I found myself at the altar. Shot of grape juice in my hand, and bread from kroger or panera. tears wrecked my three shades of green and formed small ponds round my eye sockets. Pastor Jeremiah preached a topical sermon on offense and forgiveness. He bounced around the Bible faster than I would turn, but I paid attention to every line and hung on every word.
Proverbs 19:11 A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger,
And it is his glory to overlook a transgression.
Proverbs 19:11 A person’s wisdom yields patience;
it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense
La cordura del hombre aplaca su furor,
y un honor le es pasar por alto la ofensa.
Suddenly faces appeared. faces i cut off from community due to perceived offense, or real offense. faces who snorted, faces that nagged, and faces that criticized my every move, faces that griped about me using certain words. Then I saw my face. My face: Ranting My face: raving, My face: being critical, My face: walking out of the library with an anger so deep that I hid behind. I held over everyone who had ever been mean to me, or I perceived to be mean to me. All those who called me rebellious for hanging out with Gays. all those who called me heretic for interpreting texts different from they. All those who slammed doors in my face because I didn’t look the part or smell good enough. And then again my face, the times I yelled about the way so-and-so did this. the times i hurt people by clicking “defriend” or telling them to go f* themselves. Yeah, I said F. and It wasn’t forgive. How my passionate and expressive ways on social media had often served to injure instead of build-up. I was the guilty one. My face was in front of me.
I had wrapped myself in so many layers of offense. I thought I was righteous in my anger. But I saw my sin. I saw my participation in sin. the sin of not loving my neighbor. My neighbor who was different. They say we often preach on what we need the most. I find myself preaching on “loving your neighbor” alot. and I was guilty.
So I held up the elements. I asked that I could be radically inclusive truly- to everyone.I munched on the bread. I imagined his body, pierced by my tattooed arms. I took my shot of grape juice. I imagined his blood pour down from the cross and trickle onto my pierced nose. Then I wept bitterly. shaking at the altar. snot. makeup quickly moving into the cheek bone where it formed a strange war paint, or surrender paint.
I would walk in forgiveness. I would go without offense. I would love everyone. I would bless them when they cursed me. and i would no longer curse them. Debbie Gill once told me that she knew she had truly forgiven someone when they her thoughts towards them contained no negative adjectives.
I have been reading Miroslav Volf lately. i found this quote by him to shake me.
“Forgiveness flounders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans even as I exclude myself from the community of sinners. But no one can be in the presence of the God of the crucified Messiah for long without overcoming this double exclusion – without transposing the enemy from the sphere of monstrous inhumanity into the sphere of shared humanity and herself from the sphere of proud innocence into the sphere of common sinfulness. When one knows that the torturer will not eternally triumph over the victim, one is free to rediscover that person’s humanity and imitate God’s love for him. And when one knows that God’s love is greater than all sin, one is free to see onself in the light of God’s justice and so rediscover one’s own sinfulness.”- Miroslav Volf
offense comes. But we can choose to overlook it. I watched a beautiful pastor’s wife once practice this very thing. A parishioner got up in her face about all the money talk the church had been doing. The member accused her and her pastor husband of being money hungry. The pastor’s wife did not flinch. She merely smiled and said “Thank you for your prayers and concern.May God Bless You.” The member shut her mouth. Not another disturbance came.
Jeremiah’s words about the death of self pointed to the Cross. Christ followers should die to self daily- and even the “right” to be “right.”
Further thoughts on Forgiveness:
Miroslav Volf ” Exclusion and Embrace: a theological exploration of identity, otherness, and reconciliation.”
Another spiritual teacher from another faith, Buddha calls his followers to empty self of self.(I know half of you right now just freaked out that I am referencing a different faith- But if God is a God of truth, than all truth is his truth..recall the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, …calm down read before you flip out, k?)
These two are fools. Which two? The one who doesn’t see his/her transgression as a transgression, and the one who doesn’t rightfully pardon another who has confessed his/her transgression. These two are fools.
“These two are wise. Which two? The one who sees his/her transgression as a transgression, and the one who rightfully pardons another who has confessed his/her transgression. These two are wise.” -Buddha
I leave this blog with a prayer from my favorite Saint.
Prayer of Saint Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen