Summary of a sermon series concluded this week at the Chapel Hill Bible Church
This morning, at the Chapel Hill Bible Church, we finished a two week discussion on shame, shame-management, face-covering, flight from God's presence (or face), and the nature of God's embrace and redemption of humanity.
The narrative covered several facing events in the life Jacob —
• Disguised face, steals his brother's blessing
• Facing event, in a vision at Bethel, he is in the face/presence of God and does not know it
• Community shame, the covering of his bride (an expected custom) used as an act of shame to break a contract and to deceive Jacob into marrying the wrong sister
Then, a great foreshadowinging event of facing —
• Jacob wrestles with a divine being and receives his prophetic blessing. He names the location of the struggle, "Peniel" or "Face" because he entered the presence or face of God.
Finally, a fulfillment event in the narrative
• He encounters his wronged brother with an army of men
• Jacob, embracing his shame, "lowers his face" to ground seven times
• But Esau "lifts up his face" and "kisses his face" — a dramatic moment of experiencing redemption from his shame.
The whole Biblical narrative of shame, anticipation of redemption, the experience of redemption, and the working out of this redemption is dramatized in this story.
A question emerges from this story — how can we embody redemption rather than shame as a community. I think a portion of the answer lies in the Eucharist — being a community that retells the narrative and embodies the story of redemption through a ritual that reforms and reshapes our living. For me, this story challenges me to to rethink a theology and the practice of Eucharist.
I also have felt the need to challenge our view of sin — an embrace of sin should motivate a yearning for the embrace of the redemptive, shame-liberated life. Three failed or dreadly incomplete views of sin (failed because they do not great an anticipation for the rituals and life of redemption).
• The "personal guilt" view — very modern, the product of an over-individualized culture, sin is about the guilt of my self-contained actions of the specific wrongs done to me! (envisions a redemption of a single and simple verdict)
• The "tumor" view — very modern, the product of materialism, sin is an evil substance living in me, (envisions a redemption that is a surgical intervention by trained professionals without an real collateral damage in my life)
• The "Heinous Act" view — largely postmodern, a view that only embrace horrific acts that we would never consider in the first place, the product of a contextual, preference driven culture (envisions a redemption of simple avoidance)
But, if we see the shame of humanity as a relational, contagious, viral, pandemic of the human condition — this anticipates a redemption of shame and guilt that is social, holistic, pervasive (to all of creation) and is practiced in social ritual and relationship/community rather than received in personal decisions, individual commitments, and private rituals.
I think a transformation of our understanding of shame and the human condition reforms our theology and reshapes our communal and ritual lives.