Grace and Peace to you
Last week we explored a little bit of Jungian psychology in the sermon. It went something like this: Where there is light there is also shadow. The brighter the light the deeper the shadow. In other words we cannot make light without a corresponding darkness. For Jung the light was the conscious and the shadow was our unconscious. It is important to note that the shadow is not all negative – it includes both negative and positive – yet simply that which has been cut off from our consciousness for whatever reason – quite often to conform to our surrounding culture.
Sadly many of us have grown up with an understanding that in order to be holy we must delete (which often means deny) the ‘bad’ within us. But it is impossible to cut off the shadow (as pointless as trying to run away from our own shadow!). True holiness is the owning and embracing of our shadow. This is why if we read the journals of those who we call Saints, they write extensively about their shadow – they own it – and in so doing they don’t have any need to project it onto anyone else causing great harm – thus they are Saints.
Jung also taught us that the unconscious cannot discern the difference between a real act and a symbolic one which is good news because it means that we can honour our shadow (because it demands to be honoured as much as its corresponding light) in symbolic ways.
Good theology makes for good psychology! Every week we move through an order of service that helps us own and honour our shadow. We always start by acknowledging the great grace of God that then frees us to be bold to explore our dark side which we do through confession. Confession is nothing short of bringing to consciousness that which we are most inclined to deny and delete. The Cross is the ultimate sign of our shadow side – as we projected our sin onto Jesus. Churches that exclude confession from their worship or who leave the Cross out of the sanctuary in the hope to make the congregation feel as comfortable as possible, perpetuate the unhealthy denial of our shadow. We will be doomed to project it onto others and in the process causing enormous harm. The aim of confession is not about guilt as much as it is about grief. We are invited to grieve the death within us and what we cause around us. It is grace that will bring us to grief and grace that will bring us through grief to joy.