank slate' to start sinning again, or an articulation about ourselves individually. It is an assurance that the sin which has stained us, the sins we have committed by thought and word and action, the sins that we have unknowingly committed, the sins that are committed by the very nature of our sinful human condition: these will be removed from us.
            We are encouraged, of course, through the path of confession and self-examination, to do our best to avoid sin. And what reassurance, therefore, to know that God's remission transcends any human laws or earthly limitations. It is absolute; it is
            It is, in fact, a positive reprieve or turnaround in our spiritual condition. It is a remission even more significant than what a cancer patient may hear from their oncologist. It is a turn towards health and well-being.
            It acknowledges, as with the medical counterpart, that dis-ease and un-health may return; and return at any time. But it celebrates that full remission; that for one beautiful moment we recognise and delight in the joy and peace and comfort of that turnaround.
            And in that recognition, we might go one step further and re-examine the remission itself: to re-mission ourselves. To align our lives in such a way that we intentionally aim to avoid future engagement with known sins; that we make effort to become more aware of our unknown sins and their impacts.
            One hopes that our Christian journey will be full of gratitude and humble appreciation, that the remission of our sins is a re-mission of our lives, with a focus on loving and serving our God.

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