Forgiveness Brings GoodnessPosted: August 17, 2014
Forgiveness Brings Goodness
In 21st century America we live relatively autonomous lives. We do belong to families, but we are free to leave our families of origin and form new relationships and make a life of our own with the assurance that our citizenship will afford us basic rights and opportunities. In ancient times and even in much of the rest of the world today your tribe is your sole protection – your life.
SLIDE 4: I WANT TO LEARN TO PAINT
Beth shares a story of when she was a counselor at a community college. A young Arab student came in and said he was “supposed” to sign up for courses that would lead toward an engineering degree. Beth coming from our more autonomous culture of self-fulfillment asked the kid, “What do you really want to study?”
“Oh,” said the student wistfully, “I would really like to take courses to learn to paint.” So Beth helped him to sign up for some art classes.
SLIDE 5: FATHER’S ORDERS
The next morning the student and his older brother were in Beth’s office explaining that the father from the old country had called and issued orders that the kid was supposed to sign up for pre-engineering courses no questions asked. In tribal cultures a persons’ identity and future are determined by the family not the individual.
SLIDE 6: NOBODY — SLAVE
When Joseph lost the protection of his family he was vulnerable to being killed or sold as a slave. He changed from the status of favorite son to becoming a nobody, a slave, who could be used, abused, and only given enough food to keep him alive to serve the whims of others.
SLIDE 7: RAGS TO RICHES
Of course Joseph is the classic rags to riches story. Despite suffering hardship, false accusation and imprisonment Joseph’s uncanny ability to interpret dreams helps him to rise to the position of Prime Minister of all Egypt. And then the great famine of the 12th Dynasty brought Joseph’s brothers to Egypt to buy grain. We should note that foreigners were allowed to cross borders for purposes of trade, but there was always a risk. As undocumented aliens, foreigners were at the mercy of governmental officials. And here were Joseph’s brothers now in his power.
SLIDE 8: JOSEPH’S BROTHERS IN HIS POWER
In truth he plays with them a little bit, a little karma pay back, but in the end Joseph forgave his brothers. He let go of his anger, his pain, any desire for pay back, and he welcomes them, and even uses his power to provide land and food for them and their families.
SLIDE 9: DON’T FORGET TO PLAY
Forgiveness, love, goodness, play remind me of a post Dana Bright made on Facebook last week. “In the last 48 hours, both my Uncle Paul and my cousin’s wife have passed away. I am reminded once again of the fragility and brevity of our lives on Earth. There are no days to waste, no dreams to squander. Forgive, love, dance and laugh….while there is still the chance to do so. Don’t forget to play!”
SLIDE 10: CHILDREN LEARN THROUGH PLAY
Play is very important for children, for adults and in the life of communities. Children learn about their world through play. They develop their imaginations and creativity through make believe, and their bodies grow and develop with recreation.
SLIDE 11: ADULT NEED PLAY TOO
Adults also need play to keep the creative juices flowing. There is nothing more miserable than an adult who has dried up, because they have lost the ability to imagine and take part in make believe. We also find as we grow older that mental play helps to stave off dementia. We need cross word puzzles and math challenges, scrabble, and geography challenge to keep our brains exercised. If everything is work and drudgery we become hard, and we crack like old leather.
SLIDE 12: PLAY KEEPS COMMUNITIES CONNECTED
Play is also important in communities. Games, pretend, mystery dinners, dancing and parties help to keep relationships elastic and inclusive. Having fun together keeps acceptance and forgiveness flowing. Playing is how we connect and stay connected with one another. This is true in families and in churches. Congregations who take themselves too seriously and never play will end up folding in on themselves. The problem with introducing games into churches is we are very competitive and when communities get caught up in win – lose activities pretty soon it is no longer play.
SLIDE 13: STORY FROM ROBERT FULGHUM
“When I taught philosophy, I began the course by walking into the room after the students were seated and announcing, ‘We are now going to play musical chairs.’ The only further instruction was, ‘Please arrange your chairs and get ready to play.’
“No student ever asked why. Ever. And no student ever asked how to play. They knew the rules as surely as they knew hide-and-seek.
SLIDE 14: MUSICAL CHAIRS
“All I had to do was punch up ‘Stars and Stripes Forever’ on the tape machine, and the students marched around the chairs. Mind you, these were seniors in high school. They hadn’t played musical chairs since second grade. But they still knew how, and jumped into the game without hesitation. Musical chairs! All right!
“After removing a few chairs, I stopped the music. There was a mad scramble for the remaining chairs. Those without chairs were stunned. They knew how the game worked – music stops, get a chair – how could they not have a chair so soon? They had ‘How dumb can I be?’ written on their faces.
SLIDE 15: GIRLS WON’T FIGHT JOCKS
As the game goes on, the quest for chairs turns serious. Then rough. Girls are not going to fight jocks for chairs. Losers to the wall.
SLIDE 16: TWO MEMBERS OF THE WRESTLING TEAM
Down to two members of the wrestling team, who are willing to push, knee, kick, or bite to be the last person in a chair. This is war! STOP! And by jerking the chair out from under his opponent, one guy slams down into the last chair – a look of triumph on his face – hands raised high with forefingers signaling NUMBER ONE, NUMBER ONE.
SLIDE 17: CONTEMPT FOR THE WINNER
“The last student in the last chair always acted as if the class admired him and his accomplishment. He got the CHAIR! ‘I’m a WINNER!’ Wrong. Those losers lined up against the wall thought he was a jerk. Admiration? Hardly. Contempt is what they felt.
“This got too serious to fast – like high school life – and real life. Did they want to play again? A few of the jocks did. But not the rest of the class.
SLIDE 18: ONE RULE CHANGE
“I insisted. Play one more time. With one rule change. Musical chairs as before, but this time, if you don’t have a chair, sit down on someone’s lap. Everybody stays in the game – it’s only a matter of where you sit. The students are thinking – well . . . OK.
“Chairs are reset. Music starts and they march. Chairs are removed. STOP! There is a pause in the action. The students are really thinking it over now. (Do I want a chair to myself? Do I want to sit on someone’s lap or have someone sit in mine? And who?) The class gets seated, but the mood has changed. There is laughter – giggling. When the game begins again, there is a change of pace. Who’s in a hurry?
SLIDE 19: A DIMENSION OF GRACE
“When the number of chairs is sufficiently reduced to force two to a chair, a dimension of grace enters in as the role of sittee or sitter is clarified – ‘Oh, no, please, after you.’ Some advanced planning is evident as the opportunity to sit in the lap of a particular person is anticipated.
“As the game continues, and more and more people must share on chair, a kind of gymnastic dance form develops. It becomes a group accomplishment to get everybody branched out onto knees. Students with organizational skills come to the fore – it’s a people puzzle now – ‘Big people on the bottom first – put your arms around him – sit back – easy, easy.’
When there is one chair left, the class laughs and shouts in delight as they all manage to use one chair for support now that they know the weight can be evenly distributed. A triumphant moment for all, teacher included.
SLIDE 20: ALL SIT DOWN IN A LAP
“As a final step to this process, I would tell the class we would push on one more round. ‘The music will play, you will march, and I will take away the last chair. When the music stops, you will all sit down in a lap.’
“So once more they marched and stopped – what now? ‘Everyone stand in a perfect circle. All turn sideways in place. Take a single step into the middle so as to have a tight circle now, with each person in the group belly to backside with the person ahead of them. Place your hands on the hips of the person in front of you, and on the count of three, very carefully guide the person onto your knees at the same time as you very carefully sit down on the knees of the person behind you.’
SLIDE 21: EVERYONE WINS
“They all sat. No chair. I have played the chair game with many different groups. The experience is always the same. It’s a problem of sharing diminishing resources. And the questions raised by musical chairs are always the same: Is it always to be a winners – losers world, or can we keep everyone in the game?
“Do we still have what it takes to find a better way?”
SLIDE 22: FORGIVENESS BRINGS GOODNESS
Forgiveness brings goodness. Love, play and sharing are better than hate, competition and win-lose. At the Sharing Table of Jesus we welcome everyone to stay in the game. We need to have fun together and then we will discover forgiveness, acceptance and community.