Summary: Shame: I am a bad person. If other people knew what I was like they would despise me. I must save face. versus Guilt: I am a person who has done bad things. Can I make amends? Can I be forgiven? Which do you feel? How does it make you feel towards others?
[I pick up TABLOID newspaper and pretend to read a story on the inside}
“God, after what he has done, he has got what is coming for him”
[look up at congregation]
we all think that - we all pick up the newspaper and read stories and think that
“he has got what is coming for him”
Of course - the story the story that might make you [point to one person] say that might be very different from the story that might make you [point to someone else] say that.
But if we are honest, there is something out there that can make each one of us feel just the tiniest bit judgmental. “after what he has done, he has got what is coming for him”
Cue our Gospel reading (Luke 13:1-9):
The Gallileans whose blood Pilate mixed with the sacrifices. They were probably involved in some sort of insurrection (“deserved it”?) - Well certainly people were blaming them for it. It was politically safer than blaming Pilate...
The 18 killed when the tower of Siloam fell on top of them. - we think that’s ridiculous blaming them. Innocent people who just happened to be somewhere when a tower fell on top of them- but in many parts of the world people would still think that if that happened it was a sign that people were cursed. If bad stuff happened to them it must be bad karma - they must have deserved it.
[smugly] “we don’t think like that”
But we still find other people to blame.
Sometimes wagging our finger at other people - It can be a displacement activity for blaming ourselves. We feel uncomfortable inside ourselves so we like to think there is someone else out there who’s worse than us. Let’s wag our fingers at them… it can take away the discomfort we feel at ourselves.
Did you know that if you go to a jail it’s extremely to find exactly the same thing? “yes I may have shot 5 people but at least I am not like those nonces and child murders”.
Paedophiles in jails have to be kept in protective custody or they get tortured or killed. Seems strange. Why should other prisoners turn on them? Shouldn’t every prisoner be facing up to the fact that they too have done something wrong or they wouldn’t be there?
But no, that’s not how it work.
Other prisoners turn on the paedophiles or the child killers, because it takes away the discomfort they feel at themselves. “I may be bad but at least I am not like them!”
And the thing is - it’s not just prisoners who do it. I do it. You do it. We all do it. We pick up the newspaper and say “Isn’t that other person awful” because it takes away the nagging feeling we feel inside
“Jesus -those rebels who Pilate mixed their blood with the sacrifices. Weren’t they terrible people?”
“Jesus. Those people who the tower fell on top of. They must have done something really awful for God to punish them like that, mustn’t they?”
Jesus replies “do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.’
Stop wagging your finger at other people and start looking inside yourself.
And then he tells a parable
Luke 13vs7-9 “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came looking fruit on it and found none. So he said to his gardener: “see here: for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should I be wasting the soil” He replied “let it alone for one more year, until I dig it round and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good. But if not you can cut it down”
Where is God in the parable?
At first sight we perhaps think God is the landlord planting the vineyard and getting cross at the fig tree. But what if God is not the landlord? What if God is the gardener saying “give it one more chance”
Sometimes the most judgemental person about ourselves is ourselves. Either we give up on ourselves or we try to bury and hide the bad side because we are so uncomfortable. “Cut it down”
God is the one saying “give it another chance”
Giving it another chance isn’t a soft option - we are told it involves “digging it round and putting manure on it”. It probably involves pruning to. It is not a soft option. But it does involve restoring it to health and life.
I am not sure if you have ever seen any of The TED talks online. But there is a fascinating one by a woman called Brenee Brown (1) on the difference between Shame and Guilt.