Will God Forgive Us?

The destruction of the planet, the extinction of humanity, the sell-out of organized religion and our collective imagination to the concerns and agendas of the economic bottom line and the control of mega-corporations…..In it all – Will God forgive us?

I mean, forgive us for what we have done and what we have left undone – Will God forgive us?

The question haunts the characters in Paul Schrader’s latest movie, “First Reformed” and the movie’s protagonist, Reverend Toller, the shipwrecked pastor of a quaint historical church in Upstate New York with a souvenir shop and tiny handful of members.

Will God forgive us?  I mean, forgive us for our parts in the huge issues in our collective lives as well as the equally huge issues in our own personal lives – the death of a child, the wreckage of a marriage, the diagnosis of cancer, the addictions, the fragility of all of our lives….

Forgiveness can seem at times like a cop-out, an impossible or irresponsible dream, so like us, the characters respond by lashing out at what cannot be forgiven.  They take on the breastplate of rage and the desire to inflict pain and hurt on others – and the sword of self-hate at their powerlessness in making a difference at all.

Haunting, disturbing questions at the heart of it all.

And this – how can we survive, endure, live with the pain of our world and our lives?

I recommend “First Reformed” to you and yes, I look forward to seeing a movie about Fred Rogers, one of my true role models and heroes – and perhaps more than ever need to see it!   And yet I recommend “First Reformed” this highly agonizing and disturbing movie with no easy answers because of the whisper it offers in the midst of all the noise and destruction.  It’s a whisper that I needed to hear – so quiet that I almost missed it – “Love Wins”.

It’s what my friend Esther wrote back after I texted her right after the move – “What was that?!”  Esther and her husband Dale are much more serious moviegoers than me – and Esther’s a poet as well.  She often perceives what I don’t catch at first glance. She texted back, “Love Wins”.

“Love Wins.”  That perhaps the meaning of that final scene.  That perhaps the answer to the question, “Will God forgive us?”  That perhaps the lens with which I want to go see this movie again.  That response – why I write this blog this week in hopes that if you go see it you might become part of a conversation about the power and impact of that whisper to meet the huge issues of our times and our lives.

At the memorial service last Saturday I read those familiar words from 1 Corinthians 13 again…. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.”  And I concluded my eulogy as I always do with the heart of Paul’s faith at the end of Romans 8:  “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of God….”

Nice words?  Or might it perhaps be true?