Sunday, May 29, 2011

"As We Forgive . . ."

I posted this before, but I'm mailing this meditation to the congregants who are in the flock over which I've been assigned as elder. So I thought I'd repost it here as well:

One of the happiest days of my life, now some years past, was the day I came across Mk 11.25. Or at least when this verse hit home.

In instructing his disciples about prayer, Jesus added this:

"And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions."

There's lots of interesting stuff to consider in the second part of the verse (and, of course, the bit about standing while you pray is pretty interesting as well), but I want to focus on the first half of the verse, and how emphatic Jesus is.

Jesus uses compelling words: "Whenever," "anything," "anyone."

"Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone."

To be sure, we pray regularly in the "Our Father" to "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." But that line usually comes and goes too quickly to implement it fully. So I slowed down, and in my prayer began to recall anyone whom I might have something against. Then I forgave them.

I know. It sounds stupidly simple. But while I had forgiven some people some sins before God, it wasn't a regular feature of my prayers. ("Whenever.")

Now the thing is, it's not as though I was standing around brooding about all thewrongs that people had done me during my life. I had a relatively normal middle-class life with a relatively normal childhood (enlivened a bit by a parent's manic depression, but not at all ruined by it).
In fact, I was surprised by what surfaced as I began to think about what "anythings" I had against "anyones." Things I hadn't thought about for years came to mind as I prayed. Matters in which I had been wronged, or had thought myself wronged. Stuff from big things, to absurdly trivial (and largely unintended) slights. I was sort of surprised at myself, that I had been carrying all of this stuff with me, a lot of it being really trivial childhood stuff. But there it was.
So as all this stuff came up, I forgave. And I was happy to forgive because Jesus had forgiven me. (I also repented to God for having not forgiven all these folk a lot earlier.)

The weird thing was, though, that as I began (and continued) to forgive, I felt my own heart changing, growing lighter and unburdened. This, again, struck me as odd, because I hadn’t really felt particularly burdened by the sins of others against me, and so hadn't felt particularly burdened by my not forgiving these folks. Yet when I finished my prayers and got up, I felt remarkably free and light.

The irony is that, in unburdening others of the debt they owed me, by God's grace I unburdened myself.

That struck me as pretty wild. And it still does. It is something for which I am profoundly thankful to God for allowing me to experience.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but I always am, that God always gives a lot more back to me than I give to him.

In any event, it took several weeks before the stream of recollected (or perceived) hurts, snubs, and insults tapered off. I felt like a changed person. I felt a lot less angry. (Not that I thought of myself as a particularly angry person before forgiving as Jesus told us. This, too, surprised me; that I remained angry about some of this.)

Ever since then, for years now, forgiveness has been a regular part of my prayers. It’s been a source of great blessing in my life.

That being said, I still sometimes catch myself preferring to nurse a grudge against someone rather than to forgive them. I still shock myself at how I’m able to deceive myself. Days, sometimes weeks might go by. I’m not consciously aware of being unforgiving, and then I’ll catch myself. After I forgive them in prayer, I realize how I was clinging to my unforgiveness, nursing it by telling myself that the person didn’t really deserve my forgiveness.

I never really told myself that, of course; that would be too overt. But that was my attitude nonetheless, down deep. (My capacity for self-deception also rarely fails to shock me.)
Then I repent to God: What right do I have to begrudge the trivial sins of others against me, when God does not begrudge the great sins which I sinned (and sin) against him? This disappoints me, and still shocks me a bit as well: That even after all this time there remains a part of me that prefers to nurse grudges and prefers the squalid comfort of self-pity, rather than to forgive those who sin against me and enjoy the light and life that God gives me. But, thanks be to God, I often catch my self-deception sooner or later, and forgive.

The bigger point, however, is, as I mentioned above, that for years now, forgiving others has been a regular part of my prayers. Doing so has been one of the greatest sources of on-going blessing that I recognize. I suppose that shouldn’t surprise me. But it does. I am very thankful to Jesus for teaching me this lesson, inadequate pupil though I am.

"Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone."

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Jack's New Sport

Jack started taking diving lessons in late April. He's had maybe fifteen lessons so far. Yesterday was the first time he attempted this dive. I kid you not. He's 11.

Monday, May 23, 2011

We're Listening to Dorthy Love Coates Today

Monday, May 16, 2011

Rerum Novarum

This article does a decent job of discussing main themes in Leo XIII's encyclical, Rerum Novarum. I believe that this was the first social encyclical and that Catholic social teaching, at least as a distinctive, modern line of thinking, is dated from this encyclical.

John Paul II's encyclical, Centesimus Annus (or "100 years") is dated from Rerum Novarum 's release.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

True Rest

Before Jesus' resurrection there are six resurrections in the Bible - three in the OT and three in the NT.

[i]. Elijah resurrected a widow's son (1 Kings 17.17-24); [ii] Elisha also resurrected a young boy. 2 Kings 4:20, 32-37. [iii] The dead man who touched Elisha’s bones, 2 Kings 13:20-21.

In the NT, Jesus [iv] Lazarus, Jn 11.21-46, [v] Jarirus' daughter (Mark 5.21-43), and [vi] the son of a widow in the city of Nain, Luke 7.11-17.

That makes Jesus' resurrection the seventh resurrection, chronologically, in the Bible. Sort of interesting - and I'm skeptical of biblical numerology.