In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
“I have never been so embarrassed, so ashamed.” Whether it was your own mistake, your own gaff, or what someone else did to you, you’ve all felt that embarrassment, that shame. It makes you never want to go back there. In truth, if the shame is great enough the only way to be able to go back is to have the shame removed from you. Of course, these things that shame us tend to eventually blow over. But the one who was shamed continues to live with it. While others may forget, they do not. For they have been sullied by it, even if original cause of their shame was their own fault, they have been effected and shamed by their mistreatment at the hands of the community they were a part of. For many that causes bitterness to take root in them. Resentment. And they become reluctant to show their face in public. They become reclusive, cut off from everyone. For that’s what shame is. It is the effect of sin on the communities you are a part of. And no matter whose fault it is, the shame effects your standing in that community.
Shame impacts your relationship to the community. Guilt, on the other hand, is your personal reaction to a wrong you have done. Your guilt may bring shame on yourself, but shame impacts far more than just you, it impacts your family, your town, your church. It brings disrepute on them all. It cuts you off from them. The only way to show your face again in those communities is to have that shame removed. And often that takes an action of the community, or the head of the community in order to do so.
The Bible is concerned with shame just as much as it is with guilt. In individualistic North America we filter the Bible through our own guilt-fixated lense. But salvation is not individual, it is corporate. You are not saved individually, but together with the whole Church. Nor did you sin individually, but rather, when Adam sinned all of us fell in that sin. All humanity is in the same boat. In Adam we have all been one, one huge rebellious man. And Jesus came not to save you individually, but together with all of humanity corporately. He gives that salvation to you as an individual, but it makes you part of something much bigger: His body, His Bride, His Church. And as the head of the Church He removes your shame. The taint of Adam’s sin. He allows you to show your face. In repentance and forgiveness He lifts you up and gives you the highest place, for there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 not needing repentance. He removes your shame so that you can stand in heaven as part of the family of God, the Body of Christ. Boldly, shamelessly, with full access to God the Father. For with your shame removed, in Christ, saved with all your other brothers, His house is now your house. No one can keep you from your Father. Your prayers ascend directly to Him through your brother Jesus. That’s a guarantee.
Your access is that of a child. And every child has unlimited access to their father so that they can even phone him at work if something really bad happens. Children have keys to the house, rights to go eat your food, maybe even keys to your car. No one else has the same kind of unlimited access to a man as do his spouse and children, even if that man is the Prime Minister. Your spouse and children have the ultimate right of access to you. But shame impedes that access. Cuts it off. It makes you unwelcome in your own family. This is what the removal of our shame means. We have complete access to God our Father. He is watching over us. No one else, but His own redeemed children have this surety of access to Him.
As God’s Children we should walk in a manner worthy of our calling. Despite the fact that He is a shame remover, with our salvation comes the desire not to bring further shame on ourselves and the family. That means walking with humility, without arrogance. It means we do not lord our status as children of God over others, for you are no more righteous or good than they are. Your righteousness and freedom from shame is a gift of being born by Baptism into the family. And often we don’t mean to lord our righteousness over others. But as sinners we are not even aware of when we do it. We are born name droppers. We are born arrogant of our own abilities. We are born judgers of others. And in our sinfilled thoughts we judge our privileged status as a result of our own worth and not of our birth. But as those who know how great a salvation has been granted to us we must walk in humility, not being high and mighty, but a friend of those who struggle, whose sin has brought them low.
This humility is reflected in an attitude of gentleness toward our fellow sinners. If your immediate security is not threatened by a situation, then our approach toward those whose own sin has brought them low, shaming them, ought to be gentle. Because shame makes a person prickly. When we see someone boldly doing something shameful we sometimes ask, “Have they no shame?” But it is often being full of shame that drives them to those extremes. They often are thinking, “Fine if they are going to judge and reject me, I’ll show them just how fill-in-the-blank I can be.” Shame hurts the one who is shamed. Restoring them takes great gentleness.
In their prickliness they will likely try to provoke you, mock you, and even make fun of you and those things which have shamed them. This requires patience and endurance in the face of their shamefilled attacks against you. But such endurance is only ours when we esteem them as children loved by God, both because they are created in His image, and because they are redeemed by His Son from what shames them.
But we are not done walking in a manner worthy of our calling if we don’t guard that unity of Spirit, that bond of peace, that faith that we hold in common. Guard it so that people’s ideas ro delusions don’t rob you and your fellow family members of their very peace with God which is theirs through Christ!
Why is all this important? Because there is only ONE body. Not many. We are one. We are not a host of individuals. We are united in Christ, unified in the Sacrament, confessing the same faith, redeemed by the same God who created us all. For there are not many lords, nor may gods, nor many faiths, nor baptisms, but only ONE. Its all one because there is only one Father. This means is only one family. That’s how it is.
There is nothing else. He is over all, which means, there is no other option. He simply is the Father of all. Either He is your loving Father or He’s a wrathful Father who does not remove your shame but still has authority to bind you in your shame and kick you out of the family.
For He is also through all. The family is totally marked by Him. It is His, He calls shots. He’s the one who gives callings into this family. He’s the one who invites you to the wedding feast of His Son to His Bride the Church. This is undeniable because He’s even IN all. You can’t deny Him, because the evidence of Him is everywhere.
Of course can ignore these facts. You can do own thing. But it won’t change the facts. Your choices merely change the nature of your relationship to your Father from one who is member of the family lifted up by Father to one who chooses to be outcast.
And the fact that God simply is, that you can’t deny Him, impacts our relationships to our own family members’ whose choices, especially regarding the faith shame us. It means you don’t have to hide them, or make excuses for them, nor do you have to try to control them. You don’t have to live their lives. You just have to live in peace and gentleness with them speaking the truth God gives to you to speak. And having spoken it let that be that. If your family members reject that gentle word you speak they’re rejecting not you but Him. And unless you scandalized their faith with some sin you have done, you are not responsible for your grown family members, you are only responsible to live worthy of your calling in your behaviour toward them.
For through you Jesus can lift them up again. Remember our Lord gave the greatest place not to self-important, legalistic observers of Sabbath laws but to the humble one. The outcast, whose disease was visibly disfiguring. His disease made people turn away from him in disgust. It caused good Jews to believe that he had blasphemed or sinned against God’s holiness in some way to deserve this disease. Therefore, he occupied lowest place. But Jesus took His shame by healing him, making him whole. Our Lord gave him great glory and attention, gave him the love of the Father, and the forgiveness of any sins he committed. He raised him in grace even above the position of the so-called “Law keepers” and their pride.
So dearly invited guests of the banquet, in faith think honestly of yourself. Do not chose a place of honour for yourself in this world but always come to your Lord humble and lowly in repentance and He will lift you up.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
--Pastor David Haberstock