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Step 4: Self-examination & Courage

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves (Courage)

A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew 23: 23-28

23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

The Word of God for the People of God. Thanks be to God.

A reading from Serenity: A Companion for 12-Step Recovery (1990, Thomas Nelson Publishers, p. 103)

“…Jesus warns his disciples against hypocrisy, pretending to be something one is not. Step 4 encourages us to thoroughly evaluate our lives and to fearlessly accept the truth of our personal inventory. As we embark on the inventory we may want to be mindful of the following guidelines:

  • God already knows everything about us anyway. There is nothing to hide.
  • We must face and acknowledge our fears in order to move beyond them. Otherwise, we will be so wrought up emotionally that we cannot deal with the most important issue in our lives—our relationship with God.
  • God cares about us very deeply. The inventory process becomes a special opportunity to feel that personal care as we experience the grace of [God’s] acceptance and forgiveness.

Now that we have put our trust in God, [God] is present with us to help in the process of uncovering our real selves. We do not have to be afraid, and we do not have to pretend. The real self is the person God loves.”

A reading from As Bill Sees It (2009, Alcoholics Anonymous World Service, Inc., p. 10)

“Self-searching is the means by which we bring new vision, action, and grace to bear upon the dark and negative side of our natures. With it comes the development of the kind of humility that makes it possible for us to receive God’s help. Yet it is only a step. We will want to go further.

We will want the good that is in us all, even in the worst of us, to flower and to grow. But first of all we will want sunlight; nothing much can grow in the dark. Meditation is our step out into the sun.”

HOMILY                                                    Pastor Melissa Lemons

October 14, 2018            Homily on Step 4 and Matthew 23

Greetings of grace and peace to you in the name of Christ.

Whenever I hear the word “woe” I think of someone talking to a horse, like “Whoa, don’t go there. Stop.” Jesus is saying something else here, woe meaning dread or sorrow or distress. I think I hear “Whoa” because no one wants to keep moving towards misery and despair. Jesus didn’t speak English, but maybe we can think of “whoa horsey” too as a warning not to go into places that lead to despair.

All of the things on this list are people pretending to be something they are not. I am terrible at poker because I have a hard time pretending to be something or to feel something that isn’t real. That’s ok because I don’t have money to lose to gambling and my poker losses wouldn’t add up to much.

In this list, though, Jesus is naming the kind of fakery that harms us and other people. I find these words particularly harsh because they are directed at church leaders, the teachers and preachers, and others responsible for helping others develop their faith. If we can’t trust our leaders then we don’t feel safe.

All too often we are betrayed by people who are supposed to guide us and show us the way. Unfortunately, we’re all human and we all make mistakes. No matter who we are and whether or not we are lying to ourselves as well as other people, we don’t have to keep lying. We can drop the show and be ourselves, however broken or incomplete those selves may be.

God would rather we look a little dusty and dirty on the outside if we’re kind and merciful on the inside. I work with a lot of people who were told to fake it and never let people really know what they were thinking. This kind of face saving takes a lot of energy and it can be really confusing for young people. If you fake your thoughts and feelings long enough even you will forget who you are.

God doesn’t need us to fake our feelings. If we hurt, it’s ok to seek help and healing. If we are confused, it’s ok to look for answers or solutions. In fact, it is only when we are honest with ourselves that we can be in healthy relationships with others. As children of God we are called to community and to care for one another. That care starts with the self. Each of us is invited to really know and to nurture ourselves, beloved children of God.

So, I encourage you to say, “Whoa horsey” to anything that leads you to believe that you need to lie to be accepted or to pretend to be something you’re not in order to be accepted. Jesus already loves and accepts you and the rest of the world will simply have to catch up with that truth.

Thanks be to God.

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