Sunday, July 14, 2013

What a shame! Or What, a shame?

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis, Rochester on the Sixth Sunday After Trinity and at St Augustine’s, Canterbury on the Seventh Sunday after Trinity.

Would you like to be on the telly?


For many of us,
 the prospect of seeing ourselves on the box
 is not actually a happy thought;
 for others
 it would be the best thing imaginable.

Suppose, however,
that you actually did see yourself
on the telly.

 How would you feel? 

Would you cringe?


For many of us,
 seeing ourselves in photos
or on video
 is an unpleasant experience.

 After all,
we see ourselves in a different light
 from our usual experience of life.

Our internal life
is confronted with the external reality.

We stand outside looking at ourselves
 rather than watching the world from within.

we are given the opportunity to see ourselves
as others see us.

It is then that we are confronted
with what we don’t want to see in ourselves,
and that makes us cringe.

The trouble is,
 opportunities to see ourselves from the outside
 are very, very few to come by.

If they’re a rare occurrence,
then perhaps we have nothing to worry about.

Now do you really believe that?


If the thought of being on television
appals us for fear of seeing ourselves as we really are,
then it’s clear that we have some sensation
of shame about ourselves.

Shame is a bit of a taboo word in society today.

We’re not supposed to be ashamed;
 we’re supposed to be ourselves and be proud of it.

Most of the time, that’s all very healthy.

We should indeed look to love ourselves.

When Our Lord tells us to love our neighbours as ourselves,
 He is assuming that we love ourselves in the process.

However, many of us don’t love ourselves,
 at least, not properly, and this will need to be addressed.

However, what then is this thing called shame and why do we feel it?

Our shame comes from the sense
 that there’s something wrong.

We don’t want to appear on television
because we will appear
to be wrong. 

We’ll say something stupid,
trip and fall over
or end up making a fool of ourselves
 in front of Simon Cowell.

Shame has to do with personal standards.

If we’re fussy with our grammar
then we feel a blush of shame
at a misplaced apostrophe
or writing “could of” instead of “could have”.

To have shame means we have personal standards. 

Of course, it could be that our personal standards are wrong.
In His ministry,
our Lord Jesus seeks to shame
the Pharisees and Scribes for their own good.

He exposes their personal standards and  values for what they are.

The Pharisees pride themselves
on knowing and keeping every single little bit
of the Jewish Law.

Knowing this,
Our Lord says, “Woe to you,
scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!

For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin,
and have neglected the weightier matters of the law:
justice and mercy and faith.

These you ought to have done,
without leaving the others undone.”

He measures them by their own standards.
If they are going to keep the law,
then they must obey the whole law,
 in spirit as well as in front of everyone.

“Love thy neighbour as thyself”
is as much part of the Jewish Law as tithing.

 It’s not a new commandment,
and yet,
the Pharisees push that conveniently out of the way
so that they can make a big show
of giving their contribution
of garden herbs.

 It is this embarrassment
that will fuel the Pharisees into engineering
the death of Jesus.

They do not like being under scrutiny
 – they see themselves as above that sort of thing.

No-one is above scrutiny.

Just like everyone on the television,
we are all under scrutiny.

Every action and word and thought
are known and understood by God.

He discerns our thoughts from afar.

He knows the very hairs on our heads.

He knows everything that
we have done
 even down to the very intention of our heart.

Who doesn’t find that disturbing?

Why is it disturbing?

Because we are ashamed of our wrong-doing.

Because we have failed to be the person,
who deep down, we really want to be.

We know that there are standards
and we know that we have fallen short of them.

Our shame is an honest reaction
to our sinfulness
- not just the failure to live up to our own standards,
 but to live up to God’s standards.

As Jesus shows us,
 intending to hurt someone
is as bad as committing the deed.

 To call our brother, Raca
 –worthless –
shows us up for not valuing others
and loving them as God intends us.

 It is our shame at our wrongdoing that alerts us to the need for forgiveness.

It is the shame that
we aren’t the person that we want to be
 that alerts us to the need to love ourselves
and others
in the way that God intends us.

It is the pricking of our conscience.

So what do we do when we feel some sort of shame?


Our Lord tells us the answer.

 “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar,
and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;

 Leave there thy gift before the altar,
and go thy way;
first be reconciled to thy brother,
and then come and offer thy gift.”

Notice what’s being said here.
It isn’t saying “if someone’s done you wrong, go and make peace.”

 It’s “if you think you’ve done something wrong to someone, go and sort it out straightaway.”

God’s priority is on loving one’s neighbour before our liturgical duties.

The Pharisees put their law first, not love,
their perceptions of self-worth before God’s true values.


Of course,
some of us still feel guilty about things
 that we’ve been forgiven long ago, even in confession.

Some of us have learned to hate ourselves.

 If that’s true, then that’s usually the Devil reminding us about our sinful past.

 It’s the Devil spreading the lies into our hearts mixed in with great portions of the truth, trying to convince us that we are worthless.

The truth is that God is love
and desires not the death of a sinner,
but rather that the sinner repent and live.

 If we’ve truly and honestly confessed and repented
 and made good amends,
then we have nothing to fear.
 God DOES forgive sins.

We can be sure of that.

 If the Devil reminds us of our past,
then remind him of his future!

We can be made clean by God if we are willing.

Do you still burn with shame rather than with love?

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