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reachThe word conversion comes from the Latin and calls us to turn in another direction. This morning’s gospel verse (EZ 18:31) urges us to “turn away from all the crimes you have committed and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.” I was interested in the responsibility for those actions whose agent in the Scriptures is often God; in this case it is we ourselves who do the creating of something new. In the same manner, the gospel puts responsibility on us this morning in our relationships with others and adds a twist that calls for even more self-surrender than we might expect. Jesus does not say, “If you have something against your brother [or sister] go and be reconciled.” Rather the text reads, “If you bring your gift to the altar and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (MT 5:23) So whether or not we think we have been wronged, there is no pouting allowed here. It doesn’t tell us to go and ask for an apology, nor to apologize for something that is not our fault just to get it over with. The command is to go and be reconciled which means to restore to relationship and it clearly says it’s up to us to figure out how to do that.

Both Ezekiel and Matthew this morning speak to something that we might care to work on if we’re looking for a Lenten practice, but it is really something that belongs in our daily intentions throughout the year. Each day we ought to be committed to right relationship with God, with other people and with the whole of creation. We can’t wait for others to take the first step. Make for yourselves a new heart and spirit, Ezekiel says. Don’t wait for the other to come to you, Jesus urges. Turn around and see what can be done to change yourself, to change the world. It starts today.