Readings & Sermon for March 15, 2020

Readings and Sermon for March 15, 2020 Service

Ed MIguel, Worship Leader

Forgiveness

 

Opening Words: Look to the Mountaintop  by Alphonso Ortiz

Whatever life’s challenges
you may face, remember always
to look to the mountaintop,
for in so doing you look to greatness.
Remember this, and let no problem,
no matter how great it may seem,
discourage you, nor let anything
less than the mountaintop
distract you. This is the one thought
I want to leave you with.

For Young at heart: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvEr6FsVoBI

First Reading:

"Forgiveness does not mean that we suppress anger; forgiveness means that we have asked for a
miracle: the ability to see through mistakes that someone has made to the truth that lies in all of our
hearts. Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to
forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness….The first step in
forgiveness is the willingness to forgive. If you can state, despite your resistance, your willingness to see
the spiritual innocence, the light in the soul of the one who harmed you, you have begun the journey to
a deep and unshakeable peace.” Marianne Williamson

Second Reading:

Seeds of Forgiveness, World Peace, and so Much More
Source: http://blog.exoticflowers.com/blog-0/flowers-for-forgiveness

There was a woman who wanted peace in the world and peace in her heart and all sorts of good
things, but she was very frustrated. The world seemed to be falling apart. She would read the
newspapers and get depressed. One day she decided to go shopping, and she went into a mall and
picked a store at random. She walked in and was surprised to see Jesus behind the counter. She knew it
was Jesus because he looked just like the pictures she’d seen on holy cards and devotional pictures. She
looked again and again at him, and finally she got up enough nerve and asked,
“Excuse me, are you Jesus?”
“I am.”
“Do you work here?”
“No,” Jesus said, “I own the store.”
“Oh, what do you sell in here?”
“Oh, just about anything!”
“Anything?”
“Yeah, anything you want. What do you want?”

She said, “I don’t know.”
“Well,” Jesus said, “feel free, walk up and down the aisles, make a list, see what it is that you want,
and then come back and we’ll see what we can do for you.”
She did just that, walked up and down the aisles. There was peace on earth, no more war, no hunger
or poverty, peace in families, no more drugs, harmony, clean air, careful use of resources, [forgiveness,
and so much more]. She wrote furiously. By the time she got back to the counter, she had a long list.
Jesus took the list, skimmed through it, looked up and smiled, “No problem.” And then he bent down
behind the counter and picked out all sorts of things, stood up, and laid out the packets.
She asked, “What are these?”
Jesus replied, “Seed packets. This is a catalog store.”
She said, “You mean I don’t get the finished product?”
“No, this is a place of dreams. You come and see what it looks like, and I give you the seeds. You plant
the seeds. You go home and nurture them and help them to grow and someone else reaps the benefits.”
“Oh,” she said. And she left the store without buying anything.

Sermon. To forgive or not to forgive? by Ed Miguel

To forgive or not to forgive? Is that the question we should be asking ourselves next time someone is
rude to us or cuts us off on the road?

Call me naïve but many times I do not even realize that someone is being rude to me. Naïve or not it
meant that I did not have to forgive because I never took offense in the first place. Maybe the best
defense is to take no offense? If we raise the bar a little you might find that many will ask for your
forgiveness without you realizing you were offended. If that has ever happened to you, then you know
what I mean and maybe your bar is also higher than most.

This would at least take care of the little slights – the ones that we can slough off or not even notice. I
have a saying that “It is the little things that matter.” and these would certainly fall into that category. It
is also a good place to start if you need to practice forgiveness. Start with small realizable goals and
work your way up. Look at them as little gifts to practice your evolution.

“If you didn’t blame, there would be nothing to forgive.”  Course in Miracles

Forgiveness is not so easy for those big offenses. Our body takes over in ways that even we don’t
understand. If you have ever felt that pain in the gut or the heart in response to some event that has
happened to you – then you have been there. Take betrayal for instance or abandonment. These are
not little things. I had a friend years past who was struggling with one of these issues - still too sensitive
to detail it here out of respect. Each time I saw him he was struggling. Even my gut was wrenching as
he explained it to me. Just imagining it myself was making me ill and worse I did not know what to say.
After several meetings where I would just listen I asked once if he would possibly just consider
forgiveness. “No, no, no!” was the reply and I thought it was going to end there.

Somehow I said after some contemplation, “Let me ask you a hypothetical question. What if there was
a horrible thing done and they caught the person. What would you think of him?, I asked.
“Well they should throw the book at him, “ He said.
“What if later you learned he was mentally ill and had no idea what he was doing?” I asked probing
deeper.
“Then I guess I would have some pity.” He said.
“Would you forgive him?” I asked.
“Yes probably,” he replied.
“My friend,” I said. “We are all a little mentally ill!”

It was the first time I heard him laugh in months and I think he got my point. To be honest with you I
was not sure where I was going until that moment either. I was so glad that he laughed.
If we are all a little mentally ill as I contend, then that means that there is a better side of us. One that
could know better. One that could forgive. One that could realize that if the offender knew that better
side of themselves, they would not have done such a horrible offense.

I guess to me, the basis of all forgiveness, is that we are not perfect. Try as we can to not let it show, it
comes out in offensive ways we know not when. Forgiveness on our part is an opportunity to offer
feedback so they know the effect, even if it was intentional. ‘To Err is Human’, yes? But you could also
say that ‘To forgive is Human’, no?

Religion of course has a say in this. In Jesus’ time, it is like the crowd wanting to stone the woman in the
square. What could he say? Jesus could not condone the sin but called upon everyone’s imperfection
as sinners to get them to drop the rocks and leave. In the Course in Miracles, it says to forgive because
‘If they only knew who they were (meaning in the image and likeness of God), they would not have done
that.

In one case it appeals to our imperfect commonality, and in the other case it appeals to our higher
nature. They are just two sides of the same coin.
Forgiveness is not for the offender as much as it is for us. To hold a grudge is harmful to us. It lowers
our energy, our vibration level, which leaves us open to more problems.
In her service March 1, Dorothy read some of Charles Griswold’s words on Forgiveness. Part of what he
said is that it is good for us: “Forgiveness is what a good person would seek because it expresses
fundamental moral ideals. These include ideals of spiritual growth and renewal; truth-telling; mutual
respectful address; responsibility and respect; reconciliation and peace.”

Forgiveness is something we seek because we need it. All religions fill this need with some ritual,
sacrament of holy day. The Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur ends 10 days of penitence beginning with the
Jewish New Year. What a good way to start the year – with a clean slate.
Catholics have the sacrament of confession, all year, to ease the burden.
Forgiveness is a human need – to give and to receive. The process of atonement is necessary. Look at
the word’s syllables: at-one-ment. We are one again with our mothers or fathers, brothers or sisters,
friends; one again with God or Spirit, one again with Humanity, however you want to see it. You might
also say it makes us whole again.

Certainly I am not here to say that forgiveness is easy because it is not. Some hurts are not mere
scratches and it takes time to heal the big gashes or broken bones, figuratively speaking.
I do not know about you but I am always impressed with great acts of forgiveness, I do not know exactly
why I feel this way but perhaps it is because it takes a different kind of courage. Or perhaps it is because
we innately know healing when we see it taking place.

Look at the transformation of South Africa and Nelson Madela, or Jesus’ forgiveness on the cross, or the
Amish families who lost children in the West Nickle Mines School mass shooting - they donated to the
shooter’s widow.
Just look at Vietnam, Japan, Germany, prisoners of war, the holocaust. The core of our reconciliation
with former enemies is forgiveness.
Like the song, We Begin Again In Love, it says “Let us forgive ourselves and each other. Let us begin
again in Love.” Love starts again.

Forgiveness is not justice. Justice is external. Forgiveness does not forgo Justice. Forgiveness is
internal. Forgiveness is healing and leads to peace. Justice might offer some relief but it is not the
same. Where justice may isolate, forgiveness integrates.
It is a common misperception to think that to forgive someone is to let them off the hook, to not let
justice be done, but that is not true. You forgive to let yourself be free. You can only be responsible for
what you think, what you do.

Steven Levine said, “Forgiveness benefits oneself, not just another. Although we may open our hearts
to another, it is a means of letting our self …into our own heart. …Forgiveness finishes business by
letting go of the armoring which separates one heart from another. As one teacher said, ;As long as
there are two there is unfinished business. When the two become one, the heart whispers to itself in
every direction.’ ”

Wayne Dyer said quite a bit on the subject:

“If we must forgive, we must first have blamed. To forgive is to stop blaming and to accept with
compassion that everyone is simply doing the best they can given the conditions of their life and what
they have to work with at the time.”
“A recent caller to my radio show told me that although she could forgive other people easily, the
hardest thing to do was to forgive herself.  In thinking about this very common problem, here’s what
you have to consider: Everything that you’ve done in your life up until this moment, you had to do. The
proof of this is that you did it!”
“Everything you did is over now. You can’t take any of it back. In The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, the
poet says, “The Moving Finger writes: and having writ,/ Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit/ Shall lure it
back to cancel half a Line,/ Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”
“The fact that we can’t erase the past says something to us. We are called on to forgive ourselves, to
honor what is past, to love and respect it. Look back and say, ‘That’s what I needed to do, that’s the
person I needed to be at that time in my life. I did that, and I’ve learned from it. Now I can move on.’ ”
“Do you blame other people and circumstances for keeping you from achieving the level of success,
happiness, and health you’d like to enjoy? Blaming others for deficiencies or any of the conditions of
your life keeps you from fulfilling your own highest destiny. Everyone in life does exactly what they
know how to do given the conditions of their lives. “
“Be willing to accept total responsibility for every facet of your own life. You didn’t inherit your
personality traits from anyone in the past—you’ve repeatedly chosen them, even though you may be
unaware of how or why. If you’re shy, loud, fearful, assertive, loving, hateful, kind, or cruel, learn to
say: This is what I’ve chosen for myself up until now.”
“Similarly, if you find yourself mired in debt, languishing in poverty, wasting away in an unfulfilling
career, or wilting in an unsatisfying relationship—whatever the current conditions of your life, ask
yourself if you’re willing to take responsibility for them. I know this appears difficult. You indeed may
have suffered at the hands of uneducated, poorly informed, badly addicted people. It was not your
fault.”
“Even as we recognize this, I urge you to accept, without guilt, that everything that has shown up in your
life has value equal to your assuming responsibility for its existence. There’s something for you to learn
in any difficulty. Be willing to say, “Thank you, God, for the experiences I’ve lived through” on a daily
basis. Look for the blessing in all situations, and remind yourself that you’re no longer a child, but a fully
functioning adult willing to accept the responsibility that will now give you control of your destiny. “

So, forgive or not to forgive? How will we answer that question next time the opportunity arises?
The funny thing to me at least is that while we may have dwelt on some horrible hurts for most of our
lives, it only takes a moment, a flash, to change its course for the rest of it. We only need a willingness
to start on the road to forgiveness if we have not already done so. Like all journeys it requires a first
step and a maybe a compass or guide. To step is a decision of intent. Our compass could be our higher
power. Awareness could be our guide. If we can be aware of our feelings, I would follow the path that
makes us feel good.

Be open to the possibilities.
Blessed Be

Benediction: Trembling with Joy 526

The great sea has set me in motion.
set me adrift,
moving me like a weed in a river.
The Sky and the strong wind
have moved the spirit inside me
till I am carried away
trembling with joy. 

-Inuit Shaman Uvavnuk