August 20, 2013

Brendan Liturgy Part VII

“I need not live with regrets if the Lord made me free. Am I like Judas, or can I let God comfort me?”

It’s been 6 weeks. Stuck here at Part VII and unable to spend significant time with it anyway in the midst of a very busy season: Welcoming Ceremony (I became a Companion of the Northumbria Community), preaching, house guests, rehearsals and a gig, garden exploding with abundance, topped off by my daughter announcing her engagement!

It’s been quite a Summer. In the midst of all this activity, all this MOSTLY positivity, it’s been hard to focus my brain on concepts like regret, remorse and repentance. But in the last week, I’ve been drawn into something by the season occurring outside. The wonder of connecting to the seasons is that you begin to resonate with The Creation in ways you may not have anticipated.

What I mean is, here in the Great Pacific Northwest, Summer tends to come a little later than other places, but it lingers a little longer too. Then, this year, Summer came on time and she was dressed for the occasion: higher temps, drier days, abundance of sunshine, only short spells of dreary overcast or rain. It’s been splendid. Only…Summer has a lifespan and I’ve felt her tiring-out this week. It’s only mid-August, but since she showed up and started parting so “early” this year, it feels as if she’s tuckering out “early” too.

Summer is tired. The shadows are already drawn longer an deeper. The “snap” of cooler mornings is beginning to dull just a little into an “ache”. There’s a yellow tinge to the Alder leaves, the impossibly deep greens of the Cedars are now foggy. Only one lone bird joins me in song for Morning Office instead of the chorus of birds in June. The fall crops diligently push through the soil…but they do not BURST as they did in May…

And so my thoughts more easily turned to the ideas of Remorse, Regret and Repentance. These are the three words upon which Part VII balance like a tripod. Brendan and his companions “see” Judas Iscariot clinging to a lonely, wave swept rock, imprisoned (it would seem) eternally by his own choices. But the choice which holds him in this misery is not first his betrayal. He is trapped in the choice of releasing his grip on his own Regret, Remorse and shame (which would mean falling into the sea and drowning in his mind) and the impossible task of scaling this rock of self-justification.

He can’t justify. If there was ever a sin which was laid bare before the universe, it would be his. The Bible seems to indicate it was mysteriously pre-destined! In other words…we all know what happened. Everyone saw it. There’s no amount of “spin” that can make it less than what it was: the betrayal of the only innocent man, ever.

He can’t bring himself to let go. To say it like it is, open himself to the truth of what he has done and allow God to deal with it. It’s just too much to say out loud, “I am a coward and a control freak, and I made the most enormous mistake imaginable…” its so much easier to justify, explain, spin and obviscate; and if that becomes impossible because the facts are so completely inescapable, it’s still better to just descend into deep remorse, self-loathing and shame: “I deserve to be punished…I’ve always been like this, there is no hope for Me…” In phrase, to give up on God’s redemptive possibilities, and just embrace the lie that we are doomed.

I think of the last years of my father’s life this way. There were many beautiful things about those years, but there was this too: He simply could not/would not look at his own (rather normal) selfish proclivities square in the face and deal with them. He was so put off by his own sinfulness, so ashamed, so angry about it…so hopeless. He really just surrendered to it. He chose to be an isolated, mildly grumpy man who who was constantly disappointed in himself, in the world and even in God, so it didn’t make sense to quit smoking, or make an effort to connect with his world in a positive way…he just let death find him and take him on death’s terms and not his own.

Repentance in the only way.

Remorse is a “feeling”. We can feel remorse simply because we got caught or because there are unpleasant consequences associated with our guilt. Regret is a “thought”. Its a simple agreement with the facts that something went wrong, “THAT happened, it was bad, and I wish it had not.” But Repentance is “action” aligned with reality and with hope:

Reality in as much as to repent, one must acknowledge there is something to repent OF. It can’t simply be 21st century, Western, feel-good-self-esteem-bologna…redefining what is bad to make it seem not so bad. Where I come from, we just call that bullshit.

At the same time, there must be hope. There must be a vision for where to go instead? There must be a preferable future to repent TO.

The difference between Judas and Peter is NOT the potency of their betrayal. In fact one could make a case that Peter’s was worse, in that he tried to cover up his own cowardice everywhere he went. At least Judas was “honest” about what he was doing. No…the difference was the choice each man made when confronted with the TRUTH: “you are a Betrayer.”

Peter let go of the rock of his own justifications and jumped instead into sea with only hope that God would do the right thing somehow.

John 21:7 “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water.

I believe he was he was ready to die when he encountered Jesus that day. I  believe that he saw no difference between encountering God’s wrath on that shore and God’s redemption..he just wanted what God wanted and he jumped into the water and swam to it. He Repented and opened himself to the mystery of who God is and what God would do with him.

Judas…he “hung” upon the rock and would not let go of what he was convinced was true of God.

Oh, that I could spend one day…just a full 24 hours living out a Repentance economy perfectly…falling into the sea…

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