Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Sin that Hushes Us, The Confession that Heals Us

Years ago I briefly served as a pastor in a small town setting. Wanting to get to know some of the other pastors I called one them and we agreed we'd meet in his study at his church. All I knew about him was he was a Methodist pastor and that he had what I believe was a ""glass eye."I walked in to his office and, being a lover of books, I perused his shelves while striking up conversation. At one point, early in the visit, I saw two copies of the same book, and, without thinking, blurted, "Oh, one for each eye." He looked at me with his one good eye and smiled uncomfortably. I inwardly groaned upon realizing my faux pas and silently begged God to vaporize me in a flash of spontaneous combustion.

We all say and do things we regret, don't we.

I watched a wedding where the groom was obviously very nervous and worried about memorizing his vows and when he was to say what. The minister introduces the service and in formal fashion declares to all in attendance, " These two people come now to be joined in holy matrimony. If any one has a just cause or reason why they may not be lawfully joined together, let them speak now or forever hold their peace." The nervous groom recites, "I do." Oops.

We all say and do things we wish we could retract.

Some of those are light-hearted and the source of laughter at reunion reminiscings. But some we regard as unspeakable and we are determined to take them to our grave. We fear judgment if we were to give voice to that which is so shameful. "What would someone think of me if the secret ever got out?" "I would die if someone knew!" The problem is, it might kill me if I
don't tell someone.

That stuff we stuff, whether sin or dysfunction, is toxic. There are two sins that buy our silence--grave indiscretions done by us and horrible things done to us. Either can be lethal if swallowed. It's poison.

This past week I had a number of suspicious-looking spots on my skin biopsied. Having a history of basal cell carcinoma--skin cancer-- I know how cancer can silently extend its tentacles under the surface. If cancer, regardless of its form, is present it must be excised. Denial only postpones the inevitable. There are some "cancers" you can't biopsy--cancer of the soul, cancer of the spirit. You can't biopsy it and send it to a lab. These cancers are no less lethal. These cancers are removed, not by scalpel or chemo, but by speaking them. My silence merely gives them more poswer. And the more power they exert the more fearful I become and entrench myself more deeply in my shameful silence. It's a cruel cycle---but a curse that can be broken.

I must and can give voice to it. I need to give voice to my sins of
commission--unloving acts, words and thoughts I've exercised against another. I need to confess my sins of omission--my neglect that evokes regret, those loving actions I have withheld. To do either is certainly not without risk. We need to have a safe person to whom we confess. This may take months if not years to cultivate, but the freedom and buoyancy of spirit that comes from a heavy heart finding acceptance and forgiveness is immeasurable.

There is this pearl of wisdom tucked in the Scriptures: "Confess your sins to each other. . . so that you may be healed." (James 5:16) When rightly done, there is healing in giving voice to our silenced sins--whether sins done by us or to us. There is healing when the person to whom I confess responds not with the rejection I fear, but the acceptance and understanding I long for.

How long has the shame bought your own silence? How long have you lived with that cancer that erodes your hope and with its tentacles chokes the life out of your joy?

There can be healing. We all need someone who is trustworthy and compassionate to whom we can confess the cancer. The light of confession can cast out the darkness of the cancer.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

It's Not a Wonderful Life: the Plight of the Homeless

Last Christmas our church hosted an elaborate banquet for the homeless. Catered, decked out and decorated. A friend created a video of the church's outreach to the homeless and showed clips of our serving weekly breakfasts and then the banquet. There is a scene where the homeless are standing outside the church office, from which we serve them breakfast each Sunday. It's cold, and early in the morning. Men and women huddled in their sweatshirts, winter coats, whatever they can wrap around themselves. The Apollo Theater is next door, and their large marquee hangs above the sidewalk. This video shot shows a bunch of homeless people standing under the theater marquee which was promoting the currently showing movie--It's A Wonderful Life. Go figure.

What a sad irony. Nothing wonderful about life for them. For many of us middle and middle/upper class life, for the most part, is wonderful. Yes, we have our mortgage payments, and worries and health concerns, but, typically, life is good--really good.

I met a man this morning, maybe in his fifties. Told me this is his second day being homeless. He's staying at a rescue mission. Ii asked him how he ended up here. He was a cabbie, and for reasons undisclosed he lost his driver's license, which, in turn, caused him to lose his job, which resulted in him losing his apartment and "everything I had." And there he sat, eating some eggs and hash browns we'd fixed him.

How will he ever rebound? Will someone ever take a chance with the guy? Will he have the determination to look at his current predicament as a brutal means, rather than a terrible end? Will this cause him to do some introspection and make some possibly need adjustments in his life, or will this massive disappointment hurl him into self-sabotaging ways of numbing himself against the pain?

It remains to be seen. Hopefully through our meager efforts we can assure him once a week that he hasn't been discarded or forgotten. If you see a homeless person this week, please don't dismiss him. Don't flip her off without knowing her story.

I hope that someday my new friend can again echo Jimmy Stewart's sentiments.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Jesus: Lunatic--Liar--or Lord? Crazy--Crafty--or Christ?

It would be foolish--and I aint no foo'--to think a person can either prove or disprove anything of essential importance in several paragraphs. My aim here is not to present an iron-clad case for what I believe about Jesus Christ. I'm briefly offering this for your consideration.

Jesus made many statements about himself that are ultimate deal-makers or breakers. For example, he made these exclusive claims:

". . .
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)
I am the light of the world. . ." (John 8:12)
I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty." (John 6:35)
I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die." (John 11:25-6)

Even in my most glorious grandiose moments--even when my narcissism evokes a wave of grief when I have to pull myself away from the mirror--I have never made those kind of statements about myself. "Oh, by the way, did I mention that
I am. . . "

What do I do with what appear to be absolute truth claims Jesus makes in regard to himself? How am I to regard him? C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia and many others) doesn't mince words regarding this issue. ( Overlook his tone; maybe he missed his morning tea. Think about what he says.)

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God." That is one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of thing Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

I, too, believe we are not left with numerous options or responses to the claims Jesus made. Someone making those claims is either:
--delusional and needs to be admitted to the psychiatric ward and injected with gallons of Thorazine.
--a charlatan, someone who possesses knowledge or expertise that he does not have, a flamboyant deceiver, one who attracts customers with tricks, a quack.
--who he claims to be.

I have come to the conclusion that Jesus Christ was and is who he claimed to be. Do I wrestle with doubt? Do I struggle with my "why" questions? You bet. But I simply cannot discard his claims and the options of response at my disposal.

I submit this for your own consideration.

Grace and Peace

(p.s. Thanks for all the comments to my previous blog. I appreciated the various perspectives and responses. Keep on keepin' on.)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Question for You Who Read My Blog

Being the keenly insightful man that I am--and possessing two eyes--I have noted the scarcity of comments in response to most of my blogs. I like to think--am I delusional?-- that what I write is often evocative, if not provocative. I hope I evoke, at times, within you encouragement or a new insight. Maybe gratitude or reflection, depending on the nature of the post. I hope I evoke laughter or buoyancy of spirit on occasion. There are other times when I likely provoke, rather than evoke. My intent is not to agitate or anger any one, but I would imagine that is the outcome at times.

I really appreciate and desire your feedback as you follow my posts. I'm not merely looking for "attaboys" and requesting your validation. I would like to know your genuine reaction or response to a post, whether positive or negative, whether you agree or disagree. How were you impacted? Obviously, space is very limited but I would enjoy more a sense of give-and-take.

Bottom-line: I am perplexed by the lack of comments and if you could enlighten me as to why you don't that would be helpful to know. Secondly, whether I agree with you or not, I value your opinion.

I look at it like this. I'm the aimlessly wandering village idiot and we all know it takes a village.

Comprende? Commente?