Sermon from Sunday, September 11, 2022
Speaker: Rev. Doug de Graffendried
Scripture: 1 Timothy

Sermon Transcript

Well, next Sunday, you get a chance to hear Michael Cloud preach his first official sermon as our associate pastor. His normal Sunday to preach is going to be the fourth Sunday of the month, but there are some scheduling issues with next Sunday. So come invite a friend to hear Michael preach. He’s going to be good. You’re going to be good, right? I’m just checking just seeing where you are.

Our lesson this morning comes from first Timothy. The first chapter verses 12 through 17. Hear these words:

I’m grateful to Christ Jesus, our Lord, who has strengthened me because he judged me faithful and pointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is sure… the saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the foremost. But for that very reason I receive mercy so that in me as the foremost, Christ Jesus might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God be honor and glory, forever and ever. Amen.

Friends, this is the Word of God for the people of God, thanks be to God. Amen.

So, in the house, we have a doggy door and the doggies come and go in and out through the doggy door. And you never know what the dogs are going to bring in the doggy door. So, it’s typical afternoon. I’m coming home after a long day of wrangling Methodists. That’s what we do All day in the church office. We’re Methodist Wranglers. and walk in the house greeted by the dogs. They’re happy to see me and walk into the den. And I don’t know how they did it, but I have a very large hibiscus in a pot, and they have ripped the hibiscus out of the pot, complete with root ball, by the way, and they have backed it into the den and there is the hibiscus all over the den and the dogs are just standing there happily wagging their tails. Look at what we did.

Shame on you. And immediately all the tails go tucked, the ears go flat. They’re down like, Oh, we’re sorry. We thought you would like it. We did it just for you. Dog’s do guilt so well. Shame and guilt are just, you know, if you’ve got a dog, you can just look at them sideways and some of them will tuck their tail. They do guilt marvelously. There they got it. Cats, not so much, dogs all the time. Even cut-up the pit bull the other day, got up on the counter and got a hold of a roll of paper towels. I don’t know about you, but I generally don’t scold a pit bull too badly when he gets the paper towels. Cut-up, what did you do? Tails just immediately tucked; eyes flat. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do it. Do we do guilt and shame like that? Hmm.

I remember being in the third grade. Mrs. Fowler’s third grade class. She had a stool like that. It was in the corner of the room. And if you did something wrong, if you performed some horrible error during show and tell, if you didn’t have your book report ready for the class, guess where you got to sit? in the corner, on the stool. Now, she didn’t have it, or she didn’t seat you where your face was in the corner. She set you where you were facing the classroom, where everybody could see you and you could see them. It was shame and guilt operating and it operated effectively for Mrs. Fowler.

I’m not sure we feel shame and guilt anymore. It’s kind of quaint. We feel it, we just don’t talk about it. we’re a little bit like Israel that Jeremiah described. they acted shamefully. They committed abomination, yet they were not ashamed. They did not know how to blush. They did not know how to blush. And because they weren’t ashamed of their sins, because they were not trying to repent, because they were not trying to live a godly life, they’re carried off into captivity. Indeed, in our culture, we have this uncanny ability to shift the blame, to ignore the consequences, to shirk our responsibility. After one particularly corrupt boondoggle it was revealed during the administration of Richard J. Daley, the mayor of Chicago, A young reporter asked Mayor Daley in a press conference, Mayor, are you concerned or are you embarrassed by these activities? And Richard J. Daley turned to the earnest young man and Bom basted son, nothing embarrasses us. As ludicrous as that statement may sound it appears to be the overriding sentiment guiding our behavior today. The outlandishly corrupt, the overly overtly immoral, the violent, the shockingly evil are paraded before us. As a matter of fact, they become influencers on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. We put them on television show and lift them up as an example to human beings as to how they should live. We give them talk shows and name streets after them and fund their weird political views to the tunes of millions and dollars. It seems there is no longer any sense of shame or guilt or embarrassment operating in our culture.

To live without a sense of shame or embarrassment suggests that you can go through your entire life without ever being ashamed of your behavior, no matter what transpires. The lack of shame or the lack of being embarrassed creates this callousness, and we can routinely compromise our integrity. We can betray the hurt, the trust of others. We can hurt those we claim to love. We can dishonor God without feeling a twinge, a twinge of guilt, and a flicker of consciousness. We just don’t register the feelings anymore. and when we do register them, we blame somebody. It’s not my fault. No, not my fault. It’s how I was raised. It’s the school system’s fault. It’s the church’s fault. It’s society’s fault. We create isms that let us off the hook.

Back in the late eighties, early nineties, we created a whole vast school of psychology that basically let people off the hook. We talked of codependency, of dysfunctional families, of the inner child, and we smoothed everything over So it’s really easy to get on the slippery slide and you can slide all the way away from responsibility. Michael Brennan, who is recovering a drug addict and he’s now a writer, pointed this out in one of his articles that’s now 30 years old. Brennan recalls hearing one poor soul sighing confession to her AA peers. She said, my name’s Jane, and it’s hard enough to be an alcoholic, but to be codependent, an adult child, a radical feminist, trying to gain tenure at a patriarchal institution like Harvard, Brennan wryly observed that her obsession with labels struck me as more neurotic than whatever those labels signified. Ultimately, in life, we must take the blame, feel the shame, and confess our guilt. Uh oh. take the blame for all the shame and confess our guilt.


That’s what Paul was doing when he wrote to the young preacher, Timothy. He said, I’m grateful to Christ Jesus, who strengthened me because He judged me faithful, even though I was formerly a blasphemer or persecutor and a man of violence. That’s Paul who penned the majority of the New Testament. But Paul had a life before he was the Apostle Paul. He was Saul, the Pharisee. a Pharisee is one who is an expert in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. They’re expert in the oral law. They know how to keep the commandments. They know how to keep the commandments related to the commandments. They are good, decent, moral people. And Paul was a good, decent, moral Pharisee in Jerusalem when this thing called the church popped up and people started following Jesus. And Paul decided that the way he needed to be a good, faithful Jew was to eradicate the church. It says this of Paul: but Saul was ravaging the church. The Greek means laid waste. Paul was ravishing the church by entering house after house, dragging off both men and women. He committed them to prison. Sounds like a happy man, doesn’t he? Now in the ninth chapter of the Book of Acts, Meanwhile, Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the High Priest and asked him four letters to the synagogues at Damascus so that if he found any who belonged to the way men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Bound to Jerusalem to try them and to stone them.

And it’s on his way to Damascus that Paul experiences the flashing blinding light from heaven. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? And he asked, who are you, Lord? And the reply came, I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. And in that moment and in the moments to follow, Saul, who becomes Paul the Apostle, had to realize that he was wrong. He was wrong about these Christians, he was wrong about the church, he was wrong about the person of Jesus Christ. And you can see this admission, this this feeling of shame, this contrition that Paul had. it followed him throughout his whole ministry. He is not destroyed by it. He is encouraged by it. He is encouraged by the shame he felt for doing these horrible things to the first Christians. Now, shame, shame indicates a readiness to address the disharmony between who we want to be and who we are. Guilt is the regret we feel at a specific action or behavior. Shame, though, is an internal readiness to fix the distance between who we see we are, who we see we are, and who we want to be and who we really are. And you can see that Paul lived with that shame, or as Wesley called it that godly grief, even as he is writing some of his epistles. in Philippians, Paul says If anyone has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of the Hebrews, as to the law, a Pharisee – and you can almost hearing stopping as he’s writing this – as to zeal a persecutor of the church, as to righteousness under the law, blameless. Yet whatever gains I had these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ.

Paul was telling the church at Philippi, I was on top of the Jewish world, but I was wrong and I’m ashamed of what I did. And that shame drove Paul to create an inclusive church that would allow the Gentiles in to constantly fight for the Gentile rights. As the Judaizers raised their heads and said, we don’t want these Gentiles in our church. it was Paul who was the advocate for the Gentile inclusion into the church. It’s Paul who says, God called me even though I was a persecutor and a man of violence. I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

What about it? Does godly grief motivate you to change your behavior? Do you have a picture of who God created you to be and who you want to be? Yet, because of choices and decisions and things for which you have to take responsible, you’re over here now. That shame describes that distance and shame can be used for a tool to create new behaviors; to create new opportunities for you to bring these two together and seek to live that full, rich Christian life. You see it in stories that Jesus told and stories that are told about him. in the fourth chapter of John’s Gospel there in Samaria and Jesus has sent the disciples away to go find somebody, because it always seems the disciples had an edible complex. They were always hungry. And it’s noon time and Jesus is sitting beside Jacob’s well and a Samaritan woman comes to draw water from the well. And Jesus said, hey, can I have a drink? And she responds to him, how is that you, a Jew? Ask a drink of me, a woman, a woman of Samaria. And then John tells us, Jews don’t have anything to do with Samaritans. Jesus answered and said, well, if you knew the gift of God who was saying this to you, give me a drink, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water. And the woman said, Sir, I have no bucket and the well is deep. How do I get this living water in? Jesus identifies himself as the one from which the living water comes. He says, everybody drinks from Jacob’s well is going to be thirsty again. But if you drink from the water at all for you, that water will become a spring of water gushing up to eternal life. And the woman said, Sir, give me this water so I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water. Jesus said, very well, go call your husband and come back. The woman answered, I have no husband. Jesus said, you’re right in saying I have no husband, for you’ve had five husbands and the one you have now is not even your husband.

Can you imagine the shame she must feel? Here She is getting ready for that first wedding, that first marriage. And there is hope and enthusiasm. There is joy, there is belief that this is just going to work out. And he is such a cool guy, and I am so glad we’re getting married, and I get married, and I don’t know how many months it lasted, but it falls apart. So, she’s resilient. She tries it again the second time, starts out with a lot of hope, enthusiasm, belief. It’s going to work out. It’s going to be great. I know the first one didn’t work, but this second one is going to work, and it falls apart. The third time, the fourth time, the fifth time: five times. She has gone into a marriage with hope, with enthusiasm, with belief that this time it’s going to work out, oh, she may have gotten at the end, it was just functional. She needed somebody to take care of her, but she still had belief she could find joy and happiness and they’d all fallen apart. And now guy number six, she’s become so cynical, she doesn’t want to even think about marrying him. She started out with all this hope, with all this joy, and now look at her life. And what does she feel? She feels shame. How do I know that? Because the normal time to come and draw Water is early in the morning. When’s she drawing water? Noon. and Jesus has offered her living water. So, she’s going to find out about it. She’s going to get it, so she won’t have to keep coming to this Well. because it’s at the well where she encounters the other women in the community that she feels the shame most acutely.


She looks at them and their marriages and their families, and she sees them whispering about her. So, she and Jesus have another conversation about prophets and worshiping on the mountains. And she finally confesses that, you know, he might be a prophet. And then she says, I know the Messiah is coming. And Jesus says, I am He. About that time the disciples come back and the woman heads back into the town and John tells us, and the woman left her water jar and went back to the city, that which reminded her of her shame. She leaves with Jesus. She had great hopes, but her reality did not equal her great hopes. And the gap in between is called shame. And her shame drove her, hopefully it drove her to continue seeking that which would bless her and that which would help her. Shame indicates a readiness to address the disharmony between who we want to be and who we are. You get it?

We want to be in the image of God. We want to live Christ like lives, but reality keeps hitting us. And when we fail, when we don’t live up to our own dreams and aspirations, that feeling is shame. Shame travels with its twin guilt. Again, in John’s Gospel, they find a woman. They catch her in the very act of adultery, and they bring her to Jesus. So, there she stands in front of Jesus, and they say, Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now the law of Moses commands us to stone such a woman. What do you say? And we’re told they said this to test him. Jesus bends down and draws in the sand. He says, okay, that’s what the law says. Go right ahead. But the one of you, without sin, you’ve got to throw the rock first. and you can almost hear the rocks dropping, as each one of them just slowly drops the rock and walks away? The woman still standing there. Jesus stands up and says to her, woman, where are they? Is there no one here to condemn you? Of course, there’s one more person left to condemn her. she said, No one, sir, and Jesus answers her question unspoken. He says, neither do I condemn you go your way, and from now on, do not sin again. Jesus took her guilt, forgave her sin, and offered her a new way of living.

So, in one place Jesus is taking shame. In another place Jesus is taking guilt and allowing these people to have a new narrative in their life, to tell a new story about themselves. And that’s where we’ve got to get. what is the story you tell about yourself? Are you like the woman who says, hi, my name is Jane. And despite being an alcoholic, I’m also codependent and in toxic relationships, And I’m in the middle of a patriarchal society and I’m a radical feminist. Do you stick a label on yourself? Do you say I am… I am a child of God. I’m beloved by the father, I’m forgiven of my sins, I’m filled with the fruit of the Holy Spirit. That’s the I am messages that the New Testament gives us, but so often we tell ourselves negative things about ourselves. I am not capable. I have failed. I have sinned. I have disappointed. I have broken trust. And Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. And we start living out of the labels we put on ourselves. So, when you label someone and when you even when you label yourself, you no longer have to deal with that person as a human being. You then deal with the label, and labels deceive.

Paul was wrong about the church. Paul was wrong about the Christians; Paul was wrong about Jesus. Are we also wrong about the self-appointed and self-inflicted labels that we carry on ourselves that we’ve given to ourselves? Could we be wrong too? And sometimes shame challenges us when we’re wrong. It challenges us to see the possibilities that are ours in Christ Jesus.

Fred Craddock tells a story about his father. His father, who spent years hiding from God, running from God. His father, who, despite raising a pastor son, never went to church. Fred Critic writes that when a new pastor would come to town to his mama’s church, the new pastor would stop by the Craddock household to see them all. And Mr. Craddock would say, you don’t care about me. You know how churches are. All you want is one more pledge card filled out and one more name. Right? another name, another pledge. Isn’t that the whole point of church? Get another name and another pledge? Fred Craddock wrote, my nervous mother would run to the kitchen, crying for fear that somebody’s feelings were about to be hurt. He wrote that when they had an evangelistic campaign, the pastor would bring the evangelist and introduce the evangelist to my father and then say, sic-em, get him sic-em, get him. And my father would always say the same thing. You don’t care about me. It’s just another name and another pledge. Another name and another pledge. I know about churches. Craddock said, I guess I’d heard that a thousand times, but one time he didn’t say it. He was at a veteran’s hospital. He was down to 74 pounds. They had taken out his throat and put it in a metal tube and said, Mr. Craddock, you should have come in earlier, but this cancer is awfully far advanced. We’ll give you radium, but we just don’t know.

Fred Craddock said I went to see him and every window and every window of that room, potted plants and flowers everywhere. There was a place to set them. Potted plants and flowers, even on that thing that swings over your bed so they can put food on it. There was a big flower, and they are by his bed on a table, a stack of cards, ten or 15 inches high. I looked at the cards, sprinkled in the flowers, I read the cards beside his bed. And I want to tell you, every card, every blossom, every potted plant from groups, Sunday school classes, women’s groups, men’s bible studies, youth groups, all from my mother’s church, every one of them. And my father saw me reading them. He couldn’t speak. So, he took out a Kleenex box and wrote something on the side from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. He wrote, in this harsh world, draw your breath in pain to tell my story. I said, What’s your story, Daddy? And under it he wrote, I was wrong. It’s not until you know that God is seeking you in love, not in condemnation. It’s not until that very moment that you understand that the gospel is good news for you. And sometimes it takes shame, and it takes guilt to show us God’s love and mercy for us. And that’s what you see in the Apostle Paul, a man who took his shame and used it as a catalyst to serve Christ and to deepen his relationship with Christ. May it be so for us.

Would you stand and pray with me?

There are so many things that we have done amiss, O God. opportunities that we have passed up, things we have said that ought not to have been said. The actions we have taken that were hurtful. For some we feel shame. For others it’s guilt. We pray to God that whatever the remembrance of that act, that the grace of Jesus Christ would remove them from us, that only the memory would be the catalyst to move us toward being more Christ-Like in our deportment. we pray in the name of Jesus, the one who saves us all. Amen.