Making the Outside Match What’s Inside

Sermon for Sunday, June 14, 2015
Third Sunday after Pentecost
I Samuel 15:34 -16:13

“The Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance,
but the Lord looks on the heart.”

In 1976, 19 year-old Susan Lefevre was arrested in suburban Michigan for doing heroin.  She didn’t sell.  She had no previous convictions.  “I thought I was experimenting.  I was trying things out,” she said, “what… everybody was doing.”  Her attorney recommended that she plead “guilty” to hopefully receive only probation.  Instead, the judge sentenced her to ten to twenty years in prison!  After 14 months in prison and feeling suicidal, Susan decided to escape.  Susan scaled a 20-foot fence, dashed through the woods and met her grandfather, who was waiting in his Oldsmobile Cutlass.  Her grandparents gave her several hundred dollars in cash and sent her on a bus out west, where somewhere west of the Rockies she became Marie.  She eventually met the man who became her husband and with whom she had three children.  Her name was now Marie Walsh, and she lived in beautiful home in a cul-de-sac in Southern California.  But in 2008 – twenty two years later – a detective posing as a lawn-care worker asked her to come outside, wondering if, in taking care of the neighbor’s trees, he had mistakenly cut branches from one of hers.  “Are you Susan Lefevre?” he asked.  She admitted that she was, was arrested and taken back to Michigan to prison, where after 13 months the parole board released her.

Susan, and her husband and three now-grown children, were interviewed on Oprah about what her double life was like.  She kept in touch with her parents.  She was frank with her husband about drugs in her past.  But she never let herself get comfortable, and she never anybody the whole story.  “So I had these two worlds,” she said.  “This terrible, terrible, destructive world, corrupting world of this prison and then this idyllic world,” she says. “When [the detective] showed me these pictures and said, ‘Susan LeFevre,’ it was like I knew that finally they had collided.”

In today’s lesson from 1 Samuel, we heard:

“The Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance,
but the Lord looks on the heart.”

In the early Church, today’s passage from 1 Samuel was one of the texts used during Lent to help candidates prepare for Baptism.  The early church paired today’s reading with the story in John’s gospel about Jesus “opening the eyes” of the man born blind, and also the passage from Ephesians about living “as children of light.”

Taken as a “bundle” these passages invited candidates to reflect on their inner lives and to consider the ways in which they were – or were not – ready to commit their lives to Christ.   As they reflected, the candidates were invited to see the ways in which they were upright and good, and then pray and work to develop these gifts.  And they were also invited to see what was yet disordered or sinful, in order to bring it forward for healing.   The hope was that candidates would live lives in which their inside matched their outside, lives in which – were somebody were to look closely – they would see something of Jesus Christ.

I have a hunch that most of us – if not all of us – have a tendency to hide things about our lives; our outside doesn’t always match our inside.  Maybe we are hiding something about our past of which we are ashamed.  Perhaps we are hiding something about our life now –an addiction or a shady business practice or an illicit relationship.  Ignatius of Loyola says, the desire to conceal is almost always from the Enemy, who knows that hiding things saps our energy and tends to keep us from being fully alive and the person God created us to be.

The best way to make the outside match the inside, to keep hidden things from dragging us down, is to bring them into the light.  If, for example, we have an addiction to, say, alcohol, we can find an Alcoholics Anonymou group.  (There is one that meets here at Trinity every Thursday evening.)  Every meeting begins with participants coming into the light:  “Hi, I’m [Name[, and I’m an alcoholic.”  If we are having an affair, maybe it’s time to go to counseling, to bring into the light issues in our marriage and explore the reasons why we’re having an affair.

confessionRegardless of what may be hiding, one of the best ways to bring something hidden into the light is the sacrament of Reconciliation, commonly called “confession.”  In that sacrament, in the words of the Prayer Book, we can “receive the benefit of absolution, spiritual counsel and advice, the removal of scruple and doubt, the assurance of pardon, and the strengthening of our faith.”  If you’d like to make an appointment for Reconciliation, please contact me or Sharon or James or one of the other Newton clergy.

We as Christians are called to live lives in which our outside matches our inside, lives in which, were somebody to look closely, they would see Jesus Christ.  The best way to make the outside match the inside is to bring what is hidden into the light so that we can begin to replace the fear, the open, empty feeling now filled by what is hidden, with the one treasure that can truly satisfy our heart.

Shortly, in the Eucharist, we will take into ourselves this treasure:  the body and blood of Christ.  In the Eucharist Jesus goes inside, and He invites us to live out in our lives what we are receiving within.  I hope that, as we receive this sacrament, we might get in touch with who we really are, the selves God created us to be.  And I hope that we might remember how much God loves us.  And that we might know how ready God is to forgive and heal.  And that we might give all of ourselves – both inside and out – to the God who in Jesus gave all of God’s self for us.

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