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Edward F. Markquart

Books of the Bible - Romans
Me and My Shadow

Romans 3:9, 22b-28

Romans. The book of Romans. Many people say that the book of Romans is one of the best books in the New Testament. I say it is one of the two best books of the New Testament. The best gospel that we have is the Gospel of John. The Gospel of John is the only gospel written by an eyewitness, by somebody who actually lived and walked with Jesus. The Gospel of John is a mature gospel; that is, it was written when the Apostle John was a very old man and at the end of his life and could reflect on the deeper meaning of Jesus. Of the four gospels, John is the best one, according to many scholars.

And the same is true of the book of Romans. The book of Romans is the best and there are reasons for this. Let me explain. In his younger days, Paul was a persecutor of the church and was present during the stoning of Stephen, the first martyr. Paul was converted to Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, spent seven years at home in Antioch, went up to Jerusalem for a conference with the Jewish apostles, and then he, Paul, became the famous missionary to the Gentiles, to the non-Jews. Paul went on three missionary journeys. During his travels and missionary work, he wrote thirteen letters and finally, at the end of his life, he was getting ready to go to Rome, the capital city of the empire, and he wrote the letter of Romans. Romans is his last letter at the end of his life. Romans is a summation, a totality, a core essence of everything he had said before in his previous thirteen letters. Being his last letter and written during his maturity, the book of Romans is the best.

Today and for the next fifteen Sundays, we will read and preach from the book of Romans. The church, in all of its wisdom, has designated which Scriptures will be read each Sunday. And today, in all Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Lutheran, and many Methodist churches around the whole globe, we begin reading from the book of Romans, for sixteen consecutive Sundays. So the next sixteen sermons will be from the book of Romans. During your daily devotionals and daily Bible readings, I hope that you will concentrate on the book of Romans this summer.

Today, we focus on one Bible verse, Romans 3:23. All people have sinner and all people fall short of the glory and perfection of God. We are justified, put right with God, freely and graciously, through faith in Christ who died and paid the penalty for our sins. We hear Romans 3:9, “All people, Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin.”

There is an old song and it goes like this: “Me and my shadow, walking down the avenue. Me and my shadow, telling all my troubles to. It’s three o’clock; I climb the stairs; I don’t turn back cause no one’s there. Me and my shadow, all alone and feeling blue.”

The Shadow. Or as the old radio station would say in the old days, drawling out the words in a deep resonating voice: THE SHADOW.

There was a boy by the name of Billy. He was called Billy Boy. Billy Boy was six years old and he was determined to get rid of his shadow. In the morning, he seemed to run every which direction and around in circles and no matter which direction he went, Billy Boy could not get rid of his shadow. Soon it was noon, and Billy Boy stood right underneath the sun, directly above him, but he could still see his shadow, even though it was very small. During the late afternoon, the sun was setting and his shadow was long across the lawns and the sidewalks. So Billy Boy went out to play at night, and there in the street lights, there was his shadow. He could not get rid of his shadow. So late that night, Billy Boy went into his bedroom closet, closed the door, sealed the crack of light beneath the door with a blanket and switched off the light switch. It was totally black and dark and Billy finally got rid of his shadow. But soon Billy Boy was asleep, his parents found him, and put him into bed. The next day, it was the same. Billy could not rid of his shadow.

The Shadow. Me and my shadow, walking down the avenue. No one can get rid of their shadow.

Carl Jung was a famous psychoanalyst from the previous generation, and the concept of the shadow was a dominant part of his psychology. He said that every person had a shadow, an under side, a dark side, a belly side, and this shadow side is part of everybody’s personality. We humans all have appendixes; so also we humans all have a shadow side to our personality. That’s just the way it is.

Sigmund Freud, living at the same time in history, had a similar concept. He called it the “death instinct.” It was part of the id. All human beings had an id, an ego, and a superego, and inside that id is a cauldron of seething and writhing impulses, including the death instinct. There are so many everyday examples of this death instinct. For example, you are driving a car and you occasionally and momentarily have this crazy weird impulse to turn the wheel into the oncoming car. Or you are standing on top of a tall building and suddenly, in a fraction of a moment, you have an impulse to jump off the building. Weird. Or the death instinct is revealed when you smoke cigarettes, eat too much, drink too much, or swallow too much salt or sugar. It is all part of this unconscious death wish.

Jung called it the Shadow. Freud called it the death instinct. The Apostle Paul did not have such concepts so he called it the “Old Adam.” It is this tendency to sin that is deeply interwoven into the core of all human beings. It is sin, not merely with a little letter s, but Sin with a capital S. It is the Sin in us, the tendency to do evil. It is part of all people.

We were born with it; we live with it; we shall die with it; and we spend our whole lives through trying to deal with our Shadow, the dark side, the underside, the evil side, our Old Adam, the Sin in each one of us. For all of us, that becomes a primary purpose of life: how to cope with and deal with the Shadow that is an integral part of each of us.

Let me give you some “one liners” that illustrate the Shadow at different points in our lives. I believe that you will recognize these “one liners.” These experiences are part of all of our lives.  “Aaaaaguuuuhhh.” A baby is born and cries out with its first sound, trying to have its need met and so it shouts aloud at its discomfort. We as human beings grow up, and we still shout that same sound, “aaaguuuuhhh.” … And so young parents try to teach their child their first word, perhaps mama or dada. Instead, the kid sometimes pipes out: No. You learn the word, no, early in life and say it throughout all your days. … Soon the child is two and a half and the child shouts over and over again, “It is mine. It is mine. It is mine.” The intensity of the remark is often embarrassing for young parents and they wonder where their child learned such an attitude. Of course, those three words are still often heard from the lips of adults: “It is mine.’ … When a child is about six years old, the child can be heard saying, “I didn’t do it” which is a blatant, look you directly in the eyes, lie. And we find adults lying the same way, looking you directly in the eyeballs and saying, “I didn’t do it.” … A few years later, the line is: “He hit me.” Of course, it is a clever dodge because the kid really threw the first punch but wants to deflect the attention onto his brother or sister. As adults, we often play the same game, getting the focus on the other person rather than on myself and that I am the guilty party for creating the mess in the first place. … By now, it is sixth grade and the student independently declares, “I don’t have to” and it is the beginning of a life long defiance and claims for hyper independence. … In ninth grade, the line is, “all my friends are doing it,” as if that makes it OK. Adults often say the same, “My friends are living that way; it must be acceptable.” … You finally come to a senior in high school who solemnly declares: “Don’t worry, I can handle it. Trust me.” We try not to snicker. … Then a young adult feels inside his heart, “I am in control of my own destiny,” and that young adult actually believes it. … By middle age, the line is, “I am comfortable.” Life is good and too bad for the rest of the world. And finally, we get to people my age and I say, “I am certainly glad that I wasn’t as bad as my kids when I was growing up.”

And so throughout all of our lives, we find the echoes of this shadow inside of us. None of us can get rid of the shadow, and we all seem to go through the same phases.  All of us were born with the shadow, live the shadow, will die the shadow, and all of us spend a great deal of time trying to deal with our shadow side, our underside, our evil side that is in all of us.

I have also discover that our shadow side varies in each one of us. That is, some shadows in our lives are bigger in certain ways. That is, some of us struggle with the stronger shadows of anger that loom so large in our lives; and other of us have stronger shadows of pride and superiority; and still others of us have darker and larger  shadows of sexual lust and sexual fantasies; and still others of us have shadows of material consumption and accumulation of nice things. Each of us in unique, and in each one of us, our shadows consistently bulge and inflate with particular vices that to which we are more susceptible.

The shadow. Me and my shadow, walking down the avenue. Yes, we walk down the avenue with our shadow and we can’t get rid of it.

But as life has gone by, I have also discovered that we don’t only have little shadows inside, but there are huge and enormous shadows in life. The large shadows caste a deep and long shadowy spell over us. These big shadows are often associated with politics, economics, wars, cultures, etc. Let me explain.

One particular cemetery is etched into my mind. This cemetery is located on the outskirts of St. Petersburg, Russia. In 1942, the Nazi soldiers had surrounded St. Petersburg, a city of some 600,000 people. The siege of the city continued for nine hundred days. After nine hundred days of warfare, only six thousand residents were left alive. So this cemetery on the outskirts of St. Petersburg contains the bodies of hundreds of thousands of Russian citizens. There were 15,000-20,000 bodies buried in each grave and there were eighty-six massive graves. Eighty-six mounded surfaces, forty feet wide, sixty feet long, five feet high, all grass. It was overwhelming. Now, it wasn’t the little shadows of individual lives that caused this horrific devastation; that is, it was the enormous shadow of war and these little people and their shadows got caught in the enormous shadows of the Nazi army.

A second illustration of the big shadow. I recently returned from a meeting of Lutheran World Relief, and three people from the nation of Columbia addressed the Board. One young woman speaker was about thirty years old, a mother of three, a common and normal young mother, so it seemed. She told of her rural village in Columbia being attacked by one guerilla group and she ran with her children into the forest. Soon, a second guerilla group attacked them and they again ran into the forest to hide. When she came back, she found and began to pick up the body parts of her father and brothers, put them in a bag and buried them. Now, this young woman did nothing wrong. Her shadow did not get her into trouble. It wasn’t her dark side, her evil side, her belly side that caused the trouble. No, there was and is a larger shadow, larger shadows of war and economics and politics that overshadow our little lives and our little shadows.

A third illustration of the big shadow.  The refugee camp on the border of the southern Sudan, near the Horn in Africa. 100,000 people live there. Some say that if you want to visit hell, visit one of these refugee camps. They are all over the world due to political conflicts, economic conflicts, ethnic conflicts. Kids who are raised in such refugee camps are often drawn to terrorist organizations. It is not that these little kids (having become young adults) can’t control their inner shadows. Their situation has to do with the big shadow of war and politics and this big shadow has warped and distorted their young lives.

And so if you put the little shadow of our little individual lives, the belly side, the underside, the dark side in each one of us and if you add it to the large shadows associated with economics and politics, you discover that you spend a lot of time combating the shadow and shadows within us and around us.

The shadow. Me and my shadow, walking down the avenue. You can’t get rid of it. Billy Boy at age six knew that. You were born with it. You live with it. You will die with it. And you spend your whole lifetime dealing with the shadow, the underside, the evil side, the dark side of life.

So how do we deal with our shadow? In many ways. For example:  … We deny it. We play the “great pretender,” pretending there is no shadow in our lives. We duck our heads in the sand and pretend that there is no evil side to life. … Also, we spend time escaping the shadows of life. We all do it. If you live in Mexico, you may escape across the border and move north to the safety of the United States. If you live in Columbia, you may try to find sanction in the safety of a congregation in America. If you live in the inner city of Chicago, New York or another big city, you may escape to the safer suburbs with your family to find a greater safety. If you have your kids in the public school, you may enroll them in a private school because it may be safer for them. If you have them in a private school, you may keep them at home and home school them because of all the evil influences in the private and public schools. If you are living in a messed up society with messed up values, you may escape to the church, a local congregation, where it may seem safer than the rest of the immoral world around you. Little did you realize that the shadow and its variations is found in all situations, even in those that seem safe. Also, you may discover a new shadow: that of indifference and apathy to those hurting in the world. The point is: one way we deal with the shadow is to try to escape it.

But there is another way to address the shadow that is inside of all of us and is globally around us. That is what the book of Romans is all about. The book of Romans, the word of God, plainly declares that all human beings are sinful and fall short of the glory of God. How does the Apostle Paul and Romans deal with this shadow? We hear the words: Jesus Christ.

Let me explain. Jesus Christ reveals the heart and mind of God. Through Jesus Christ, we discover that God loves all human beings, human beings that have shadows, big shadows, little shadows, long shadows, short shadows, young shadows, old shadows. God truly loves people with shadows…since that is the only kind of people there are. God’s love for us is freely given, graciously given to all human beings. Rather than trying to escape all the shadows, life is loving people who have all kinds of shadows inside of them and around them.

Jesus Christ came to pay for the penalty for our sin, the penalty for our shadow. In this series of sermons, we will be hearing much more about Jesus Christ and why and how he paid the penalty for our sin. Romans talks about Christ and his sacrifice.

Jesus Christ is the covering of our sins. In the children’s sermon today, I drew a picture of a large black dot on a white piece of paper and how the eye is attracted to the black dot, more than to the white piece of paper. So we, as human beings,  are also attracted to people’s specific sins, rather than to their whole lives. Our lives are drawn to their sinfulness. I then took a piece of white paper and covered the black dot which remained, but no one could see the black dot because of the covering. Christ is that covering, that white sheet of paper that covers our sins, so all that God sees is the perfection and beauty and clean slate of our lives.

Jesus Christ is the sunglasses that we wear so that we see other people through the eyes of Christ. The sunglasses of Christ are over our eyes, so that we view other people, (our moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, brothers and sisters, friends and enemies, school and work associates) we now see all people through the colored lenses of Jesus Christ. Christ’s lenses means that we see the people with the eyes of Christ and not their spots, not their imperfections.

Romans. Let us do Romans together. Me and my shadow, walking down the avenue.

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