Published 3:13 pm Thursday, March 28, 2013

What a beautiful trinity of words: Daylight Saving Time.

Light, light, glorious light. Many of us have a felt a kind of giddy excitement-even with periodic snow and ice-since DST's return earlier this month. I had been ticking the days off the calendar since darkness pushed the light aside last fall, making way for long shadows and cold days. To feel the light of spring ahead, with summer to come, and all its warmth, is a true blessing, even if it brings the curse of cutting grass.

But the grass, at least, will be green, like the budding leaves on the trees, a green backdrop to the wondrous blossoming of spring with its kaleidoscope of colors that banish the dark and bar the cold from intruding.

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How simple. Child's play. We moved our clocks ahead one hour. Sixty minutes. That's all it took. That and months of slow tilting of our planet toward spring for the Northern Hemisphere.

But let's not cloud the poetry of spring with the laws of physics. Our clocks were reset on March 10. We are all on Daylight Saving Time. Working and playing, living and praying with the light all around us. Even the seconds tick more brightly, a kind of rhythm or heartbeat for the light.

And now Sunday is Easter.

I imagine that when Jesus welcomed the tax collectors and sinners, they felt the return of an altogether different, and far more important, daylight saving time. Such folk are kept in a kind of perpetual winter by the Pharisees and scribes of the world, kept in the darkness of disregard and the cold of callous condemnation.

They still are so exiled and excommunicated by powers that be. Or, more accurately, powers that think they be.

The company of Jesus must have felt like a new season to those marginalized by the wealthy and the powerful. The companionship of Jesus must have felt like love and forgiveness suddenly blooming in the world around them, despite the marble hearts of the Pharisees and scribes. Such marble hearts are always set to standard time. God is not standard time at all.

Forgiveness, Jesus knew, was, is and always shall be crucial for a life lived in the daylight saving time of God's love and grace. When asked how many times one should forgive another, Jesus answered seventy times seven.

But forgiveness, even once, is hard. Holding onto hurts, gripping tightly to slights, tenaciously tightening our hearts around the sins committed against us is much easier. As easy as springing a clock ahead one hour, as we all did in the darkness before we went to bed on March 9, knowing that the light would be with us for one hour longer when we woke up the next morning.

In the New Testament, the returning of the prodigal heart is likened to a new birth, the former life no more, a new life begun. “But we had to celebrate,” the father tells his elder son who is miffed at the fatted calf being readied for a feast celebrating the return of his younger brother, the prodigal son, “because this brother of yours was dead and has now come to life.”

This brother of yours was dead and has now come to life.

Not simply lost and found. Dead and come to life.

Just as Paul told the people of Corinth, and the people of Farmville, Buckingham, Cumberland and Prince Edward, “if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation. Everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new.”

A new creation.

God loves those who have hurt us. God loves them with the same love given to us. God's love for those who have aggrieved us, or deeply wounded us, is not dependent on our forgiveness of those wounds.

Once we realize that it becomes a little bit easier to do what God is longing for us to do-and that is to spring our hearts ahead into God's own daylight saving time by forgiving those who have hurt us.

And whether they have apologized or not. Whether they want or care about our forgiveness or not.

Jesus wants us to live our lives in the year-round daylight saving time of God's love and grace. God's love and grace never falls back into Standard Time. There is nothing Standard Time about the endless and ever-present season of God's warmth and light.

Standard Time is all human. All too human. Standard Time is holding on to hurts and pain, to sins and grievances despite the fact that a turn of our heart would place us perpetually in a place far removed from the sleeting snowstorm of hurts held onto.

If we hold onto to our human Standard Time, our lack of forgiveness, a part of our heart is always beating in the dark and cold of winter. We exile ourselves. We excommunicate ourselves from total immersion in the blooms and blossoms of God's daylight saving time.

But holding on to our hurts is so easy. Too easy. And, in its own way, becomes a sin, if one sees a sin as anything that comes between us and God's love and grace.

So we, too, can easily find ourselves among the tax collectors and the sinners joined by Jesus, welcomed by Jesus, who wants nothing more than to set our hearts and souls ahead one hour into God's daylight saving time.

We can come to life in God's daylight saving time.

We can become a new creation in God's daylight saving time by understanding the power of forgiveness, the transformational power that our forgiving others can have on our own lives, not to mention the lives of those who have wronged us, especially if they seek our forgiveness.

They may but, of course, they may not.

We may offer our forgiveness and they may throw it back in our face. But they cannot, unless we let their response sentence our hearts to human Standard Time, they cannot banish us from God's daylight saving time.

Their acceptance of our forgiveness is between the clock-like ticking of their own hearts and God.

A few years ago, the actor Robert Clary visited students at Mills Godwin High School in Richmond. Those of you who remember the 1960's television show Hogan's Heroes will remember him as Louis LeBeau, the diminutive happy-go-lucky Frenchman among those held prisoner in the made-for-TV World War II German prisoner of war camp.

Clary didn't come to wisecrack with those students, however, but to talk about the Holocaust. Born in Paris bearing the name Robert Max Widerman, he and his entire family was hauled off to very real German concentration camps in 1942. He was 16 years old.

“It is very, very hard to talk about. You cannot push a button and say it. You have to relive the moments. You remember things like marching 15 miles through snow, watching your family and friends die,” Clary told them.

The twelve other members of his immediate family were killed in Auschwitz. Clary, or Widerman, was imprisoned in Buchenwald. Somehow he survived, liberated on April 11, 1945. The sole survivor from his family imprisoned by the Germans.

“I don't know why I survived…Every day I would get up and hope that maybe today I can scrape together some food, maybe, I hope, I will not be beaten so badly today,” he recalled.

“The whole experience was a complete nightmare-the way they treated us-but I don't hold a grudge,” he said, “because that's a great waste of time.”

Clary chose to free his spirit of forgiveness from the internal concentration camp of remembered hatred and evil that could have filled his mind, his heart, and his soul, and so kept him prisoner, in a way, for the rest of his life.

Clary embraced the liberation of forgiveness.

Forgiveness lights the world of the forgiver, warms the life of those who forgive others their trespasses as we ask God to forgive our own trespassing.

The father of the prodigal son is clearly living in God's daylight saving time. The returning prodigal son is definitely coming home to the warmth of God's daylight saving time.

Only the eldest son is living in human Standard Time. He has not yet set his heart ahead that crucial one hour. His heart is still ticking in the darkness, in the cold, snow all around, ice forming.

Any thought of a past grievance is a moment of self-imposed exile from the light and warmth, the love and grace of God's daylight saving time. The flowers inside us just won't bloom if we keep snowing on our own lives behind the locked doors and shuttered windows that make our grudges feel at home.

And by the way, sometimes we need to forgive ourselves, too, forgive ourselves for being as human as the person who has wounded us, for lacking the perfection we seek in the one who has given us pain.

So let us forgive ourselves, forgive others, and share the daylight saving time of God's love for us all.

We can smell the fatted calf at the feast God has waiting for us, the feast God has waiting for those we have hurt, the feast God has waiting for those who have hurt us, if we would only set our hearts ahead into God's daylight saving time.

Human Standard Time is just not worth synchronizing the clock of our lives to or the beat of our heart.

We have a choice.

Human Standard Time year-round with the Pharisees and scribes, who cannot forgive the tax collectors and sinners and who cannot forgive Jesus for welcoming such people and sharing a meal with them.

Or God's daylight saving time with sinners and tax collectors, folks just like us, drawing closer to listen to the words of Jesus in our hearts, feeling for that place inside us where our heart can spring ahead into the light and into the warmth.

To come to life.

To be a new creation.

To blossom and bloom.

Outside of our windows and walls, the ground is almost trembling with nature's answer to the call of Daylight Saving Time.

A wondrous rash of flowers, of bird song, and sunlight, green leaves and lawns are coming in from the dark and cold of winter, like the return of some prodigal season, or prodigal son.

The earth is tilting toward the light.

Showing us the way toward the endless season of God's love and grace inside us.

Easter is coming Sunday.

Resurrection Day.

The ultimate example of God's daylight saving time.

We know our clocks have been set, synchronized with the growing light all month.

But what about all the deepest places in our often-wounded hearts?