Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

One of the things I've learned about clergy over the years is the more you get to know them as people, the more interesting they are and the more you start to see inside their sermons. When I looked at the lectionary readings for this week, I thought, "Uh, oh. The Scripture topics basically center around 'sin'. Wallace doesn't like to do sin."

Wallace has told me many times that sin is his least favorite topic because it's hard to talk about without getting too evangelical if you go too far in one direction, and too academic and impersonal if you go too far in the other direction. I can understand the dilemma. It's hard to think about sin in myself without either thinking, "I'm a horribly flawed being, and I suck," or "Um, I'd rather think about everyone else's sins than mine."

I think when clergy often hit a wall, or hit a topic that they have trouble with, they tend to hide behind their "default sermon". Every minister has one. As one of our congregation once said, "Wallace's is 'Go to your quiet place and connect with God.' Carrol's is, "Jesus died for you. Go do something about it.'"

Well, he hit the money on a topic that I know personally makes him uncomfortable. He used the imagery of "shadows" for our unrecognized sins. I think that is a very accurate representation of his least favorite three letter religious word. Most of the time, I think, our sins are not really in your face. We don’t wake up in the morning and think, “You know, today would be a good time to screw someone out of their money.” “Hey, I think I’m going to belittle someone on purpose today just because I can.” “Today seems like a dandy day to beat my spouse.”

The vast majority of our sins are really little shadowy glimpses in our peripheral vision. If we are focusing on something in front of us, we might not even see them, it’s only when we’re using our wide field of vision that they even are perceptible...and even then, just in the corners of our vision. Then we go, “What was that?”

When I think of those shadows, I like to think of bats, because they are, on occasion, visitors to Trinity (and unwelcome ones at that.) All of Kirksville's "church row" has a bat problem. There are two large old buildings (abandoned school buildings) in the neighborhood that have to be Ground Zero for the bat infestation in that part of town. I'm sure they flock in those two buildings like droves, and terrorize all the neighbors. Especially the churches in that geographic area. Kirksville literally means "City of Churches" (Kirche=church) and if you cruised either Washington St. or Harrison St. you would see it is aptly named.

Trinity's bats have made some interesting appearances. Two of them decided to be the entertainment at Lessons & Carols one year. Sometimes they simply fly in, drop their calling card on the altar or the walls, and disappear. Sometimes they are seen trying to get in by the door. Oh, yeah, and there was the dead bat in the kitchen.

But back to sin.

Those shadows of our sins sort of flit across our vision once in a while like a bat, but I realized something significant--we only notice them if we are sitting in the light. If we’re sitting in the dark we can’t see them. In the light we can see them and take action against them; we know to ask forgiveness for them. When we wallow in our darkness of our self-flagellation and despair and when we choose to keep God at arms’ length, we can’t see those bats flying around and the next thing you know they’re swooping in where you can feel them right on top of you...and you are going to react to that situation differently than if you could see them coming.

I did a little reading on the symbolism of different animals in the times of the early Christians. Back then, bats were thought to be half mouse, half bird. They represented being "stuck" between the darkness and the light, between good and evil. Likewise, we better see those shadows in our peripheral vision if the room is well lit. It creates a situation where we are stuck between the world of pure light and total darkness.

However, this creates a real Catch-22. If we choose to stay in the darkness, we don't have to look at the shadows of our sins...but we will still be existing in a world of darkness. If we choose a path that keeps us in the light of God, we have enough light to see all of our painful dark shadowy figures flitting about. Probably a better choice but a painful one nonetheless. But even with all that pain, we are ultimately forgiven...and can move forward with new, clear eyes.



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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