|Posted by Diversity in Faith on May 6, 2013 at 7:20 AM|
From Shame To Service
To hear the audio of this, see
In the midst of our mistakes and failings – and the names weare called by others-- we can be so overcome by shame we don't knowhow to move forward. We can feel trapped, stuck, and powerless. Like a shadow falling overhead before a storm, all light and hope canbegin to be eclipsed by our heartache, guilt, and shame.
Just such a moment happened to a young business named Bill Wilson. A real go getter, an up and coming star in the business world, Billhad a dirty little secret: to get through his day he had to turnagain and again to the bottle. It began to wreck his home-life andhis marriage. Then the hold the bottle had on him cost him his job. Broken, not knowing where to turn, head hung in shame Bill admittedhimself into a sanitorium, desparate for change. Yet what broke himbeyond even his addiction was the life-wrenching shame. In his mind,he was not an alcoholic; he was a drunk. He was not a man who lost ajob; he was a failure. He saw no hope, no goodness in his life.
Just such a moment came in the life of a young preacher named Troy. A married father of 2, he too was rising star in the preachingworld. Yet he had hidden for years a dark secret: he was gay, and noamount of prayer or sacrifice could take away his attraction to men. Like all well-kept secrets, this came out and he lost it all. Hiswife left him, taking the kids away. He was kicked out of thechurch, defrocked. Jobless, with his marriage shattered and childrencut off from him, Troy began a nose-dive of doubt, loneliness, shame,and self-hatred. One day, as life hit rock bottom, Troy took aknife, slit his wrists in the tub, and waited to die.
ThoughI can't relate with these two men's exact journey I know what it isto wake up, feeling you are powerless to move forward. Feeling thatyou have failed too much to move forward, and having the shame of allthe ways I feel I am wrong fall over me like a dark winter chill.
Have any of you had such moments in your life you would be willingto share about?
Tonight we will be joining one final disciple in their encounterwith the risen Jesus and the new life he makes possible. Thisdisciple, Simon, has hit rock bottom, not knowing where to turn.
This is in John 21. Lets turn there together. We will start inverse 1 and go on to verse 19.
Later, Jesus himself appeared againto his disciples at the Sea of Tiberius. This is how it happened:2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus[a]), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and twoother disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter told them, “I’mgoing fishing.”
They said, “We’ll go with you.” They set out in aboat, but throughout the night they caught nothing. 4 Early inthe morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples didn’trealize it was Jesus.
5 Jesus called to them, “Children, have you caughtanything to eat?”
They answered him,“No.”
6 He said, “Cast your net on the right side of the boatand you will find some.”
So they did, and there were so many fish that they couldn’thaul in the net. 7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said toPeter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard itwas the Lord, he wrapped his coat around himself (for he was naked)and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in theboat, dragging the net full of fish, for they weren’t far fromshore, only about one hundred yards.
9 When they landed, they saw a fire there, with fish on it, andsome bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fishthat you’ve just caught.” 11 Simon Peter got up andpulled the net to shore. It was full of large fish, one hundredfifty-three of them. Yet the net hadn’t torn, even with so manyfish. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.”None of the disciples could bring themselves to ask him, “Whoare you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, tookthe bread, and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish.14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciplesafter he was raised from the dead.
15 When theyfinished eating, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John,do you love me more than these?”
Simon replied,“Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 Jesus asked asecond time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Simon replied,“Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 Heasked a third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was sad thatJesus asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” Hereplied, “Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 I assure you thatwhen you were younger you tied your own belt and walked aroundwherever you wanted. When you grow old, you will stretch out yourhands and another will tie your belt and lead you where you don’twant to go.” 19 He said this to show the kind of death bywhich Peter would glorify God. After saying this, Jesus said toPeter, “Follow me.”
LivingJesus, who promises us that you will never leave us and forsake us,whom we know is so present that if we turn over a rock we can findyou there, and if we split a log, there you are, open our eyes. Helpus to see your presence. Help us to hear your voice. Amen.
Does anything stand out to you about either how Peter experiencesnew life, or how the risen Christ responds to Peter's moment of crashand burn?
Thereare a few things I want to focus in on: First, that Peter wasimmobilized by shame and guilt. Second, that Jesus confrontsdirectly Peter's failure andfeelings. Finally, Jesus invites Peter to replace his shame with alife for others.
First,we see that Peter was immobilized by shame and guilt. We can seethis because Peter has returned to fishing. If you go back and readMatthew 4, you will find outthat when Peter was called by Jesus he was a fisherman. That is theold life, the old job Peter left when he answered Jesus' call to fishfor people.
What is amazing about this is that Peter knew Jesus was risen. Johntells us that Jesus already had showed up to all the disciples,proved that he was risen, and commissioned them to go out and do thework Jesus did.
Peter's response? He hung his head low. He sighed. He said “well,good for you Jesus. Glad you're back. I bet the rest of you folkscan do that just fine. Me? Let me do what I know how. Let me gofishing.”
Atfirst glance, this may seem strange. But if you can think about whatit is like for you when you are filled with shame, wracked by guilt,and failure you can see why he did this. When we are wracked withguilt and shame, we become stuck in the past. We are unable to imagea better future or, if we can, cannot imagine ourselves in it. Webegin to see ourselves as unable to do good, unable to make adifference. What we have done, and what it makes us look atourselves as gets us stuck. When we are stuck and cannot go forward,we turn back. We go back to what had been comfortable before ourfailure.
Peterwas wracked with guilt, shame, and failure. Peter had left fishing,his comfort zone and all he knew before Jesus, to embark on anadventure of following Jesus. To Peter's perspective, that missionhad failed when Jesus died. But it was more than the mission thatfailed. Peter had failed. Peter had promised Jesus he would notleave his side, that he would fight and die before letting theauthorities. When Peterraised his sword to try and defend Jesus, he failed to chop off thehead of the man coming for Jesus and only lopped of his ear –which Jesus promptly healed as if nothing had happened. When it wasclear no amount of fighting could keep Jesus free, Peter ran for hislife and hid. It wasn't Peter, who the other disciples had treatedlike a spokesman and leader, who had the courage to stand by Jesus'side, it was women. Peter had shook in fear, hiding and afraid.
Then, just like Jesus had predicted, when Peter was approached hedenied Jesus, saying he never knew the man – not just once butthree times.
Peter was broken. He knew he was no hero. He knew he didn't havethe strength to lead like people expected him to do. He knew whenthe going got tough, he ran like hell.
SoPeter, even afterseeing Jesus risen, is so full of shame he can't bring himself tomove forward into the bright future his new life in Christ makespossible. He slinked away in the shadows, into that comfort zonethat was the last place he remembered feeling safe before his failure– just as many of you have when you were immobilized by failureand shame.
This immobilization shows what shame and guilt are. Peter isstruggling with both. Guilt is simply feeling bad that you have donesomething wrong. It hurts awful, but actually can be a positivething. When I stub my toe I learn not to kick against a brick wall. When I feel guilt I learn which actions are wrong, and that painhelps me change by giving up bad action.
Shame on the other hand is immobilizing. While guilt is about whatyou have done, when you & I feel shame that feeling is about whoyou are. You no longer feel the remorse that you hurt a friend, youbegin to say “I'm a horrible person who can't keep afriendship. I don't deserve support”. When you feel the guiltof having lied or cheated, you commit to be truthful and honest, notbeing pushed into closets again. But when this becomes shame youbegin to say “I am lying good-for-nothing. No-one would likeme if they knew me, and I can never do the right thing”. Guilt can bring remorse, and with remorse you can change your lifefor the better. Shame causes people to shut down and regress.
Itis not Peter's guilt that keeps him from moving forward – ifanything his guilt makes him wish he could. It is hisheart-wrenching shame. His hatred of who he is for denyingJesus. It is shame thatdrives Peter back to fishing, making him unable to say “I willchange, and become a person of courage, no longer hiding in fear bythe fireside”, and keeps him from going sent as Jesus said heshould. That same shame was what immobilized Bill Wilson when heknew he must deal with his alcoholism, and that was almost fatal toTroy Perry when he decided he was too filthy as a gay man to be worthliving.
Howdoes Jesus respond?
Jesusresponds by directly confronting Peter's failure head on. He does itby doing two things. First Jesus brings Peter into a situationmirroring moments of Peter's life with Jesus – where Peter getsa miraculous catch of feet as he did at his call to follow Jesus; andwhere Jesus makes a meal for the disciples like Jesus did on thenight Judas betrayed Jesus & Peter abandoned him. And then Jesusasks Peter three times, in that moment doeshe love Jesus? These three questions are a chance for Peter toexperience saying “Yes” to Jesus as many times as Peterhad said no to him, when Jesus denied him at Jesus' trial. The risenJesus confronts Peter's failure head-on.
Sooften when we experience shame in our lives, instead of confrontingit head-on, we try to hide from it. We may run from it by jumpinginto new work at our job, in a hobby, or even in the church. We mayrun from it by jumping into a new relationship, or into bed withsomeone. We might run from it by diving into a bottle or lighting ajoint. Pushing down the shame, hiding from the shame only makes itworse, more
Inour relationships with others – whether in our families, or inthe church – we do the same thing. We see others slinking awayfrom feeling shame about actions. We say nothing – why bringup the past? Instead of speaking directly to what is happening, welet it. And people who are hurting slip through the cracks.
YetJesus directly confronts what is happening, and to borrow a phrasefrom fellow Progressive Christian Alliance minister TerryMcGuire, Jesus initiatesgrace. He directly speaks to what has happened, but in a way that affirmsto Peter that there is a future for him, that Jesus has place for himin his life, and that Petercan choose a path where the past doesn't define him. Jesus directlyinvites Peter to embrace their relationship again.
In a real this is very similar to what Bill Wilson and Troy Perryexperience. While in the hospital Bill Wilson cries out to Godsaying “God, if there is a God, show yourself!” and BillWilson has an experience of seeing blinding light and hearing thewords “You are free now”. That moment is a turningpoint for Bill Wilson where he is able to let go of the past becausehe knows his relationship with his Higher Power, with life, and thefuture isn't defined by his failings. He is not defined by themeither. Likewise, when Troy Perry reaches near death, he has theexperience of hearing what he feels is the voice of God telling himthat God loves him, just as he is, and that God wants him to sharewith others who, like him, have heard God detested them that Godloves them too. For both of them this experience gives them thesense that life is worth living, that they are not disposable, andthat there is a future for them. They experience the risen Jesusconfronting their shame and guilt initiating grace. This allows themto learn the lesson of guilt and change the direction of their lives.
Youmay not have had a visionary experience. In fact I hope you haven't– a visionary experience is something God usually gives us onlyafter God has tried to quietly speak, guide, influence us and we weretoo distracted by life's busyness, too caught up in our own pain andangst, to listen. I challenge you to not wait for that, but insteadtake time to confront your feelings of guilt and of shame. Take themto God. Look and listen for God's response. I believe as you lookand listen you will see Jesus reaffirming his relationship with you,letting you know that your failures do not define you, and carvingout a bright future with you. As you experience this Ithink you will find that these broken places in your life that cancreate shame, when you open up them up to God can become the placeswhere God's presence shines through. As you let go of the shame, youwill find God giving you the power to move forward, at timesaccepting what you felt was too broken to embrace and other timesempowered to change course where mistakes have been made.
Howcan we as a church help people learn to reach out toGod & othersinstead of letting shame consume them?
Finallyafter Jesus reassures him that their relationship continues, Jesusinvitespeople to begin his journey forward by focusing on others. Heinvites them to get outside of themselves.
Jesusdoes this in a number of ways. First by inviting Peter to share hislove for Jesus, Jesus calls Peter to focus on making amends in hisrelationship with Jesus. Making amends to others we have hurt can bea powerful way to mend our broken relationships and heal the pain ofguilt. Shame however immobilizesus so all we do is beat up ourselves, as Peter has been doing tohimself.
NextJesus invitesPeter to demonstrate a change by serving others – feedmy sheep.
This call to make do something outside of yourself is part of whatboth Bill Wilson and Troy Perry are led to do in the face of theirshame. Bill Wilson begins a process of making amends that laterbecomes a step in the Alcoholics Anonymous movement, because it helpshim use his mistakes to learn how to become a healthier personinstead of immobilizing him with shame. Then he finds when he helpsothers work through their problems with addiction, it helps himmaintain his sobriety. For Bill this helps him move past shame to anew future, and gives birth the Alcoholics Anonymous movement
Troy Perry's experience where the living Jesus told him he was lovedwas linked with the call to tell others, particularly gay people whowere grossly mistreated in his day, that they are loved. In helpingothers discover that they are loved, in helping work with them tofind a place, Troy Perry begins to discover his own self-worth andreplace his shame with being gay with a sense he is loved, loveable,and worth respect. His work to follow Jesus' call births thegay-affirming Christian movement, and to his decision to chooseservice over shame our church ultimately owes its existence.
Thismovement the living Jesus invited Peter, Bill Wilson, and Troy Perryto – which we are invited to – is beautiful expressed bytheologian Jurgen Moltmann, when he prays: “For a long time Ilooked for you within myself and crept into the shell of my soul,shielding myself with an armour of inapproachability. But you wereoutside – outside myself – and enticed me out of thenarrowness of my heart into the broad place of love for life. So Icame out of myself and found my soul in my senses, and my own self inothers. The experience of God deepens the experiences of life. Itdoes not reduce them. For it awakens the unconditional Yes to life.”(TheSource of Life).
Jesus is standing in the midst of our shame, guilt, and brokeness. Jesus is calling us to open ourselves up, to share our unspeakableshame and pain with God, so that we can find those broken placesbecoming cracks through which God's light can shine into ourdarkness. As we do so, we are challenged to reach out to God, to ownour mistakes, and seek to turn our focus from how much we have failedto how we can be people healing the breaches for ourselves andothers. We are invited out of ourselves, like Peter, into lives ofservice.
Inclosing, I want to ask you to listen to a song by Jewel entitled“Hands” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lk0bKfC8XSE) . As you do so, I want you to talk to God about whatever shame orguilt is holding you back. Invite God into it. Open yourselvesduring this time of quiet prayer to God's presence in the midst ofit, and let God embrace you. Look for how you can move outside ofyourself toward God and others, and maybe even let your experiencesof seeming failure be transformed into a time of service.
Categories: Sermons, Devotionals, and Bible studies