The Genesis story (Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7) is well-known to us all. Adam and Eve are given clear instructions by God on how to behave. They transgress and they realize it. And, as the prototypical humans, their first response is concealment, symbolized by the fig-leaf garments. Later on, they try to shift blame. It doesn’t work-- it’s not a true confession or apology, and they are expelled from the garden. Death becomes part of their lot. What a perfect ancient story to illustrate current psychological research!
What really grabbed me, however, was Psalm 37. Take a look at it-- three verses in: “While I held my tongue, my bones withered away, because of my groaning all day long. For your hand was heavy upon me day and night; my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer.” Talk about negative effects of inhibition! Continuing on: “Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and did not conceal my guilt. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.” The result? “Happy are those whose transgressions are forgiven, and whose sin is put away!” Happiness implying wholeness, health.
As far as it goes then, scripture and psychology and physiology are in agreement. But the scriptures go further. And this is the power of the Gospel! Paul declares in Romans that salvation is the free gift of God. While he doesn’t use these words, he implies that the quality of our confession, or apology, does not affect God’s desire, or ability to save us. Through one man, Adam, death came to all. But through one man, Jesus Christ, the free gift of grace comes to all who would receive it. God’s will is to bring all of us back into relationship with each other, and with God’s own self. It is our role to acknowledge that, individually. As our collect put it: “as you [God] knowest their several infirmities [love that traditional language!], let each one find thee mighty to save.”
How do we find God “mighty to save?” Well, I would suggest that the Greater Good articles provide a starting-place. They, on the other hand, simply mirror much of the Church’s traditional counsel about Lent. On Ash Wednesday, many of us heard these words regarding the observance of a holy Lent: “Self-examination and repentance.” Where have we wronged others, including God? What are we afraid to admit to others? God? Ourselves? When it comes to our transgressions against others, can we make a full, and effective, apology? Can we amend our lives?
God’s might to save, however, is greater than our ability to confess. God will forgive an inadequate confession-- I believe that. On the other hand, God’s will for us is health, salvation, and wholeness. The better we call to remembrance, the more complete our self-examination and repentance, the healthier we will be-- studies and scripture both agree!
[This meditation is taken from Gary’s sermon Sunday at St. Mark’s. The full text is available at http://www.berkeleycanterbury.org/Gary/Sermons/021305.html.]
Thursday’s Food for Thought: “Exercising the Ignatian Way!” (This has little to do with your diet!) WHAT in the world are the “Ignatian Exercises?” And why might they be good for your spiritual health? Janet Fullmer will help us understand what this traditional spiritual discipline is all about. Dinner at 6:30, program at 7:15.
Lenten Midweek Eucharist Every Tuesday between now and Holy Week/Spring Break, Canterbury will offer an afternoon eucharist on Tuesdays at 4:10.
The Winter Santa Cruz retreat (Feb 25-27) is still on. We are going to spend time considering the truth/fantasy/history/spirituality of Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” and “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”. No, this is not a joke! Really! So, if you’re interested in going, please let me know this week! We’ll leave Friday afternoon when folks are ready, and return on Sunday by about 2:00 pm. The cost? $35 covers it all!
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