Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: We live with a self-image that we know is not true, but we like to project it anyway. We will come unstuck from self-deception when there is someone who loves us unconditionally ... the crucified and risen Christ.

Outside the gate of the great house, it is growing cold. The winter winds are not quite over, and the first breezes of a promised spring have a zip to them. It would be nice to be in there, on the other side of the gate, where a fire is blazing and the workers are keeping warm. It would be good indeed if a man could warm his hands and keep the chill off his back.

But it would be better if the chill had not already gone through to the heart. Not the chill of the wind, but the cold, piercing shock that came with being recognized. How had she known, this woman, who he was? How had she figured it out? It came so suddenly that he had had no time to think, and just blurted out whatever came to mind.

Cold. Icy cold. Bitter cold. More icy than the winter winds the fear of being recognized. And more biting by far the guilt of having been exposed and lying about it. Outside the gate of the great house it is cold indeed. The chill winds of self-deception have blown.

Outside the gate of my little house, it has been pretty cold, too, this winter. The evidence is Mt. Snowmore. Mt. Snowmore is the name my next-door neighbor and I gave to the huge pile of snow which occupied the square of land between our two driveways. Mt. Snowmore covered about twenty-five square feet of space, and was stacked up a good seven feet or more. It resulted from repeated, compulsive, frenzied attempts, all through January and right up to just a couple of weeks ago, to clear those two driveways. Oh, Mt. Snowmore is not all it used to be; it’s much smaller now, and not nearly as clean. Now it’s a dirty, mass, thawed and refrozen many times, with twigs and old leaves and bits of garbage sticking out of it. It’s horrible. It’s filthy. It’s ugly. No, let me rephrase that: it’s ugggglllleeee! And, despite the rain showers and the warmer temperatures of the last few days, it’s still here, unwanted, useless, a relic of days gone by. But still here.

The only thing that comforts me about Mt. Snowmore is that I do know that in a few days, the bright sun will shine and melt it all down. It will finally be gone, leaving only some debris for me to pick up and haul away. When that happens, the grass will grow and flowers may yet bloom. All this I look forward to. But in the meantime, there is still Mt. Snowmore. I am stuck with Mt. Snowmore.

Our lives are like that. Full of lingering stuff from days past. Full of old memories, outdated notions, fading understandings. Full of things no longer true, and no longer useful. But still here. And these things still have a hold on us. Like Mt. Snowmore, they still occupy the ground. They still capture a portion of our lives and make them useless and ugly. We are stuck. We are stuck in self-deception.


So much of what we do, we do because of who we like to think we are. Not who we really are; but what we like to think we are. So that means we are living a myth.

A great deal of what I do, day by day, is based on the kind of person I want to be. I do what I do because I am trying to fulfill some vision of who I am. But every now and again something happens that shows me that my vision of myself is not on target. Who I think I am is not the same as who I really am. I’m stuck in self-deception.

Whenever in the Gospels we see Simon Peter, he is bold and brash. He is jumping up and doing something impetuous. He tries to walk on the water ... after all, Jesus did it, why can’t I? He opens his mouth to proclaim that he will defend Jesus to the very death, only to be rebuked. He blurts out, at that last supper, that he will not have his feet washed by the Master, and then turns around and asks that he get a head-to-toe scrub job! You have to love a guy like this, always out front, so naïve!

He is a little like the child in our After-School Program who, when I walk in the door to do Bible study, starts waving her hand in the air, with a question to ask or a statement to make, even before I start! And the fact that when I call on her she can’t remember what she planned to say doesn’t make her energy any less appealing! You just have to like these energetic folks!

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David Phaneuf

commented on Apr 16, 2011

Pretty good sermon. Engaging. Interesting. Though-provoking. Challenging. Thank you.

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