Forgiveness Sunday – A Co-Creative Act: A sermon from the couch

Master, Teacher of wisdom,
Bestower of virtue,
You teach the thoughtless and protect the poor:
Strengthen and enlighten my heart.
Word of the Father,
Let me not restrain my mouth from crying to you:
Have mercy on me, a transgressor,
O merciful Lord! 
Sermon from the Couch

Dear Ones,
Today is forgiveness Sunday in the Orthodox faith, and to those of you who are called, I wanted to invite you to the Rite of Forgiveness. The hymn above is what is sung and the Psalm below is one of the ones that is read in the Orthodox Church.
I truly believe in the Rite of Forgiveness – and in my own heart if I had to sum up the greatest work of medicine of Christ and his Mother Mary was to bring the balm of forgiveness to earth. These are just opinions and ideas…nothing intended to assert truth in any way – just a pondering upon this day and Christ’s ultimate gift to us. Take what is useful for you and forgive me if I offend you for my seeking God in this way, and it is my longing to understand and share it with you, that I work from in my painting and writing.
I feel that His death, is the ‘moment’ in which that special profound energy was released on the planet for all. If I look around at the challenges in this world – and the people I work with, and if I had to so say what was the absolute hardest thing that we are dealing with – do you know what I would say– I would say – how hard we are on ourselves. How negatively we think about ourselves and our past – how often we burden ourselves with stories of our own inadequacy. When we cannot get off of our own case – it is hard to be free to move in the world when we hold ourselves to such standards and when others hold us to such standards. Where is the freedom to be ourselves, be messy, make mistakes and know it is a natural part of life? What is not natural is continuing to beat ourselves up for all of our broken vows to ourselves and others.When Christ came to do His work, He gave us the ‘path’ off of that way of living – off the karmic wheel – off needing to ‘pay’ for how we have been to ourselves an others. His medicine is freedom from having to KNOW how to solve our own challenges – a dispensation of supernatural grace that acknowledges that we don’t know how to handle ourselves, and so He agreed to help us out with that place we have the hardest time healing – our view, image, way of being with our very own selves.
I know that church, government, parents and often those closest to us have used Christ’s story to beat us down even more, and instill that oh so unfavorite way, ‘guilt’ into our beings – to control us through keeping us wrong. When we move from being wrong, all of our choices reflect that instead of moving from a place of wholeness. We don’t have to live there anymore. And in fact, it is downright unhealthy, we are adults now and it is our CHOICE how we hold ourselves in our own hearts and minds.
So this is an invitation, not to feel guilty for what has happened – liberate yourself from that bondage, and if you are willing, ask Christ to take it from you – lay it as His feet, in His Name. It has been often said that those who expect Christ to take away their sin are trying to get out of something – using it as a crutch to feel better – taking an easy way out. Have you ever TRIED to surrender something to God? Then you know in some ways the surrendering of it is even harder than the old way of holding onto it.
Forgiveness is a co-creative act – once we ask for forgiveness and are brave enough to lay it down…our part, our part is to BELIEVE that we did it and TRUST that is happened in REAL time and REAL spirit and to remember that we did the work and God met us there in the middle of our doubt and fears and shame and worry. Then when the ‘whatever it is’ that we surrendered into the light of forgiveness comes back up, instead of letting it run away with us, we ‘remember’ that we did the work already and again, trust that it has occurred. Our minds don’t always run in tandem with reality and our hearts, so sometimes we think if the issue rises again in our minds, maybe God didn’t forgive us or maybe we didn’t finish the work, or maybe there is more to do on it. That is up to you to decide, but in my own experience, it is mostly that we need to REMEMBER that the work has already been offered to GOD and to let ourselves be free in the knowledge that we are loved by the Divine oh so very much right where we are.
So let us remember that the Rite of Forgiveness is a co-creative act. The Divine will meet us a the crossroads, and we must be brave enough to bring our baggage and lay it down. And then…remember that what we have asked, has been granted it, In Jesus Name.
Is there someone or something still lingering for which you need release? Is there someone or something that you need to ask forgiveness for? Is there a place in you that you need to forgive. Do you, need to forgive God if you have struggled so much more than you thought you could bear? What is wanted, needed today, this day when millions ask one another for forgiveness as we enter into the Lenten Season tomorrow – what do you need to surrender?
ON a personal note… 
Santiago and I are cuddled up under the blankets and I am drinking tea on at the Red Thread Cafe while I write this sermon on the couch  – I wrote it for my Red Madonna Sisterhood but it wanted to come over here as well. I am on the way to church with my mom, Caron this morning. Then for salsa dancing and then for candlelight vigil to TUNE into what for Lent, am I surrendering into the ‘bright sadness’.
This world has unspeakable sorrow, and for me, Lent is the time to let myself feel that, to not be in denial about the loss. 40 days leading up to the Passion in which I can explore the deep dark parts of me – the unresolved, messy, unhealed parts of myself and our beautiful broken open world as I ponder Christ’s path. I need to look at the ways I am dependent on things other than God for my strength, insight, freedom and play. And so I shall. On my first Forgiveness Sunday I kneeled and begged forgiveness from over 100 people that I did not know. Even the priests do it. It is incredible. There is something that happens to you – to ask forgiveness from people you do not know — and have not harmed directly. It is a mystical happening I don’t have words for. But with that in mind, I ask you…
Please forgive me. Lord have Mercy.
I will light a candle for the Red Madonna Sisterhood and for you – and include you in my prayers as I gaze up at the Theotokos holding her baby. The Church I am going to, I am so happy to say is one where my late Grandmother Helen and I went to light candles one day – and I know she leads me there today. I chose the image above as a sign of tenderness, that we may be tender with ourselves and know that God too, is as tender with us as Mary is with her baby God.
In love,
Shiloh Sophia

Psalm 103

Bless the Lord, O my soul; O Lord my God, Thou hast been magnified exceedingly. Confession and majesty hast Thou put on, Who coverest Thyself with light as with a garment, Who stretchest out the heaven as it were a curtain; Who supporteth His chambers in the waters, Who appointeth the clouds for His ascent, Who walketh upon the wings of the winds, Who maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire, Who establisheth the earth in the sureness thereof; it shall not be turned back for ever and ever.  The abyss like a garment is His mantle; upon the mountains shall the waters stand.  At Thy rebuke they will flee, at the voice of Thy thunder shall they be afraid.  The mountains rise up and the plains sink down, unto the place where Thou hast established them.  Thou appointedst a bound that they shall not pass, neither return to cover the earth.  He sendeth forth springs in the valleys; between the mountains will the waters run.  They shall give drink to all the beasts of the field; the wild asses will wait to quench their thirst.  Beside them will the birds of the heaven lodge, from the midst of the rocks will they give voice.  He watereth the mountains from His chambers; the earth shall be satisfied with the fruit of Thy works.  He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and green herb for the service of men, To bring forth bread out of the earth; and wine maketh glad the heart of man.  To make his face cheerful with oil; and bread strengtheneth man’s heart.  The trees of the plain shall be satisfied, the cedars of Lebanon, which Thou hast planted.  There will the sparrows make their nests; the house of the heron is chief among them.  The high mountains are a refuge for the harts, and so is the rock for the hares.  He hath made the moon for seasons; the sun knoweth his going down.  Thou appointedst the darkness, and there was the night, wherein all the beasts of the forest will go abroad.  Young lions roaring after their prey, and seeking their food from God. The sun ariseth, and they are gathered together, and they lay them down in their dens. But man shall go forth unto his work, and to his labor until the evening. How magnified are Thy works, O Lord! In wisdom hast Thou made them all; the earth is filled with Thy creation. So is this great and spacious sea, therein are things creeping innumerable, small living creatures with the great. There go the ships; there this dragon, whom Thou hast made to play therein. All things wait on Thee, to give them their food in due season; when Thou givest it them, they will gather it. When Thou openest Thy hand, all things shall be filled with goodness; when Thou turnest away Thy face, they shall be troubled.  Thou wilt take their spirit, and they shall cease; and unto their dust shall they return.  Thou wilt send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be created; and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.  Let the glory of the Lord be unto the ages; the Lord will rejoice in His works.  Who looketh on the earth and maketh it tremble, Who toucheth the mountains and they smoke. I will sing unto the Lord throughout my life, I will chant to my God for as long as I have my being.  May my words be sweet unto Him, and I will rejoice in the Lord.  O that sinners would cease from the earth, and they that work iniquity, that they should be no more. Bless the Lord, O my soul.

The sun knoweth his going down, Thou appointedst the darkness, and there was the night.  How magnified are Thy works, O Lord!  In wisdom hast Thou made them all.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.  Glory to Thee, O God. Thrice.