Thursday, October 13, 2005

Day of Atonement

Today as you may know is the Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. I have many friends who are devoting their day to this sacrament, and for the first time I can remember, even my own spiritual discipline includes studying a Bible Lesson called "Doctrine of Atonement." This lesson comes up twice a year, and I don't remember it ever coinciding with Yom Kippur this way, although it may have happened and I just didn't notice.

Anyway, I really respect the Jewish view of atonement as not only including sorrow for wrongdoing but also doing your best to make amends to those you've injured. For a brief piece on the day, check out Rabbi David Aaron's column on beliefnet. So today, I 'd like to share something I'm sorry about, and send up a prayer for forgiveness.

My spiritual journey has taken me down a rugged road. The most progress took place right after I did the stupidest things, meaning I've learned more from my mistakes than anything else. Then there were the other times, when things were going well and I felt on top of the world. And I have to state it here: in those times, I have a tendency to look about me and be judgmental.

I'm not sure what brings this on, whether it's a touch of self-satisfaction, or piety, or the "thank goodness I'm not like those people" syndrome. Jesus of course talked about this in his story about the publican and the Pharisee. I think I've swung between being one or the other all too frequently.

One time in particular, I was partnered with someone at my church on a project, and in the course of our work together, I found out some personal things about his lifestyle. He made no secret about it, although it wasn't generally known at church. To me, his behavior was not in line with what I thought was expected of us at church. One day he asked me to cover for him in our church duties so he could make time for this other activity that I thought was inappropriate. And I'm afraid I went ahead and told him how uncomfortable this was making me.

It was a complicated and hair-raising conversation. He felt attacked, I felt appalled. There was not a lot of Christian love there. We subsequently ceased working together, and he eventually left the church.

I sat around feeling right about this for many years, but now, I'm frankly ashamed and wish I could make it right. Sometimes I apply the, "Father, forgive them" prayer to myself: "Father, forgive me, for I didn't know what I was doing."

So what I'd like to say to the gentleman I worked with at my church all those years ago is, "I'm sorry. I was wrong to attack you, to impose my values on you, and to make you feel unwanted at church. Church should be about love and support, and I withheld those from you that day. Whatever you need to learn is between you and God, and is none of my business, and I'm sorry I interfered on your path. I hope all blessings are showering on you today, and that you are finding success and happiness in whatever form you find most meaningful. And if we ever meet again, I will do my best to make it be as friends."

Atonement in Christian Science is often spoken of as at-one-ment, meaning becoming one with God. This week's Bible Lesson has this passage: "Atonement is the exemplification of man's unity with God, whereby man reflects divine Truth, Life, and Love" (Science and Health).

Human admission of wrong deeds and the atonement for them exemplifies our at-one-ment with the Divine, as we leave behind the false and embrace the true. It brings us that much closer to full understanding.

But it's not easy, is it?

Have a blessed day today.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

16 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

--Psalms 51

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