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Step 6: Character defects

6—Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. (Willingness)

A Reading from the Gospel of John 8: 31-36

31Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”
34Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”

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. 49)

A major question that arises at this point is, Are we genuinely willing to ask God to remove all of our addictions and dependencies?  We may be forced into recovery by the sheer pain of a primary addiction, such as alcoholism, and we may genuinely desire freedom from that addiction. However, we may have other more subtle dependencies that, in a way, we still enjoy and want to cling to. For example, an alcoholic may ask God to remove his addiction to alcohol, but remain in denial about his compulsive overeating. Perhaps his eating has not yet cast him into much trouble, and he is reluctant to surrender that compulsion. In fact, he may lean on it even more heavily in the absence of the alcohol. So this is the real struggle in Step 6L Are we entirely ready to ask God to remove all of our defects, even the ones to which we cling tenaciously?

A reading from Addiction and Grace (Gerald May, 1991, Harper One, New York, p. 105, 106)

There is a strange sadness in this growing freedom. Our souls may have been scarred by the chains with which our addictions have bound us, but at least they were familiar chains. We were used to them. And as they loosen, we are likely to feel a vague sense of loss. The things to which we were addicted may still be with us, but we no longer give them the ultimate importance we once did…

Like the Israelites in the exodus, we know we do not want to go back to imprisonment, and we sense we are moving on to a better existence, but still we must mourn the loss of the life we had known. This is a poignant grief, yet somehow soft and gentle. With time, it will grow into compassion: compassion for the spiritual imprisonment of our sisters and brothers, and compassion for the many parts of ourselves that still remain in the chains of addiction. Grief and compassion are part of spiritual growth, the homeward pilgrimage from imprisonment to freedom, the homemaking deepening love.

…Spiritual growth is by no means a steady process. Each time we touch the mystery of what is most real, we flee back into “normality” with some deeper layer of attachment threatened. Often upon return we may experience a backlash, a rebound of self-centeredness and desperate attempts to control things.

HOMILY                                                      Pastor Melissa Lemons

12-Step Worship, Sunday, October 28, 2018             Reformation Sunday, John 8: 31-36

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

Happy Reformation Sunday. I don’t know how many of  you identify as Lutheran or if you know what the Reformation was. The Reformation was a movement of reform and renewal of the wider church, but it came with wars and death and destruction of communities. This morning I talked about the connection between Reformation Day, October 31st and Halloween.

Legend says that Martin Luther choose October 31st, the day before All Saints Day, “All Hallows Eve” to post his concerns of indulgences and misuse of power in the church, known as the 95 Theses. Luther did not realize he was starting a new movement and he probably did not imagine that we would be remembering him and these actions 501 years later.

Both days are opportunities to think about life and afterlife, to consider our fears and take them on or run from them or try to ignore them. This morning we talked about some of the scary things in the current world and we took some time to pray for Jewish worshipping communities and to give thanks for the lives of first responders and people of faith who were killed yesterday morning at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Some of Martin Luther’s writings have been used over the centuries to support hate and division among the religions we trace to the call and faith of Abraham.

Reformation Sunday is a time to recall that God continually calls us to repentance and renewal. No matter how wonderful our relationship with God and others have been in the past, we must remain vigilant that we are open to growth and change, that we are open to the new things God is doing in the world and working through us.

We never graduate from discipleship; we just keep studying and practicing. It’s not something we will ever get perfectly right and the work ahead of us changes as the world around us transforms and evolves.

This message from Jesus in the Gospel of John speaks to the need to constantly seek truth and to let go of what enslaved or still tries to enslave us. The people Jesus is speaking to don’t seem to remember much about their ancestors’ history. They seem to have forgotten about the essential story of the exodus and how God freed the people from slavery in Egypt. They seem to have forgotten that the Hebrews were taken into exile several times or that even in their own time, the Romans occupied their nation and limited the practice of their faith.

We are often mistaken about who we are and what keeps us trapped or confined to limited images of ourselves. Step 6 reminds us that no matter how searching we have been, how honest we have been about our shortcomings, we may not know everything and we may not yet be able to see some habits of thought or behavior as dependencies that restrict our health or growth. We’re human and so this will be a problem for us for the rest of our lives.

That’s ok, Jesus says, we are set free from some fears by the Son of God. Of those chains we will be truly free. We are also free to seek out and address other sins, other chains, other dependencies that attempt to keep us bound. This will be a lifelong process. The more we live the more negative or unhealthy patterns may develop. Jesus’ words can encourage us to keep looking and keep letting go of anything that would harm us.

We celebrate Reformation Sunday because it reminds us that we are always being made new and that life in Christ is one of renewal, rebirth, and rejuvenation, now and forever.

Thanks be to God.

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