Southern Heights Presbyterian Church

5750 South 40th Street - Lincoln, NE - 402-421-3704 Worship Sundays at 10:30

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Broken, Beat, and Scarred

Can we ever be so broken that we are unfixable? Is there a limit to how much God can forgive?  

In my September 15th sermon, I attempt to explore these questions, referencing my favorite band and explaining my recent wardrobe choices along the way. 

What follows is the manuscript of the sermon. As always, there will be differences between what is printed and what is preached. 

Peace 

 


Broken, Beat, and Scarred: The Gospel According to Metallica?
Rev. Leanne Masters
Southern Heights Presbyterian Church
September 15, 2013
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Luke 15:1-10

You may have noticed something different about me lately. More specifically, about the way that I am dressed on a daily basis.

Throughout my professional life, I have strived to find the perfect balance in how I present myself to the world as a Pastor. I want to be approachable in my appearance, I want to preserve my sense of identity, maintain my personal style, and yet be “professional” at the same time.

Through a great deal of reflection and prayer, I determined that the best way to do so is to make a change in my clothing, and so I sat down and chose to wear what is known as “clerical shirts,” also known as “wearing a collar.”

Now, I would like to quickly say that, although in our culture we have come to identify these shirts as the garb of priests in the Roman Catholic tradition, these shirts actually have a long history of wear within many different traditions, and there are even those whose research shows that it is very likely that the removable clerical tab collar was invented by a pastor in the Church of Scotland, which is one of the mother churches of the Presbyterian Church as we know it...so it is possible to say that it is, indeed, a very Presbyterian thing to wear.(1)

Anyway...I am now wearing these shirts pretty much every time that I am “on the clock”, so to speak, as a pastor: On Sundays, and on Mondays through Thursdays, as well as anytime on Fridays or Saturdays when I am functioning in my Pastoral role. (Well, except for early morning Saturday meetings. Then you’ll probably still see me in jeans and a tshirt because, well, 8:30am on a Saturday...)

What wearing these collars does for me is it sets me apart. They declare, visually, that I am a pastor, a representative and a servant, of the Church in the world today.
It’s been a little bit of an adjustment, to be honest. They are a lot more comfortable to wear than one might think, and so the adjustment is not physical in nature, but rather it is a spiritual and emotional one instead.

You see, because I hardly ever go straight from home to the church and vice versa, I often find myself at various places throughout the day in my collar: the grocery store, the bank, the gas station, and so on and so forth. And I have found that people, strangers, are interacting with me differently than they do when I am at those places in my everyday or even my “dressy” dress.

Mostly, people are more willing to chat with me, about just about anything. They are friendlier, more open.

But I am also finding that, out in the community, there is also a little bit of wariness on the part of people as they interact with me.

I am, after all, my clothes set me apart and make me into a representation of “The Church”, and so there are some who are a bit...nervous, maybe?...with me because of that.

 

It makes me sad, but I can’t say that I haven’t encountered this before. At social or family gatherings as people realize that the person that they’ve been talking to, perhaps while cursing or telling a bit of an off color story, is a pastor.

Inevitably, there’s nervous laughter, a shifting of the eyes to the side, and then a mumbled...sorry.

“Sorry for what?” I’ll ask....genuinely curious because, quite frankly, most of the time, nothing that was said or done shocked or offended me...

But they are afraid that they have. Shocked or offended me, that is. And they are afraid that I will condemn them, chastise them, correct them, reject them, and tell them that they are bad. And the conversation will typically end with a, “well, it’s been so many years since I’ve stepped inside a church...and with the things that I’ve done? well, I’ll probably burst into flames.”

I can’t say for sure, but I can infer that, perhaps, one of the reasons why people on the street are nervous or wary when I’m wearing a collar is because of similar reasons and thoughts...With the things that I’ve done? Surely she will condemn and reject me.

 

It’s a sad thing, really, when the position that you have, and the clothes that you wear, make you aware of how many people out there think that they are too bad, too broken to interact with you, or to walk in these doors into this place.

 

But it’s not just people “out there”, is it? Because for us who have walked in these doors this morning, there is often a nagging fear that we are simply not good enough. That there is something in our lives, in our past, in what we have done or who we have been that is so bad that, if only people knew it, they would show us the door...and even worse that, perhaps, God would show us the door himself, saying, “I’m sorry, there’s just no coming back from that.”

Last week, we were invited down to the Potter’s house, to witness God working on our lives, molding and shaping us into the creations that we are meant to be, smoothing out our flaws and our mistakes, tearing down our weaknesses and building us again into something stronger and more beautiful and wonderful than before.

It’s a beautiful image, a wonderful thing...but, for many, we worry that this is simply not possible for us. That we are irreparably broken, that we are irretrievably lost, that we are simply unredeemable sinners who have fallen so far that there is no coming back.

... 

As you may know, I am a huge fan of a lot of different kinds of music, up to and including heavy metal. In fact, one of Mike and my’s first dates was going to see Metallica on their Death Magnetic tour that came through Omaha back in 2008.

On the album which they were promoting on that tour, there is a song, which this sermon is named after, Broken, Beat and Scarred.

The beginning of the song goes like this:

You rise, you fall, you're down then you rise again
What don't kill you'll make you more strong
You rise, you fall, you're down then you rise again
What don't kill you'll make you more strong
Rise, fall down, rise again
What don't kill you will make you more strong
Rise, fall down, rise again
What don't kill you will make you more strong
Through black days, through black nights
In pitch black insights
Breaking your teeth on the hard life a-coming
Show your scars
Cutting your feet on the hard earth a-running
Show your scars
Breaking your life, broken, beat and scarred
But we die hard! 
(2)

I love this song, and it resonates for me, because, for me, it speaks to the experience that so many of us have had in life.

We, indeed are broken, in many ways. Broken by the hard life that has been given to us. Broken by the world that is so hard around us.

We have fallen, time and again, and been hurt and injured.

And yet.

And yet we rise again.

Paul reminds us in his first letter to Timothy that, “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.”

We rise again from the falls and the brokenness that we experience and live because Christ Jesus is there to pick us up, Through Black Days, Through Black Nights, In Pitch Black Insights.  (3)

 

And, far from saying that any of us are beyond redemption, Christ instead rejoices in each one of us whom he picks up and carries back home.

 

Yes, we have been broken. And because we have been broken, we carry scars, of many types. But those scars are not evidence of a brokenness that is irreparable. But instead, they are simply reminders of the times that we have fallen, and have risen, and have been healed of our brokenness.

Our scars are reminders that where we have fallen, we have been picked up.

Where we were lost, we have been found.

Where we were broken, we have been healed.

Our scars, the stories of our past and our present...of our lives...are nothing to be ashamed of. They are evidence of the great and ongoing story of the redemption and peace and healing that we can find in and through trusting in God through Christ, who seeks us, who finds us, who picks us up, who heals us, and who rejoices when we are brought back.

 

Our scars are proof of the Gospel story, the good news of what Jesus Christ is doing in us and in the world.

Let us show our scars, share our stories of how God has healed us and redeemed us in all of our weaknesses. Let us do this with each other and with the world...so that others may know that there is not a single one of us who is beyond the love of God.


(1) 

http://kuyperiancommentary.wordpress.com/2013/07/08/a-short-history-of-the-wearing-of-clerical-collars-in-the-presbyterian-tradition/ 

(2) Broken, Beat and Scarred. Metallica. Vertigo Records. 2008.

 (3) Ibid.

 

“He has told you, human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.” — Micah 6:8 CEB