Days of Awe

Perhaps no time of year gets closer to the true meaning of being a Jew than Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur; together, they are sometimes called “Days of Awe.” Synagogues that seem to have a paltry number of congregants the rest of the year suddenly burst at the seams on these two days when every member appears at once. One synagogue I visited rents a nearby auditorium for those days, with reserved seating available months in advance.

The two holy days are like bookends that prop up a time of intense soul searching between them. The Torah calls Rosh Hashanah the “Day of Remembrance.” Jews are required to carefully review their actions over the previous 12 months, searching their memories for instances in which they have wronged any person perhaps by being less-than-kind or unfairly judgmental.

It’s like God is the great videographer in the sky who has every moment recorded and now you have to review the footage without pretense. There’s no fooling God, no making excuses for your behavior, no dodging responsibility. These days of introspection culminate in Yom Kippur, or the “Day of Atonement,” when God grants forgiveness to anyone who sincerely seeks it; however, no effort is considered sincere unless the person has also sought forgiveness from the people he or she may have wronged. According to rabbinic maxim, before man can make his peace with God he must make his peace with his fellow man.

The first night of my first Rosh Hashanah at the Unitarian church felt mostly celebratory but with a whisper of something more melancholy. Though I could understand only the English portion of prayers and readings thanking God and acknowledging the wonder of creation, I easily detected a somber note in the expressions of gratitude. I spied a wistfulness in the eyes of my fellow worshippers as we wished each other “shana tova,” or “good year,” and sampled from the table of confections. The flavors dissolved in my mouth like memories that fade into a sweet nostalgia.

The following day, those of us who were able met again—this time at an interfaith house on the nearby college campus. Twenty or so of us from the night before moved the chairs into a circle. A teenager opened a box and pulled out a squat twisted horn, a shofar, which is a ram’s stubby antler. As tradition dictates, he blew into it over and over again, creating a noise like an agonized primal cry, something akin to the sound Edvard Munch’s famous painting “the Scream” would make if the central figure were suddenly audible. Some say this is precisely the point of listening to shofar blasts on this day—they mimic the inarticulate shriek of our souls as we shine the spotlight of truth on them.

As I left the interfaith house on Rosh Hashanah afternoon with the haunting sound of the shofar echoing in my mind, I recalled a comment I had read. It was by Maimonides, the famous Torah scholar from the Middle Ages. He said that the sound of the shofar tells us, “Awake, ye sleepers from your sleep…and ponder over your deeds…”

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64 thoughts on “Days of Awe

  1. When we speak of mining religion for essential wisdom — this feels like gold to me. How much would our world improve if everyone took days to thoroughly search our souls for harms we’ve done, to sorrow over them and seek forgiveness? Seems like it would be a better world. It’s especially great that they need to make peace with the humans they’ve hurt before making peace with God. I’ve heard the shofar before and you’re right Corinna, it does sound like a primal wail or scream. What you’ve described here seems really beautiful and important to me. I’m trying to think of what Christians do that has this same purpose? Lent? Maybe Christians don’t have a Day of Atonement because they believe Jesus did the atoning once and for all. But it just seems to me that a day or several, set aside to take moral inventory, is a good thing no matter what your belief system is.

    • homewithin, if you haven’t read it, way at the start of Corinna’s journey she wrote about going to a Lutheran church during a celebration of the stations of the cross during the lenten period. Having grown up Catholic I felt no need to read, again, about this tradition but what the pastor set up as a small ritual in front of each station and what the people experienced was so beautifully expressed I have read it several times and passed it along to many others. It’s worth going back for a read.

      • I meant to ‘Like’ homewithin’s comment. . exactly! I’ll have to go back and look at the stations of the cross, too. ..

  2. Corinna,
    After reading your posts called No Clue and Days of Awe, I suggest you refer to Wikipedia (Google) and read more about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and Hanukkah. You will gain much more understanding. I still wonder why you didn’t start your quest with Judaism, since you seem to favor Christianity as a way to deal with your “None” situation. There is no Christianity without Judaism, after all is said and done. There would be no Jehovah, no Jesus, no sacrificial death, etc. (Also, without Moses, there wouldn’t be Jesus–each served as a mediator, fulfilling their Heavenly Father’s purposes.

    You need schooling in the Scriptures, along with meditation, rather than customs and ceremonies. But, if you want to rely on the food and atmosphere of these holidays, get the info straight in your mind and heart……..

    • Oh such judgment about what another person “needs”. I hope you’ve got it straight in your mind about the changes in belief about the 144,000, who the faithful and discreet slave really is and the changes pertaining to the governing body and how to figure the dates for things. Big changes in your world but then maybe you don’t need any explanations because you rely on the “food” and the “atmosphere”.

        • I hear ya. I just get caught up in my own crap. Thanks for the reminder.

          On Sun, Jul 21, 2013 at 12:26 PM, One None Gets Some wrote:

          > ** > Ginger Hertenstein commented: “Sorry, Frank, but those sound like > retaliatory words to me rather than true discussion. If someone else is > less than sensitive, then does that open the door to follow suit? Not sure > it does.”

    • If you don’t like the way Corinna is going about her journey, Cheri, maybe your time could be better spent following someone else’s blog. This is Corinna’s house and we’re all guests here, ya know. Would you go into someone’s house and walk around criticizing the way they chose to decorate?

    • Cheri, I’m not going to comment on your criticism of Corinna – for that I should be commended. Did you get that alliteration??? . . . smile. .

  3. There’s something about the way you write about it that tells me that this kind of faith tradition is very comfortable for you. There’s a sense of long standing tradition that is uplifting but not overwhelming. It’s as if you move into these celebrations as if you’ve always been doing it. It seems to come easy for you to be in its presence.

  4. Thanks for this, Corinna. Your description reminds me that Christian churches are also packed out on two days: Christmas and Easter.

    Ceremony seems to be something that was “programmed” into us by the “master programmer”. I think it’s interesting that we always do seem tempted to go through the ceremonies and feel like we’ve done what we needed to, without living the life outside what the ceremony represents–which I think might be Cheri’s concern. And I take that as a good reminder to myself to never be satisfied with the outward. Nonetheless, ceremony becomes deeply ingrained in us, particularly those of us who who have been involved in Christian church or other place where ritual is important since our childhood. The “Lord’s supper” was always very mysterious to me as a child. It became rather automatic for me as a teen, since it was part of what I thought I should do. Now that I understand “better” as a Christian, it’s a whole different meaning for me. I know that it is something Jesus told us to do (the ceremonial picture) so that we might remember and portray his death (and therefore it’s significance for us) until he comes back. It’s a great opportunity for parents, as our children ask, “Why do you do that?” to bring them into understanding.

    The ‘Days of Awe’ are a good opportunity to remember, to search hearts, and explain to children what they represent, to plant seeds that hopefully will bear fruit one day.

    • What Cheri isn’t telling you is that the Jehovah’s Witnesses have a very similar “celebration” called the Memorial of Christ’s Death. Only once a year (the day it is to fall on is strictly figured out based on the Spring equinox and called Nisan 14 on the Jewish calendar) they meet for this celebration for the same scriptural reason as the last supper, “keep doing this in remembrance of me.” You want to see people come out of the wood work? Show up on that night. People who haven’t been to the Kingdom Hall in years, weeks or months will show up for that just like Christmas and Easter in the churches, the no shows show up. It is so ingrained in them that some people who either get disfellowshipped or just leave the organization will still return on that night to observe the celebration. The strange thing is that while the red wine and matzoh bread is passed one to another almost no one partakes.
      Partaking is limited to some very special folks who don’t get to stop in paradise but go straight to heaven when they die, “in the twinkling of an eye”. How do they know who they are……….oooooooooooh……shush……only they know. God tells ’em.

      • Hi Frank
        One of my co-workers asks for this day off. She’s explained it briefly to me once or twice, but now I know the background–thanks!

    • Walt, I’m also reminded of the instructions to the people in Deuteronomy about celebrating Passover: When the children ask why they are sitting down to a special meal, the elders tell them the story of the Passover and Exodus, so that each generation will remember the reason behind the ceremony.

      • Thanks, Tim. I was thinking of that, too. God seems to be big on memorials–which are not to be set in the midst of a park and forgotten. I was thinking about when the Israelites crossed the Jordan and they were told to take stones in with them and pile them up in the center, “so that, when your children ask what do these stones mean? you can tell them that the Lord delivered us from slavery in Egypt.” Hooray for God! and stones!

  5. My husband who was raised Jewish, but doesn’t practice as an adult, sums up Jewish holy days as you take something joyful like new years or a miracle, and then you figure out a way to make yourself feel good and guilty about it. Perhaps as a kid he picked up on the “melancholy” you describe. It probably has to do alot with remebering all the past. And of course Yom Kippur takes away any of the pretense, and is all about dealing with that guilt.

  6. Corinna, you clever girl. The imagery of The Scream is perfect – I love the primal ‘shriek of the souls as we shine the spotlight of truth on them’ – excellent alliteration! – use that one in your novel!
    Something about this ceremony speaks to me, a non-believer. The Days of Remembrance when you think about being less than kind or unfairly judgmental to others, to me, can’t get any simpler. Surely most people can relate. So much gentler than, “I have sinned in thought, word, or deed” – and you know how I feel about that three-letter misnomer.
    Can I ‘Like’ this post???? . . .smile. . . good on ‘ya!

  7. actually, that should say ‘more gentle’ – I don’t think there’s any such word as ‘gentler’ – but I’d like it!

    • Hi Carmen–
      “I have sinned in thought, word, or deed”–I recognize that phrase–now I KNOW you and Patti have been sharing–LOL!

      ” I don’t think there’s any such word as ‘gentler’ – but I’d like it!”
      Shoot–I make up words when I type all the time!

      • Actually Tim, we say this in the United Church . .. well, I close my mouth when I get to that word. . hard to believe, eh? That I close my mouth sometimes?
        And I thought about saying, “I’m allowed to make up words; Tim does it all the time. . ”
        P.S. Patti & Dave are now doing B & B’s as the camping idea got dampened by the monsoons. . .

        • And I thought about saying, “I’m allowed to make up words; Tim does it all the time. . ”

          Ah, great minds think alike! Say hi to Patti for me!

  8. So many wonderful and interesting comments, started by a great description of Rosh Hashanah . Frank and Shelley: my wife and I have led Stations of the Cross at our Episcopal Church on the traditional first Friday of the month for several years. In the liturgy, we do indeed ask forgiveness from others whom we’ve wronged, and for those who’ve wronged us. I view Stations with the mix of joy and sorrow Corinna described between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. When I was Roman Catholic, it was mostly about guilt and sin, (sorry, Carmen) and being reminded Jesus suffered and died for us. Now I appreciate it more for the perspective it gives me. It reminds me neither I, nor anyone else, is perfect, yet we can and should forgive ourselves and others. Shelley, you asked if there was a Christian equivalent, and I’d say, besides Stations, its sacramental confession, (or the phone booth to God as we called it as kids). Personal and private confession is a required sacrament in the Catholic Church and optional for Anglicans, (we recite a communal confession during Mass). I know Confession has been parodied a million times on TV and the movies, but truly examining yourself can be very liberating. You hide nothing from yourself and lay it out before God, who offers forgiveness. There’s no pretense. I’ve confessed to some wonderful priests who knew the difference between guilt and regret. Guilt is a stone around your neck. Regret is a positive affirmation that you see your mistakes for what they are, learn from them, and move on. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and I personally haven’t done a private confession in a few years, but every now and then I get the urge (the Spirit moves me?) and I always feel much lighter afterwards. I see Stations and Confession as bookends; one is communal and the other personal, but both serve to give me some perspective on my actions and my life.

    • As a non-Catholic, I always objected to the confession booth and the idea of a priest being an intercessor for me with God. I rather self-righteously said, I don’t need a priest, I have Jesus. Well…it’s true that Jesus intercedes for us to the Father in heaven, (1 John 2) but I’ve found it’s also good to talk to earth-bound people as well. As I’ve thought bout it over the years, I’ve concluded that the Catholic practice may not be such a bad idea after all..

      • in 12-Step programs (like AA) you don’t progress much until you do the 4th Step: “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory”. Then you have to do the 5th: “Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” The next ones are what you do with those “wrongs”. AA is a non-religious but spiritual program that’s been helping alcoholics stay sober since the 30s. There’s definitely something healing about admitting your mistakes to another person. Gets ’em out of the dark into the light.

        • We were taught the priest is merely a conduit, a representative of Jesus on earth. Of course, it didn’t make it any easier to confess on a Saturday and then see the same pries the next day ion church-LOL! One of our Episcopal priests said it can be vey healing, as Shelley said, to admit your mistakes to another person, but that person doesn’t have to be a priest or minister. I think when you tell someone else about the wrongs you’ve done, you’re at once taking ownership of them (not blaming others for your mistakes), and letting them go, “getting them off your chest”. I’ve found talking things out brings my mistakes into perspective. We really do tend to be our own worst critics, and sometimes a friend can help us get back to reality.

          • There’s that traditional Christian refrain that goes: “Can I get a witness?!” Sometimes I think it’s powerful just to have another person be a witness–which, I think, implies a presence or observance without judgment–whether it be someone to sit with you when you’re sick or to hear what past actions or thoughts weigh on your mind. Having another person just be there feels like a profoundly loving act.

  9. Reading and enjoying. As you can imagine, the Unitarian Universalists are not big on confession or communion, but
    I do really like Tim’s reiteration about regret and guilt…….regrets are something you can do something about…..and you can get past it with forgiveness—especially forgiveness of yourself. That continues to be a hard on for me, but I am learning. Making mistakes….making amends.
    Merrill

  10. Stimulating series of responses for me. Any parallel, although not one-to-one correspondence, among atonement, confession, and psychotherapy? Certainly not relating to an intercessor, but to the larger idea of sincere self examination, possible acceptance, and future consideration?

    • Having been through several years of psychotherapy and then becoming a therapist myself I can say that there is a parallel. Psychotherapy doesn’t have the religious wrap of religious words or rituals or prayer but probably its closest parallel is “rapport”. The priest, the minister, the psychotherapist achieve success with the client because rapport is established between them and the client feels safe to “confess” whatever needs to be confessed. Without that rapport nothing really happens. Those who believe Jesus is a mediator establish a rapport with their beliefs about Jesus. Those who believe a priest is a mediator will usually have a rapport with the church and its traditions and therefore with the priest in the confessional. In today’s world there are a multitude of self-help books that bring some rapport between the reader and the writer and the reader can engage in self-examination using techniques espoused in the book. Although different words may be used one can ultimately arrive at self-forgiveness and self-acceptance, self love and personal empowerment. Sometimes all it takes is deep listening by a good friend.

      • Been there in the going through the psychotherapy…..anyway, it is imperative that there be “rapport” as Frank calls it…….the trust….for a person to be willing to give up their “dark secrets” and to do something about them. You may appreciate that I worked with a pastoral counselor/ therapist who was greatly in tune with my spiritual needs. I think that is why we worked together so well.
        Merrill

    • It seems to me they overlap quite a bit in that both ask us to practice self-examination and think about and perhaps judge our own thoughts and actions. This is also an emphasis of Buddhism…observing one’s own mind at work.

  11. I agree about rapport and trust being necessary before you can bare your dark secrets. One advantage the 12 Step programs have in that area is that usually the person you “admit your wrongs” to is a fellow recovering addict, so there is that element of “been there, done that” or unshockableness (I invented another new word Carmen!).

    Whether we tell another person or not, an examination of conscience is VITAL to a healthy, sane life. M. Scott Peck, the psychiatrist who wrote “The Road Less Traveled” (anyone remember that best seller?) also wrote a book about evil, which I found extremely interesting. He believed that one characteristic of an “evil” person or institution is its unwillingness (or perhaps inability) to examine themselves for error. This rings true in my experience and that’s why I’m so much admiring of the Jewish faith for keeping the tradition of self-examination as a big part of their religion.

    Shelley

    • Shelley,
      I’ll have to look for that one. . and I’ll be adding ‘unshockableness’ to my dictionary. . called “One Nun”.. . devilish grin .. .

  12. I am curious about the nature of things that are acknowledged and atoned for at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I admit a total lack of knowledge and experience in this realm. I just have an interest in understanding. What are the nature of the acts for which people take personal responsibility. If I hit a woman in the grocery store with my cart and then make her feel it was her fault, would I remember and take responsibility for this? And how could I possibly make amends for that?……..or it is actions of a more personal nature: I have a terrible argument with a good friend and leave her feeling responsible for the rift it caused. My consciousness remembers both, but it doesn’t seem they both fit the requirements. How do people remember all their affronts and misdeeds….do they have to be spoken of in a specific nature? I would guess so, as Corinna did say that making amends was an essential step in this process.
    Are the wrongs you have done spoken aloud….or is that process in the privacy of you own heart?
    .

    The concept of self-acknowledgement and atonement is a powerful one. It does incorporate that business of personal responsibility that I often call forth as being essential in life. And it builds in the making of amends…….. acknowledging that you know what you did was harmful/hurtful. Guilt would not bubble and brew and boil over as it so often does when a wrong deed is left without resolution. Hopefully, forgiveness follows……from the wronged person, from God if you are a believer, and from your self……..”I don’t have to be perfect.”

    Does this offer up a “clean slate” for each person for the coming year? Or is it more complicated? I get the big idea….it is the details that make me curious. Someone who knows, please elaborate.
    Merrill .

  13. A tough one for me is the received version of the Hippocratic Oath, “First do no harm.” I try. But I wonder in cases like Churchill’s permitting the bombing of Coventry dooming many for the presumed salvation of many more. Would Churchill have done the same if his brother lived there? And according to the Bible, his brother does. Maybe guilt and forgiveness come in many flavors. “What would Tevye do?”

  14. Sin is serious and all people sin. The need for forgiveness is universal. We need forgiveness from God and from one another. And it’s an ongoing struggle. So it’s a personal thing and it’s also a communal thing. It’s humbling to confess; it is cause for melancholy. I like to think of the requirement of confession, though, as if one is being freed from bondage.

    Since sacrifices were made In Bible times for these festivals, one of the traditions on Yom Kippur was a “living” sacrifice of the scapegoat. Two goats were selected. One was sacrificed. The other one was presented to the priest who laid his hands on its head, confessed over it all the sins of the people, in essence putting them on the head of the goat, and he sent it away into the wilderness by means of someone designated for the task. The goat carries all the sins away, putting a distance between the people and the transgressions when he bears their sins.

    Merrill asked, does this offer up a clean slate? Yes, but then a new day begins a new need. So for the Jews, the priest had to come before God offering sacrifices again and again, not only for them but for himself as well. It was inadequate in the long run; impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins, but the sacrifices were a kind of a shadow or a sketch of what was to come. The stunning thing about Jesus is that his offering or sacrifice was “once and for all.” That’s why Christians are eternally forgiven and covered through his act.

    There’s so much more . . . the above is not meant to be complete! It deserves study and exploration, which we are doing. What a wonderful fulfilling endeavor.

  15. Hi Ginger—

    Great post. One of the most difficult concepts for us to get our heads around is the whole idea of sin and forgiveness. (and for folks who don’t like the word “sin”, feel free to insert your own noun, but I think we all mean the same thing). Its human nature to expect some kind of retribution for the wrongs we do to each other, so it’s somewhat counter-intuitive when we say God forgives us when we ask.

    You said “a new day begins a new need”, and I think that’s the essence of forgiveness. It should be forward-looking. When Jesus told the woman caught in adultery, He said “nor do I condemn you. Now go and sin no more.” A Greek philosopher said, “Not even God can change the past” and that is true. But He can change what we do with it and how we see it. To be unforgiving means we are doomed to carry the weight of every wrong we’ve ever done forever. Without forgiveness, there is no point in learning from our mistakes because there is nothing to be gained from acting differently in the future. As young children, I bet nearly all of us learned the hard way that a light bulb is hot. We may never forget the sting, but the wound heals, and we learn a valuable lesson. Being unforgiven means the burn never heals.

    Clearly, there is payment to be made for what we do, whether its temporal in this life or addressed in the next. How God works His mercy is up to Him, but there’s a hint in one of Paul’s epistles, where he says some of the dead will be saved as “if they came through a fire” I don’t think he’s talking about hell or Purgatory, but rather the common Biblical allegory of being “refined” as if by fire. Our transgressions are laid bare and then stripped away, so we come through cleansed of all our past burdens.

    And as some of us have said before, the hardest person to forgive is usually ourselves. But if God can, then we should!

    • Everything is expressed very clearly but it remains difficult for me to wrap my head around words that connote that I may be a sinner needing salvation. I have no problem with forgiveness to release another from my thoughts or to accept responsibility for what I see as my own transgression, transcending it and moving forward. Grace comes into the picture and I recognize it as ever present for all who choose it. Compassion for the self and compassion for others need not wait until I first recognize myself as a sinner needing salvation nor suggesting to another that they are not quite “good” enough unless they do.
      Just as you easily put hell and Purgatory into the realm of Biblical allegory, it seems similarly easy for me to put words like “sin”, “forgiveness” and “salvation” into that category rather than sitting around waiting for “retribution” to occur in this life or the next. I’m often amazed that people find it difficult to accept their own goodness without first uttering their mea culpas. Life review, yes. A world of good comes from reviewing where we’ve been and to learn from one’s experiences. Eventually we learn to let go and let God.

  16. I’ve read through the discussions of sin/forgiveness and I guess, in my mind anyway, I’d just refer to this as learning from my mistakes (which sometimes works!) – it’s as simple as that for me. As far as this whole, “God keeping a scorecard” business, I just honestly can’t accept it. In fact, that idea really bothers me. I’m a big girl, I can look after myself – using my brain, my conscience, and my good sense – and the mistakes I make I am prepared to have to deal with (and have dealt with) in the only life I can conceive of – this one.
    Perhaps that’s what sets me apart from some others on this Blog – my mind can only accept what I see before me as opposed to what I can imagine in some other other-wordly existence. If so, doesn’t that make me a realist? Maybe even a very pragmatic realist? Hopefully one with a sense of humour?

  17. Carmen, your post made me want to play devil’s advocate and ask you a few questions. OK, you say you rely on your 5 senses to tell your brain what’s real. If your senses can’t pick it up, then it’s not real. Do I have that right? Are your powers of observation complete? Are your senses and your brain able to observe and comprehend everything there is? Do you ever have the experience that you “just know” something that your senses and your brain haven’t told you?

    I guess I’m just wondering what a “realist” is, considering that we may not really know what “real” is. I know gravity is real, but I don’t know what it is, I can’t touch or see it but I feel its effects. Is it possible there could be a real going on simultaneously with our real, that could be more real than what our senses and brains can know?

    Hope you know I’m not trying to be argumentative or insinuate one of us is “right” and the other “wrong”. I’m not being critical of your words or your stand either, I’m just trying to poke it a bit to see what’s there!

    Shelley

  18. Hi Shelley,

    If you’re advocating for a higher power that can’t be seen or felt (and that people believe in ANYWAY), I’d say that was an individual choice that people make, based on their OWN set of powers of seeing, feeling and experiencing life, which I respect.

    Any other real -one which can’t be seen or felt – that can be MORE real is a bit abstract and, perhaps, beyond me to comprehend. (And maybe THAT real is what many of you ‘get’ and I don’t – after all, I AM a simple person, in more ways than one!)

    All I know is, if I had a REAL person whose presence consistently made me feel that I needed to clean up my act every day and kept me in a state of perceived unworthiness, I’d tell that person to take a long walk off a short pier. (Keep in mind that I was responding to the thread on sin/forgiveness)
    -Carmen

  19. I think we’re conflating (not confusing) the idea of sin and redemption with guilt and punishment. And when I say “we”, I mean most people for many, many generations, not just us. The image of God as a cosmic bookkeeper, weighing our sins against our good deeds, is a common one. I think this also ties back to the earlier thread about Jesus as “Imputation” for our sins. The idea of a celestial harpy, constantly reminding us of what we’ve done wrong, is not what Jesus died for.

    I guess, really, this issue goes back to how we view ourselves in God’s eyes. Are we really the “totally depraved” fallen race that limps through existence, totally miserable except for what God gives us? Or are we His crowning creation, created a “little less than angels”, who make mistakes—lots of them, but whose mistakes don’t define who we are? I look at this issue like I do things at work. If I’m working on a spreadsheet, and the total is wrong, I go back and look at my entries until I find the one I did wrong. Then I fix it. I don’t spend the rest of the day beating myself up because I entered “07” instead of “70”. I find my error, recognize it, fix it, and move on, maybe a little more careful about entering numbers. If, as a result of my error, I gave someone the wrong total, I tell him I made a mistake and give him the correct number. He makes the correction and gets on with business. Now, if two days later, he comes back into my office to give me a hard time, I’d tell him I recognized the error, it was fixed, so now its time to let it go. (My actual language would probably be a tad more salty, but this is a family blog).

    I think it’s the same way with sin and forgiveness (or self-reflection). You take time to look back at the things you’ve done, see where you made the wrong entries, fix them if you can, and move on. I read somewhere that Martin Luther spent the last half of each day examining his actions from the first half, trying to discern every little wrong and sin. God doesn’t want us to be like that. He wants us to be joyful, and that joy includes the ability to recognize our wrongs and then cast them off.

    Finally, I think we should remember that most of what we do is amoral. Not amoral in the pejorative sense, but literally “neither moral nor immoral”. I can take one of two streets to get to work. Both take about the same time and aren’t much different. Each morning, I choose one or the other. I don’t think choosing one over the other is a great moral decision. Nor is what I have for lunch, or what kind of fruit I buy, etc. Pressing a rigid framework of right and wrong on all our actions is neurotic. And I think it clouds our judgment when it comes time to really choose between right and wrong.

  20. Right on Tim! And if I believed in God, I’d like to think that He’d be pleased with me. . .well OK. . most of the time. . . and if He isn’t – please don’t the rest of you be concerned about my immortal soul; I’m not!

    • Carmen, I think you’re VERY ok! I think I got off the subject of sin and forgiveness and all that, up there with my questions. It was cuz you said you were a realist…and that got me going off into realms of thought. Sorry for the woolgathering!

  21. Just to illustrate how acculturated we are to the Goad as bookkeeper image, I still have a book form my Roman Catholic days called “Purgatory”. Besides being full of instructions on why you should feel guilty about everything, it has a section that tells you how long you spend it Purgatory for a variety of given sins. For example, using the Lords’ name in vain gets you 12 years, etc. And we wonder why most people concentrate on guilt, sin, and redemption as a mathematical equation?!?

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