“Father, forgive them…”

Would anyone refuse to accept the forgiveness of  a lover, a parent, a teacher, a spouse, or a best friend?  Of course not.  If  I have transgressed against you and you offer me CANDLEyour forgiveness, then our friendship cannot continue until I reciprocate with a sincere ‘thank you for understanding’.  Only then, after cleaning house,  can we pursue our relationship.

Forgive and forget is a cliché which sounds cool but is rarely practiced in our society.  Although most of us are ready to forgive, the act of forgetting is difficult because none of us wants to be transgressed again by the same person and, if we are honest about ourselves, we enjoy the grudges which we hold.  One of my friends says he will forgive but, the transgressing person will not get a second opportunity to harm or injure.  Another holds a lifetime of grudges which fester and negate any potential good will with his transgressor.   Others say that forgiveness is an act which benefits the forgiver more than the forgiven.  I can understand that but, I don’t believe the purpose of forgiveness is to make me feel better about myself.

So, what then is forgiveness all about?  Is it just a religious thing, a few spoken words that are meant to repair a relationship?  Does sincerity enter the picture?  How about compassion?  Maybe a touch of empathy?  Spirituality?

The Jewish faith in Psalm 46:10 believes that the psalmist wrote, “Cease striving and know that I am God.”  We cease striving and know God when we enter the spaces between our thoughts, relinquish those before and after thoughts to the now moment and realize the power of a God which is omnipotent and omnipresent.  That “now moment” is our God space.  Living consciously in the now moment is where we will find God.

God says, ” Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in all the earth.”  Psalm 46:10

We are exhorted to give up grudges, to forgive transgressions against us, to receive forgiveness for our wrongs because only then are we ready to enter the realm of “Be still and know.”  Our minds, when cleared of human earthly affairs, will then be receptive to God’s presence and God’s power in the stillness of meditation, contemplation, and prayer.  It’s a great exercise in spiritual discipline which I certainly have not mastered although I continually try.

Perhaps forgiveness is all about doing what Jesus did on the cross.  He wasn’t concerned about feeling better as he hung there dying.  He probably did not care if his forgiveness was accepted by the Roman soldiers or the Pharisees.  What if, at that moment of physical death on his cross,  Jesus wanted to purge humanity of it’s transgressions through forgiveness, (“Forgive them Father for they know not what they are doing”)?  With this act of forgiveness mankind could resume a relationship with God released from the intolerance and hatred which nailed Jesus to his cross.

Matthew 5:23 tells me to be reconciled with my brother, if there are differences, before I come before God to offer my gift of body, mind, and soul at the altar.  In my church service, I present myself in prayer to receive forgiveness for sins and to forgive others who have harmed me.  I do this by reciting the Lord’s Prayer so that when I approach the altar to receive communion I am of clean heart and spirit, ready to receive God’s unending grace through the body and blood of Jesus.  Forgiveness is that  act of soul-namaste rainbowcleansing which is necessary prior to spirit renewal.  It is not a one-time, one and done activity.  It is a continual process which is the centerpiece of any faith walk and recovery program.  Namaste.

Judas

I am reading a book by Elaine Pagels, “READING JUDAS”.   Ms. Pagels  is an accomplished scholar in the field of religion and has written several works which shed light on the complexities and inconsistencies of Biblical scriptures.  She compares the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John noting that contemporary scholars overwhelmingly agree that Mark was composed first about 40 years after the death of Jesus and that the remaining three were written later based mainly on the writings of Mark with additions and increased references to Old Testament prophesies.  Debate continues over whetherCANDLE the writers of the Gospels, none of whom are logically the namesakes of the books, attempted to show prophecy historicised or history prophesised.  The era of the formulation of the canon which we now know as the Bible was fraught with disagreement, conspiracy, and murder.  Many books, such as the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary were banned or burned having been labeled as heretical accounts of the events surrounding Jesus and his band of disciples.  Ultimately only one version of these events was authorized by Emperor Constantine in 325 C.E. at the Council of Nicaea, a lakeside village in present day Turkey.  It represented Christianity much as we know it today.  Only recently have the banned writings been discovered hidden in earthen jars buried in caves.  They are the Nag Hammadi and Dead Sea Scrolls.  Those scriptures have reopened debate and speculation regarding the veracity of the accounts of the Nicaean approved writings.

Just as the book and movie “The DaVinci Code” provided intrigue concerning the lineage of Jesus, the Christ, these new discoveries of ancient scriptures contribute another dimension to the mystery of Jesus, the centerpiece of Christianity.  As much as I  would like to have a definitive account of the historical Jesus of Nazareth, it simply is not available to me.  Who he was, how he lived, what he believed cannot be a certainty to those of us who claim him as Lord and Savior while also refuting the inerrant and literal interpretations supported by some Christians.

I have no problem with that.  My faith is based on a God which has blessed humanity with numerous messengers throughout history.  My faith is not dependent on the historical accuracy of those messengers nor the accounts written by their followers.  What those instruments of guidance have provided is a rich and wonderful foundation for living life to the fullest in compassionate communion with all of God’s creation.  I find the deepest inspiration in the verses which ancient mystics have passed on for me to discover and ponder.  I marvel at the wisdom and beauty expressed by both simple shepherds and royal kings.  I find many of the answers to contemporary society’s problems given to me by sages from centuries past.  I find strength in the thoughts and writings of others who have been deeply touched and inspired by their faith in a Higher Power.  I don’t require historical accuracy to follow a manner of living which honors and reveres God, the Higher Power of my understanding.

What I need is heart driven truth.  It is not necessarily historical nor factual by the world’s standards.  The truth which I seek emanates from a sacred place within, it wells up, it flows, it gushes from a spiritual presence which is timeless and eternal.  Jesus knew it, the great mystics knew it, Buddha knew it, Muhammad knew it.  Every one of us can have it and live fully in God’s glory, compassion, and mercy.

“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10smiley 3

The Jewish faith says, “Stop striving and know that I am God.”  Stop striving with religious doctrine, stop striving with translations, stop striving with historical accuracy; go to that quiet place within your personal temple and know the loving kindness of a gracious Father.

 

PEACE WITHIN

Are you a battler?  Do you argue at every turn with the ones you already know to be right?  We simply have a need to be scrappy.  No one can counsel us, no one knows better than us, and certainly no one shall tell us how to run our lives.  This is not a just a denominational problem or a cultural problem or a societal problem.  It is a human problem and it creates an enormous load of unnecessary baggage and heartache.

Psalm 46:10New International Version (NIV)

10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.

Exploring great verses of Scriptures and studying the possible meanings often brings renewed comfort for the soul and deeper understanding of the human condition.  So it is with this verse found in the book of Psalms.  David, the assumed author, is one of the most studied and dichotomous characters of Jewish literature.  A great warrior and king, his lineage to the person of Jesus Christ is presented in the New Testament’s Gospels.  But, King David was also a man of exquisite writing skills expressing elements of peace and calm in his society’s volatile environment.  The Jewish rendering of “be still” is often “cease striving”.  Relax, accept, understand that I am God.  In this context the required action is passive.  “Just stop and shut up for a minute, listen to me.”

But another response which requires initiative on the reader’s part is to view this with more emphasis on “know that I am God”.  The God of the Jews is telling us in no uncertain terms who He is and that He indeed is Lord of the universe, of all nations and of all peoples.  He is saying, “Relax, I’ve got this under control because I am God, not just your God but everybody’s God.”  The act of accepting and knowing has to be accomplished in the stillness of God’s presence.  This is not just a Jewish or Christian obedience; it is part of any faith’s supplication to the entity called God.

And therein we can find peace within.  The inherent human need to challenge, to argue, to dispute spiritual matters can readily be appeased and need not be a part of our inner sanctum.  First, be still.  But then, know the truth of your God.

Very often we have said, “I am going to let God control my life.”  Truly, does God need us to give control to him?  Maybe we need to kick back and understand that He is in control.  Matters not if we give him control.  He’s already got us covered.  The peace within happens when we accept that.