This morning I worship online, at my favorite spot in a local coffee shop. I am tuned into facebook live and the service provided by The Riverside Church in New York. Rev. Dr. Amy Butler is the pastor. She has invited us into a time of corporate confession. Pastor Amy invites us into responses to her spoken words of humble confession as individuals, a nation, and collectively.
Lord have mercy
Christ have mercy
A soprano sings into the vast echoing space of the cathedral those words “Lord of mercy. Christ have mercy.” She then raises her hands and the whole cathedral is filled with the voicing of confession.
My soul was filled with the confession.
I could feel it. Across the miles and airwaves and computer screen. Moved with the deep love that surrounds the whole movement of word, song, and collective voice.
And then, we are all forgiven.
Confession and Forgiveness
Mercy and Love
The Divine Way.
I don’t think of myself in self negating terms. I don’t take on misery as though I am a lowly worm, lower yet, a microorganism in the dirt. I don’t . I know myself to be a striving human.
I see myself as a striving human.
My striving is not in vain. It has hand holds all the way up. I have to look up and down and to the sides and I move. Sometimes I’m stuck. Sometimes I’m lifted off the trajectory I’ve been on and whisked to another climbing wall that I must scale in order to continue up the wall that is my own striving.
I confess my failure. I confess my weaknesses. I confess when my wounds and assumptions have hurt others. I confess when my ego and arrogance takes me off path and I think I know better than another.
And I am forgiven.
That forgiveness is swirling around us at all times. It is tiny dust particles that are being breathed in and out at all times. Like a fragrance.
Once in faculty meeting, I was focused on someone speaking and my nose was suddenly filled with the smell of grapefruit. Ah! Instant refreshment. My mind said “Who just opened a bottle of grapefruit essential oil?” But no. It was a grapefruit being opened, split, squirted, eaten. The fragrance of that particular citrus escaped no one. It impacted us all.
Forgiveness escapes no one. It impacts us all. Into our cells and marrow. Into our hearts that long to be let loose. Into our minds that overthink what we’ve done wrong.
The church has always been imperfect. Our greatest collective sin might be that we are chasing perfection. That we are chasing a notion that perfection of individual and the collective is possible. It is not. Our striving is our salvation. That striving that is not based on futile hope, but that striving that urges us forward with these words, “Now I know better, therefore I will do better.”
Better is not a friend to perfectionism. Better is a friend to growth. Uncomplicated practice, over and over and over again. the millions of free throws Michael Jordan put skin to hoop, the millions of needles a 15 year expert acupuncturist puts in for a great somatic response toward healing, the millions of meals made by Mom that I would not go hungry.
Better: When we know better we do better.*
Better: Not the same as yesterday or last year, not what it will be next year, tomorrow.
Confession and Forgiveness is the freeing process to be better, to move ahead, to strive toward a worthy development.
With a contrite, loving, hopeful heart,
*quote by Maya Angelou