Monday, December 21, 2015

The Advent Church...What if? Part III A Place Where Shame and Fear are never Ultimate

I have always loved the Advent preface for the Great Thanksgiving (Eucharistic Prayer) from The Book of Common Prayer:

Because you sent your beloved Son to redeem us from sin and death, and to make us heirs in him of everlasting life; that when he shall come again in power and great triumph to judge the world, we may without shame or fear rejoice to behold his appearing.

So much of the world believes that the church is where you go to learn how to be afraid and ashamed and the only way to be able to live without them is to conform to a certain formula of belief and to follow the rules.

Those of us who are equally certain that this is not the case often have a hard time articulating this alternative, subversive message.  It is as if we are hedging our bets, just in case the formula and the rules is actually the right way.  We are especially leery of the Bible in this regard, since the message it contains is often mixed, and, besides, those who tout the formula and the rules seem to have their biblical arguments down pat.

We need confidence in the message as we have received it.  That means we also need confidence in talking about shame and fear.  This is important because we often handle the shame and fear thing by dismissing it from our vocabulary.  Reality tells us, however, to dismiss shame and fear as not really existing is to ignore reality itself and render our message virtually meaningless.

So here is how we stay on track with a message that is actually very good news.  First of all, shame and fear are real emotions that everyone has from the most obviously virtuous to the most obviously not.  If we try to run away from these feelings or find some way to suppress them they only become stronger and uglier and they very often turn into anger at and hatred of self and/or others.

Our message is not check your shame and fear at the door because you have no need of them.  The message is bring them inside with you and meet the God who is not ashamed to be your God (Hebrews 2:11 & 11:16) in spite of the things of which you are ashamed, and whose consistent (biblical) message is, "Do not be afraid" (a phrase that occurs at least 31 times in the New Testament).

What does God do with our shame and fear?  The authentic Christian story is that he absorbs it and offers us a way to live with it.  That way is not complicated. It is not a way of conformity and following the rules.  St. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons in the 2nd century, put it this way:  "The glory of God is a human being fully alive."  The glory of God is for a human being to live free from the shackles of shame and fear.  St. Paul also said it simply in his Letter to the Romans: "Nothing...can separate us from the love of God" (Romans 8).

There is no if, and, or but about this message.  There is no shame or fear that God cannot absorb and turn into love and freedom.

The question is, if it is that simple, how come the world does not know this truth that sets us free?

1 comment:

Cindy Dy said...

Looks delicious. Thanks for sharing your recipe. Happy blogging!

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