Psalm 93, 96 (Morning)
Psalm 34 (Evening)
In our Epistle today, the word that seems to leap out right from the starting gate for me is that horribly penal word, “condemnation.” For me, the word literally screams out “Judgment with no hope of renewal or restoration.” It implies a casting to the outer darkness and good riddance to it. Simply saying or using the word causes a feeling of doom to rise up from my very core. Indeed, the original Greek word in this passage, “katakrima,” implies a penalty and passing of legal sentence. The verdict is guilty and there’s no debate about that at the time of sentencing. One can almost hear the judge’s gavel slam down when the word is spoken.
The word is a reminder of all the things in our lives that are irreparably broken, and when we think about the broken things that still remain in our lives, there are certainly pieces of our own self-condemnation in it, or perhaps the feeling that God certainly didn’t approve. Truth-telling–even our own painful truths that hurt ourselves more than others–can come a lot slower if we’ve had painful experiences with abusive relationships or family members. Sometimes it was just easier to accept the judgments and sentences handed down upon us by those people–even if we were not guilty of it–and take the punishment they meted. It was easier to “just suck it up” to avoid the worse physical beating or emotional torture that person was liable to hand out for telling the truth.
Perhaps that’s a little of what Paul’s talking about when we “set our minds on the flesh.” We react to that feeling of hopelessness or doom and can’t possibly entertain the possibility that anything we did or didn’t do, or what someone else did or didn’t do, is old news to God, and that all God desires is to take all of us back, with no discrimination between “perp” and “victim.”
The reality is, we’re not very skilled, when it comes to the judgment business. Study after study shows that human nature is to find some rationale for the perp’s behavior, and to blame the victim. Truth-tellers of painful truths don’t get a lot of positive feedback in the world–not even in our church communities. A recent article in Episcopal Café’s “The Lead” outlined in vivid detail the six ways churches marginalize the victims of sexual abuse–ranging from denial to misplaced focus. The icky truth is much of the time, churches deal with the purveyors of certain kinds of truths poorly.
Accepting the vulnerability that comes with the calling to create a different kind of community is hard, because it means we are called to set our minds on the notion that, because God always takes us back, we leave room for everyone to come back. It’s holy but painful work–recognizing the feelings of condemnation in ourselves and how that affects our feelings of condemnation towards others–and it comes with the knowledge that all the chasms of our broken lives will never be bridged in our finite life spans, yet with the trust that in the end, God makes all things right somehow.
How do our own feelings of self-condemnation create false projections that are barriers to feeling God’s love and seeing Christ in others? How can we model God’s love in “taking others back” into our individual and communal lives?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid