*Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation,*
*of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."*
I actually kind of prefer it when Jesus is nice. You know; “Come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” That sort of thing. Jesus being ashamed of me because I am ashamed of him? Not so much.
When preachers get ordained, they are generally asked – that is, required - to make a promise that they will treat Scripture as being “authoritative.” We rarely understand fully what this means when we make this promise, but we know that one thing it does mean is that we don’t get to skip over the hard stuff. If we do that, we foreclose on fully exploring the depth of this mysterious, wondrous, deeply troubling body of writings. There’s a good reason it’s called the Greatest Book Ever Written. Yet, like any really great mystery, there are parts that can pretty much freak us out.
Shame isn’t what it used to be. Most of us would agree that this is, for the most part, a good thing. The image that comes to mind when I hear the word ‘shame’ is of the stocks that used to be placed in the Town Square, where the powers that were would place someone who had done something deemed to be shameful. Obviously, I’m glad we don’t do that anymore.
Or not exactly. We still shame people, and we are sometimes ashamed of ourselves. I still cringe when I recall some stupid, hurtful, or mean-spirited thing I did twenty or fifty years ago – or yesterday. And when I hear some supposed leader say something vicious and craven – which happens a lot – I want to get out a big purple crayon and scrawl “Shame on you!” in big letters on a piece of construction paper and mail it to him/her. I’m hardly immune to feeling or projecting shame.
Lots of people I love won’t go anywhere near a church, except maybe for funerals or weddings. And even then they shudder. The reasons I most often hear for this are: 1) It’s all supernatural hocus-pocus; 2) It’s incredibly boring; or 3) It’s a place where they once learned to be constantly ashamed of themselves. Respect dictates that I acknowledge the kernel of truth in each objection, but that kernel need not be all there is to say on the subject..
So, okay; let’s talk about shame. (Shudder, shudder…). Let’s talk about what it’s like to feel shame; is there anything redeeming in that feeling, beyond the creepiness of it? Let’s talk about what happens when we shame others. About the ways we’re ashamed of the idea of trusting God, and living in the arms of God’s love and commandments. About declaring our faith by living it and speaking of it – or not doing so, and feeling the shame of such failure. About the ways we break faith – with ourselves, with each other, and, by extension, with God.
We may very well feel shame at times, of ourselves or directed outside ourselves. But we need not live in shame. More on that later. Ten AM on Sunday to be exact. Join us; every one of us has wisdom to offer on this troubling matter.