[This post is the final in a series of devotions on forgiveness that I first published last year in a leaders’ devotional book, "Disciplines 2013" from The Upper Room. This is based on a reading found in Psalm 32: 1 & 11 and Luke 15:22-24]

This is the day to take a breath.  This is a day of celebration. The parable reveals a father who is so delighted with the return of the lost that he stops production for a  party.  The compulsion that often captures those who are responsible for providing the resources for sustaining life is suspended.  Get the best food and the party hats and let us take time out to rejoice and sing for joy.  

When the alienated are finally reunited, when the hard work of forgiveness is under way, when the conversations that have been interrupted begin again, even haltingly, it is time to party.  It is time to acknowledge that something new is happening.  It is time to taste the first fruits of the reign of God.  It is time to allow happiness to overtake us and to shout for joy.

All too often we fail to join this party.  Our churches can be so caught up in holding people accountable for their mistakes that we can’t experience the joy of forgiveness and the freedom to discover a new way.  The burden of ungrieved loss and disappointment weights us down and we are lost in the prison of the past, unable to move forward into that new world of abundant life designed by God’s forgiving spirit.

Open your heart to God who  longs for you to join the journey toward a new creation.  Allow your burdens to be lifted so that, at least from time to time, maybe each Lord’s day, you might set aside your struggle to be right and allow God to give righteousness as a gift to you.  Then you can celebrate with the father, with the wayward child, and the steady child who stayed home.  Won’t you join the party?

Thanks, Giver of new life, for putting a new song in our hearts.