RELEASING SHAME AND GUILT - - Releasing Shame and Guilt... · RELEASING SHAME AND GUILT ... Shame and…

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<ul><li><p>RELEASING SHAME AND GUILT </p><p>Lent 2 March 16, 2014 </p><p>This morning, we hear the story of one of the more notorious, and certainly most vilified </p><p>of Jesus disciples, Judas Iscariot. Throughout the Gospels, when the disciples are listed, Judas is </p><p>always last, and usually with the note that he is the betrayer. His birthplace, as indicated by his </p><p>name, Iscariot, was Kerioth, a farming village about 23 miles south of Jerusalem. Therefore, </p><p>Judas was Judean, while all the other disciples were Galileans. The others were brothers. They </p><p>were friends. Like Jesus, they were from the northern region of Galilee. It is said that Judas may </p><p>have held the purse strings for the group, so even though he was an outsider, he was in a position </p><p>of trust. Judas identity, actions, and motivations have been debated throughout the centuries. </p><p>This morning, I invite you to listen to the words of the Gospel of Matthew as we attempt to </p><p>consider our own ways of dealing with guilt and shame. Listen for the word of God. </p><p>SCRIPTURE READING: Matthew 26:14-16, 20-25, 47-49a, 27:1-5 </p><p> Without entering into the debates of the ages, lets consider Judas, a man who realized </p><p>the err in his ways and had a change of heart. He repented and attempted restitution, saying, I </p><p>have sinned by betraying innocent blood. Then, he judged himself as guilty, beyond </p><p>forgiveness, and gave himself the death sentence. </p><p>In this second week of our season of Lent, our season of forgiveness, I encourage you to </p><p>consider the ways you may judge yourself. Was there a time in your life when you did </p><p>something, or didnt do something, that you regretted? Did you attempt to go to the injured </p><p>person and apologize, maybe even make restitution? I really sorry, I made a mistake. Is there </p><p>anything I can do to make it up to you? Maybe the person forgave you; maybe not. Maybe it </p><p>was a long time ago. Have you been able to put it behind you, or, like Judas, have you left </p><p>yourself hanging. </p><p>Shame and guilt are topics we seldom talk about, but they influence our understanding of </p><p>ourselves and hold us captive in ways that distort our lives. Our hope is shaken and we expect </p><p>misfortune because, after all, we deserve it or at least we think we do. </p><p>Guilt and shame, what is the difference? Well, we feel guilty for what we do; but we feel </p><p>shame for who we are. We may feel guilty because we lied to our mother, but we feel shame </p><p>because we are not the person our mother wanted us to be. The distinction is subtle, and granted </p><p>there is some overlap, but it is an important distinction. </p><p>Lets start by acknowledging that both guilt and shame can be healthy when reminding us </p><p>of our essential responsibility and relationship to others. It is healthy when that twinge of </p><p>conscience is rooted in reality. It means that we are aware and uncomfortable for what we have </p><p>done and with being less than we ought to be, or want to be, and we are moved to change. </p><p> On the other hand, unhealthy guilt and shame is not rooted in reality. It is a good gift; </p><p>gone bad. Our faults are exaggerated and we believe that we will never measure up. We </p><p>consider ourselves to be a phony, a coward, a bore, a failure and, all in all, a poor dope with </p><p>little hope of ever becoming acceptable. We may find that we become anxious, angry, passive-</p><p>aggressive, depressed as criticism of what we have done is perceived as disapproval of who we </p><p>are. </p><p>People invent many ways to escape their shame, but it is not a condition that we can </p><p>escaped it can only be healed. And it can only be healed by grace. </p></li><li><p>Grace is the beginning of our healing because it offers the one thing we need most: to be </p><p>accepted without regard to whether or not we are acceptable. Theologian Lou Smedes writes, </p><p>Being accepted is the single most compelling need of our lives; no one can be friends of </p><p>themselves while at the edges of their consciousness they feel a persistent fear that they may not </p><p>be accepted by others. </p><p>Grace heals, not by uncovering an overlooked cache of excellence in ourselves but </p><p>simply by accepting us, the whole us, with no regard to our beauty or our ugliness, our virtue or </p><p>our vices. We are accepted wholesale. Accepted with no possibility of being rejected. Accepted </p><p>once and accepted forever. Accepted at the ultimate depth of our being. We are given what we </p><p>have longed for in every nook and nuance of every relationship. </p><p>The grace of God comes to us in our scrambled spiritual disorder, our mangled inner </p><p>mass, and accepts us with all our unsorted clutter, accepts us with all our potential for doing real </p><p>evil and all our fascinating flaws that make us such interesting people. God accepts us totally as </p><p>the spiritual stew we are. We are accepted in our most fantastic contradictions and our boring </p><p>corruptions. Accepted with our roaring vices and our purring virtues. We are damaged </p><p>masterpieces, stunted saints; there are ogres and angels in our basements that we can hardly tell </p><p>apart and that we have not dared to face up to. But to that shadowed self within each one of us </p><p>grace has one loving phrase, You are accepted. You are accepted. (Smedes) </p><p>Grace heals our shame, at the beginning; not by taking all our shame away and not by </p><p>separating the sheep of undeserved shame from the goats of deserved shame but by removing the </p><p>one thing all our shame makes us fear the most: rejection. Nothing that could make us </p><p>unacceptable will keep God from accepting us. </p><p>Grace is a spiritual nova in our midst exerting a force stronger than vengeance, stronger </p><p>than retribution, stronger than resentment. Grace is one of the things that separates Christianity </p><p>from other religious traditions. And if we can learn to accept it, we will find our lives </p><p>transformed in amazing ways. </p><p>The truth of the matter is grace has been given to all of us. Notice in todays scripture </p><p>reading that Jesus was never angry, judgmental, or disrespectful to Judas. No, Jesus was </p><p>sometimes patient and always gracious in fact, filled with grace. In the end, it was Judas who </p><p>was angry, judgmental and disrespectful of himself and the outcome was his own ultimate </p><p>retribution as he took his own life. </p><p>My friends, the truth is that grace has been given to us all. We can accept it and allow it </p><p>to transform our lives or we can fight it, live with continuing internal turmoil, and remain but a </p><p>shadow of what we were created and intended to be. And I believe that this makes God weep. </p><p> So the question is should you? Can you? Do you dare? Overcoming the past takes </p><p>faith and it also takes couragecourage to trust enough to accept the gift and shed the </p><p>problems and mistakes of the past and to begin to dream again. When shame and darkness hide </p><p>all glimpses of the future when relinquishing the past means an uncertain tomorrow when </p><p>youve judged yourself and are at the end of your rope and about to give up you can find </p><p>healing through faith. Listen as the Lord gently whispers, Its all right, my child. . . I will help </p><p>you. I will not give up on you. Please, dont give up on yourself. I love you. </p><p>Beloved sisters and brothers, embrace the gift that already has been offered to you. </p><p>Allow Gods acceptance to form your identity and sooth your anxieties. The gift already has </p><p>been given. God isnt taking it back. God is simply waiting for you to embrace it. </p></li><li><p>You are accepted. Wherever you are. No matter what you have done. No matter who </p><p>you think you are or how despicable you feel. You are accepted. That is the essence of the </p><p>gospel. And that is Gods message to you. </p></li></ul>