One year, preparing for Easter, I was trying to find a way to communicate about the unity of all things after the resurrection. The Forgiveness Exercise, a moment in Narrative 5, came out of this creative dilemma. I kept thinking of that conventional evangelical image of the cross lying over the canyon and thinking to myself that the resurrection is more powerful than a bridge. Resurrection rips out the old and replaces it with the new. The resurrection holds a greater purchase on all things than a bridge, and that difference informs a different way of living.
At the same time, I was also reading an essay by Daniel Johnson describing a phenomenology of hope and the concept of “horizon experience.” Songs like David Gray’s New Horizons, and U2’s No Line on the Horizon each brought imagery that reinforces Johnson’s article:
[A] horizon may signify an end, but not an end beyond which there is nothing. Rather it is an end beyond which there is necessarily something, something that we could very well see for ourselves if only we were somewhere other than where we are. (Daniel Johnson, “Contrary Hopes: Evangelical Christianity and the Decline Narrative” in The Future of Hope, Miroslav Volf and William Katerberg, editors, p. 30.)
And so this exercise was first invented in an effort to visualize how the resurrection functions where we are today.
In the collection God’s Grand Work of Art, we learn that the new creation inaugurated in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is one that changes the vision of what is possible. We envision a path just ahead of where we are where all things are made new, where the swords of war are melted into plowshares, where forgiveness flourishes, and where terrorist and terrorized are reconciled citizens in the new creation.
This simple exercise using a plain sheet of paper asks the worshiping congregation to come to terms with the enmity and separation that we live with in front of that horizon, and to cultivate a vision to recognize and join that future horizon, forgiveness.