Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sunday reflection 1: Maybe to be saved is to be freed from shame


Sunday morning.  Makes me happy to see Amanda and Amelia and Jen come into the service. As we work our way through the scriptures, Stephen will help me with Stand By Me…

We start with Joel 2: 23-32. What stands out in this apocalyptic passage is the sense of role reversal.
2:28 your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.
Normally, we’d expect the reverse, young ones having dreams, old ones having visions. Maybe we need the visions of the ones  younger than us. Maybe we need the older ones to still be free enough to have dreams. (Am I preaching to myself here?  Walking back into this building too the courage to dream dreams we thought we’d never have again. To not settle for what conventional wisdom said was true..and we are still fighting that fight…)

The word that really jumps out at us is the word shame.
27 my people shall never again be put to shame.
Glen wants to hold out for the importance of feeling shame in order to know what we need to change. But most are feeling the heaviness and the damage of shame.  For the prophet Joel, a people dragged into exile, conquered by others is a people brought to shame.

We spend a lot of time talking about the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt a feeling that is internal. Shame something that is imposed from outside. We remember the vie from the Palestine film series, Paradise Now, that took us inside the story of a suicide bomber. We see the daily humiliations, denials of self, imposition of shame  by the occupation. Shame seems to imply humiliation. A diminution of self-respect.  And sometimes the only way to affirm oneself is to strike back, violently as necessary. As in Frantz Fanon and The Wretched of the Earth.  Many of our people have experienced shame imposed by one means or another. One thing I always tried to do was to never impose shame on my children. To never say, you should be be shamed of yourself, or shame on you. I most often want to say that to adults.
My church tribe the most.

Maybe that is what it means to be saved, to not be shamed, to not feel shame again.

I’m impressed by how at home Amanda’s daughter Amelia feels. How free she feels to participate in the discussion, Share her own views. How self-possessed she is, how at home in the world. Amanda has done a good job.

Several, including Jen, from an evangelical background, speak of  a culture of judgment and shame. And it is Amelia who speaks against judging others and for accepting one another. And most  of all, offering acceptance and love to one another. Yes, Amanda has done a good job.

During the offering, Amelia joins Amanda in singing the old Quaker song, Teach me where peace is found…

It has been a good morning.

After our  too long and too anxious session meeting, I stay for what will be the last official service of Sanctuary NYC. After two years, they will be reconfiguring into a new reality. Worshipping in a raw space gallery in Harlem. I try to find the words to than them for all they brought. The creativity, the spirit the hope. Inside, I grieve the missed opportunities, the failures to follow through, the what might have beens. And yet, there was much in what was.  And I thank them for all they have given.

And mostly I am thankful for Jane. Who has bee a colleague. And friend. I wish I could go back to the beginning. Where she sought me out. Became part of our community while she tried to figure out what Sacred Center was then sought to birth Sanctuary. Do it over. But you can’t.  The friendship will remain. We will see what else.

We finish with a creative visual art project that symbolizes our interconnectedness. I almost get lost in the center several times, but find my way out. Admiring what we have created.  A young Dominican man is beside me. He keeps asking, What kind of church is this? Is it Christian? What religion is this?


There is no real answer. It is in the being of it that it is known. In its practice. Jane and I, similar roots, we live in similar space. We get each other.

Thankful for what was. What is. Letting go of what might have been. Looking to what might be…

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