Thursday, May 10, 2012

How do we live with guilt?

Questions from our Culture:  Week 4 Recap

The Science fiction series Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009) spoke about many of the issues of faith that people in our time are wresting with.  It did this by taking elements of  different faiths and dividing them up between the different characters of the drama.  In no way do the religions of the show completely conform to an actual human belief system, but they do have ideas in common with contemporary and even historical faith communities.  The result is fascinating portrayal of a life in a universe with competing religious ideas. We are using this portrayal at Holy Cross to engage some of life's most important questions.  These are not only found on TV but in the Bible itself.  Even better, the Bible begins to lead us to some answers to these life changing questions. 

It's Not For You; It's for Them 

In the scene we viewed together at Holy Cross this past Sunday we found Admiral Adama trying to hand in his resignation to President Laura Roslin.  He is led to this decision because he has finally reached a breaking point with guilt.  Adama holds deep regret over his actions, which he believes helped instigate the war that has nearly wiped out humanity.   He hands in his resignation by reprising the words of his speech that we viewed the previous week, "there comes a time when we can no longer hide from the things we have done."
Yet, that is exactly what he is trying to do.   His resignation is a way for him to withdraw from the scene because he is no longer able to carry the burden of his guilt.  The scene is similar to that which we find in the PsalmsWhile I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; (Psalms 32:3-4 NRSV)
President Roslin is having none of this.  She reminds him of the truth that he reason for things is often more complex than we realize.  "We all did a thousand things good, and a thousand things bad every day for forty years to pave the way for those attacks."  She then gives him a way out, a way to live with the guilt that he has.   She asks him to receive a commendation for his distinguished service;  Adama is at first unable to grasp this.   She then reminds him that this commendation is not for him it is for those who have served so faithfully alongside him through thick and thin.  She asks him to reengage his community.  She is asking him to show love.  She knows it will be hard for him to do, but it will be the only way for Adama to live with his guilt.  

Confession and Repentance  

 What Roslin is really trying to do, is to get Adama to turn around, to change directions from withdrawal to relationship.   This shows both how guilt works and the gifts that God gives to help us overcome it.   Guilt unchecked engenders shame, and shame leads us to withdrawal.  Unresolved guilt leads us into isolation.  The first step in the process of living with guilt is confession, in Psalm 32 we are given the assurance of God's forgiveness as we confess.   It is an affirmation and a verification of our worth before God in spite of our guilt.   This forgiveness comes to us freely given out of God's own love for us.  John writes to the churches of his day,  In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.  (1 John 4:10 NRSV) How you say the prayers, or what prayers you say are not as important as simply being honest with God.  

The next step is repentance, turning around.   Now if we wanted we can get into a long argument about where repentance actually comes in to the picture:  Does it lead us to confess?  Is it a condition to be forgiven?  I would ask you to indulge me and think about it another way.   I would say that God's forgiveness helps give us the strength to repent.  Knowing you are accepted and forgiven by God, gives you the strength to turn the direction of your life around in spite of your guilt.   It gives us the power to overcome shame so that we can approach God and others boldly. Once again John writes, Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, (1 John 4:17 NRSV)  
We live With Guilt Through Love (Maintain Relationships)

The love of God gives us the strength to engage in acts of love for those around us. Since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.  (1 John 4:11 NRSV)  The only way for us to overcome the adverse affects of guilt is to face them head on and decide that we are going to show others love through our actions. Those whom you show love may not be ready to forgive or accept you yet, but that is not the point.  The point is to show love, you are able to do this because even if those who have hurt you are not ready to forgive you can know that you are accepted by Jesus who showed his love for you through the blood of the cross.  Evil wants us to give into the guilt and shame impulse to withdraw into isolation and despair.   God who knows the good we actually needs wants us to turn back to be in relationship with family, friends, neighbors and world.   It may be tougher in the beginning, but is life preserving in the end because we are created to be in relationship.  Now we all know that this is difficult especially when the weight of guilt can be so heavy, but please know you do not bear this alone.   Through Faith, and the Spirit God can go with us as we turn around and embrace our callings and those who we live them out with.   John says it all, God's love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.  (1 John 4:9 NRSV)

Tune in next week for week 5
How much can we forgive? 

Keep the Faith, 
Pastor Knecht  

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