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Monday, December 21, 2009

The Fifth O Antiphon: "O Forgiveness"

No, actually. That's not the fifth O Antiphon.

This is it: O Radiant Dawn
O Dayspring, Sun of Justice, bright
eternal light, one who shows the
way, the one who sets us free even
in darkness and death. Come,
disperse the gloomy clouds of night.
Here is Sr. Joan's Meditation

December 21
The celebration of the God of
Growth in our lives—those moments
of insight in which life comes newly
alive in me—helps us to recognize
those moments of insight in which
life comes newly alive and I begin to
see differently, to live differently, to
function differently. A new friend, a
new work, a new idea are all "radiant
dawns" in life that can enable me to
become more than I ever dreamed I
— Joan D. Chittister, OSB
Actually, I've had one of those 'moments of insight'.

I've been stewing about "The Final Draft" of the Covenant. Even all those many pretty words embroidered into so many eloquent passages can not cover up the mean-spirit of retribution which called this . . . thing . . . into creation and the sense of retaliation which energizes "anyone" to sign onto it.

I felt my heart harden every time I tried to read or re-read it. I began to feel the scowl on my face as I examined the text for nuance and tone.

I found myself meditating on Colossians 3:12-17 - which, remembering the admonitions from a former spiritual director, is what I try to do when I get into one of these states of fretting and scowling and anger.

Yesterday, I came home from church, took an Aleve and ensconced myself in my favorite rocking chair with my heating pad, trying to ward off the spasms in my lower back gained from trying to shovel my car out of a snow-bound driveway for the 8 AM Service - for which no one showed up.

See also: no good deed goes unpunished.

More to get my mind off my misery than a noble impulse for personal edification, I started reading the latest edition of Christian Century. I stumbled onto "Reflections on the Lectionary" for December 27 (Christian Century, December 15, page 21). Imagine my surprise when I discovered the remarks were on Colossians 3:12-17.

Shekinah strikes again!

The author is John Ortberg, who is the senior pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, CA. He begins the piece by saying, "A study done a few years ago showed that a sign of a person's incompetence is his or her inability to perceive incompetence."

He continues by saying that we deceive ourselves about our intelligence . . . and our appearance.

Then, he tells this story:
"An older friend of mine got on an airport train and noticed an attractive young woman sitting nearby. She smiled at him, and he thought to himself, "I've still got it."

"Excuse me, sir," she said, "I can stand. Would you like to take my seat?"
" . . . . a sign of a person's incompetence is his or her inability to perceive incompetence."

Okay, the author had me with this story. I am so glad he did. Here's how he finished the essay:
'This year we had a daughter graduate from Azusa Pacific University. My wife spoke at commencement, so we gathered with a group of faculty, alumni and administrators before the ceremony.

At one point, university president Jon Wallace pulled three seniors into the center of the room and told us all they were going to be serving under-resourced people in impoverished areas after graduation.

Then Jon turned his back to the rest of us, faced the three students, and said, 'Somebody you do not know has heard about what you're doing. He wants you to be able to serve without any impediments, so he's giving you a gift."

Then he turned to the first student and looked her in the eye. 'You have been forgiven your school debt of $105,000.'

It took a few moments for the words to sink in. The student shook her head, then began to cry. Jon turned to the next student. 'You have been forgiven your debt of $70,000,' then to the third student, 'You have been forgiven your debt of $130,000.'

All three students were trembling. Their lives had been changed in a twinkling by the extravagance of someone they'd never met. For those of us who watched, it was as if we had experienced the forgiveness ourselves. There was not a dry eye in the room.

An unpayable debt. An unseen giver. An unforgettable gift. The freedom of the debtors becomes a blessing to the world. There is a bigger debt we all labor under. We give it labels such as regret, guilt, shame, brokenness - sin. But God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. We know what's coming. But we need to hear the words just the same.

Forgive as the Lord forgave you."
Maybe if I work on this a bit more for myself, it won't matter what +++Rowan does or doesn't do with the Final Draft of the Covenant - or who signs and doesn't sign - or even why it was written.

Here's what I know to be true:
I know myself to be loved and forgiven.

I know what I believe and why I am an Anglican.

I know who I am and whose I am.

I know that I am deeply blessed to be part of an unusual constellation of people who are bold enough to call ourselves family. We love each other - even when we mess up - and care for and support each other.

I have a remarkable church family that allows me to be among them as one who is in community as a leader.

I have committed my life to the gospel values of justice, mercy and peace.

I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and I am able to preach it without fear of consequence for my life.
These are the articles of my Covenant.

What other things are there, really, that are more important?

O Radiant Dawn, indeed!


Muthah+ said...

I question the need for forgiveness here. I think those feelings of resentment and anger are there to remind us that +++Rowan is just plain WRONG! Yes, we have to come to a place, as you have, that says God loves us in the face of such horse manure. But we still have to point out to people that they are up to their knees in horse pucky.

I have chose not to read it right now because I don't have time to deal with the anger that it will produce. I want to know the real meaning of Church, the real meaning of what faith is for, and the real meaning of Christmas.

We were better off when we had a pig farmer as ABC--at least he knew what animal scatology was and didn't feed it to us as WWJD!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I understand. What works for me is this: as long as I hold onto anger, I can't see my way forward. As soon as I "forgive as I have been forgiven", I am able to move on to some clarity about what I need to do - which may well be to channel my anger into a force for positive change.

I'm not there yet. I'm working my way through it. Getting clear about what I believe brings me one step closer to my goal.

That's not a prescription for everyone. It's what works for me and my soul.

Paul (A.) said...

You'd enjoy this news story.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I did. What a GREAT story. G'won. Go read it yourselves.

Joanna Depue said...

Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing your moment with us. Monday was one of 'those days' for me and your essay brought the perspective I was in need of.