I haven’t posted for a while. I’ve been feeling a little down, and this Sunday’s sermon didn’t help matters any. So I thought I’d write about it.
First off, let me say that I’m probably slightly biased against Pastor Erickson. I’d been used to Pastor Polzin for nearly 10 years, and Pastor Erickson is definitely very different. Also, he looks like a clone of one of my favorite professors, Dr. Rudy, which makes me expect him to come out with some smart-alecky comment every five seconds, which does not match with his personality AT ALL. So take my comments with that in mind.
So yesterday’s sermon was all about how horrible people are and how we need to really follow Jesus or we’re going to be in for a nasty surprise when He returns. Which is true. But I wish there had been more emphasis on how God’s grace saves us from that fate. Now, I know Lent is supposed to focus on humanity’s sinfulness, and then we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, which prefigures our transition to eternal life, since we share in Jesus’ resurrection through our baptism (I think the Bible verse is in Romans somewhere), at Easter.
However, I still thought the emphasis on how bad we all are was excessive. It’s possible this could have just been to due to my personal mental filter. I’ve always had a tendency to obsess over all the ways in which I’m not perfect. I was the kind of four year old who wondered, since God made people for a reason, but I was bad at everything, so why was I even alive (I was a very depressed and philosophical four year old). Thankfully, I’ve come a long way since those days, but that shows my inborn tendency to dislike myself.
Also, I tend to be rather legalistic at times. I remember, after I read The Nun’s Story in middle school, being awed at how the nuns in the story were only allowed to polish their shoes once a week, for fear they would see their reflection and become vain, thus distracting them from their focus on God. I wanted to be that focused on God, so I tried to pay as little attention to my appearance as possible (which, needless to say, didn’t help me achieve success with my other middle school preoccupation- my love life). I’ve realized since then that it’s not a sin to care about how you look, as long as it’s not taken to extremes. But that’s something I continue to struggle with.
So, either from the sermon itself, or from how I perceived it, I was really depressed after church ended yesterday. If you were there, please comment on what you thought of it, so I can figure out if it was just me, or not.
OK – the take from your semi-hippy Auntie: Oh goodness, it does sound like he was rather harsh. I have found that the preacher, priest, pastor, or whomever is speaking, regardless of the denomination, really sets the tone of the congregation and whole church for that matter. I’ve gone to many different churches in my life at different points – with friends and on my own – mostly Catholic, but also Lutheran, Episcopalian, Methodist, Presbyterian, Evangelical Christian, and even Buddhist. I know many will disagree and say that you shouldn’t ‘shop’ for a church, but for me, one who is prone to depression and many of the feelings you stated, I need a church that’s generally positive and supportive of ALL humanity. You know your Grandma Ruthie has been going to a Baptist church because she enjoys the pastor so much! Who would’ve ever thought that, right??
You will find the message is universal at almost all churches- God’s love and grace is boundless and eternal – and to focus on the ‘sins’ of humanity, to me, takes away from the absolutely amazing work that so many people do everyday. I actually avoid going to services when I know the pastor or priest is coming from the ‘glass half empty’ perspective – I already know how rotten people can be, but I certainly don’t need to feel worse about it after church. I want to be uplifted and motivated, not feel depressed and hopeless – to me, that is the space where God wants us to operate from – to bring peace, love, gratitude, grace, acceptance of what is, and a motivation to better the world with the light that shines from within us (God). Your purpose is to leave this Earth a better place – through your acts of kindness, generosity, presence in people’s lives, and leading an exemplary life to the best of your ability. This does not mean that you must be perfect or never make mistakes; far from it, it means that you move through life, taking both its good and bad lessons as you go, but always striving to learn from those lessons. There are lessons in the most mundane tasks and interactions; how we choose to see these is up to us. People in this world need you – you have the ability to make lives better in even the simplest acts – and these acts are the physical reminders of the greatness of humanity (making your Auntie a beautiful scarf, for example).
You should not feel bad about being the best that you can be, for you are God and God is you. You are SO much more than your physical, outward self, but there is also nothing wrong with putting effort into your looks – God gave you your face, your body, your everything – and He certainly does not want you neglecting it – afterall, it’s your Soul’s Temple! God wants you to take care of yourself – physically and emotionally – because when you truly do, you are able to let His radiance emanate from within you, affecting all around you. I’m sure you’ve been in the presence of people who you feel really good around – they have a certain vibration or energy that just makes you feel better – and other people have a really negative vibration or energy. I know it sounds kinda new-agey, but I swear it is true – and I think it’s really important for people like us to try to surround ourselves with positive energy when we have a choice. This does not mean people with positive energy talk all about ‘good’ things, not at all, but that the energy behind whatever they are talking about is coming from a place of love, not from fear, anger, or contempt. I know we cannot choose to never interact with ‘negative’ people, but when we do have a choice (like where to go to church) we should make it. The positive energy you receive from others really does build on your own energy, and helps to fortify the soul – again, I know that sounds kinda out there, but I really think it’s true.
I think you’d really like the works of Joseph Campbell, Gary Zukav, and Eckhart Tolle – they’ve all been influential in my spiritual (but not necessarily religious) growth. Every step in your life is just as it should be – you being at home now has a purpose – it really does. It’s hard to sometimes see when we are in the midst of an uncertain future or direction, but everything you experience is needed for your own spiritual growth. You attending this particular sermon on Sunday has awakened a part of you that is questioning – and that’s a good thing – for you are searching for answers that you may not even have the questions to yet. But you are feeling an unsettled part of your soul, and THAT is the part of the your soul (God) that is seeking growth. How cool that the physical Andrea gets to go along for the ride on this amazing adventure through life with God!
And I really recommend you find a church where you truly feel you belong – even if it’s not where your family goes – it makes a HUGE difference. I refuse to go to the MO Synod Lutheran church in our community- I went twice with Grandma and thought the pastor was totally racist, not to mention annoying. And I don’t feel bad about not going where I’m not comfortable- you shouldn’t either – find a church /pastor that’s a good match for YOU.
I wish I would have known little four-year old Andrea – I would have given her a big hug and told her she was perfect in Gold’s eyes, just the way she was :).
God’s eyes, not Gold’s 🙂