June 30, 2008

Looking Ahead to July 6 -- 8th Sunday After Pentecost

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
  • Psalm 145 (VU p.866)
  • Romans 7:15-25

The hymns for this week are:

  • 333 Love Divine, All Love’s Excelling
  • 356 Seek Ye First
  • 266 Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound
  • 232 Joyful, Joyful We Adore You

The Sermon title is Knowing the Shadow

Early Thoughts: How many of us find that we cannot help but do what we know we shouldn't? Why? What do we do about that?

15I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.
Paul states it fairly succinctly (for Paul this is succinct, even if it does seem repetitive). Paul recognizes that he is, in traditional theological language, captive to sin. He knows that despite his best intentions he will not always do what is right. And he agonizes about that.

I would suspect that if we are honest with ourselves we all know that feeling. After all, we all have a shadow. We all have times we act selfishly, or meanly, or un-charitably. But do we know what to do about that?

As people of faith, we gather to offer prayers of confession. Do we do this because we are horrible people with no redeeming value? No. Do we do it because God doesn't know what we have done/thought/felt/wished? No. We do it because, as the saying goes, confession is good for the soul. Confession is healthy because it allows us to be whole people. Acknowledging our shadow not only brings wholeness and health but it is a big part of robbing the shadow of its power.

There are two dangers around our shadow. One is to pretend it doesn't exist, to hide away our misdeeds (even from ourselves). The other is to give it too much attention. For much of Christian history, particularly in the West (it can be seen in the Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed strands of theology) we have done that. We have portrayed people as totally depraved (to use one image) and incapable of doing anything but sin. In fact this is what Paul himself was saying. But that isn't healthy either. The road to healthy faith, healthy love of self and neighbour, healthy relationship with God lies somewhere between the two extremes. This Sunday we will try to find that path...

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