Philemon:: Honor and Shame

June 7, 2017

**Disclaimer** We lost the first half of this message via technical difficulties!

We are rapidly coming up to the last day of classes for our students. It's a joyous day for everyone involved. Teachers and students alike can smell the sweet, sweet freedom on the other side a few more days, hours and minutes. Everyone is ready to be done and we barely need to hold on until homework, grading and testing are all in the rearview mirror.

My last day of my freshman history class was not my finest moment. Our teacher, Mrs Coslett, was more excited than we were for this final day. Her ability to hide her disdain for us was hanging on by a thread. She had made our class a batch of homemade cookies that we were 95% sure hadn't been poisoned, and was clearly an attempt at having something other than words in our mouths. As she was walking down the aisle handing out her baked peace offerings I had a thought about these particular cookies.
They looked funny to me. They were unusually shaped. 

Now, people have thoughts all the time. As we get older we usually become better at separating the thoughts that should be articulated from the thoughts forever and ever stay just thoughts. As a freshman in high school my ability to filter thoughts off the brain to mouth pathway was marginal at best. 

"They look funny."

These are words that I said out loud when I was 18 minutes away from the sweet release of summer and 18 seconds away from having a free, probably non-poisoned cookie headed towards Belly-Town. 

"What did you just say?"

Mrs Coslett was getting along in age but her hearing was exceptional, and her ability to decipher the male freshman mumble was unparalleled. 

Now, this was my opportunity to say something different than what I had actually said. I could re-interpret those sounds and avoid a world of pain for everyone involved. Let's take a quick look at just some of my options.

"I feel funny" - Strong candidate. Take a trip to the nurse for feigned sickness and not a Mrs Coslett hand-sized abrasion to the face. 

"They look sunny" - Your cookies make me reflect upon light and beauty and the sustaining force of our planet. This takes us from disaster to happiness and joy. Best choice, in retrospect. 

"Shea took money" - The old switcheroo. Blame another student for thievery instead of taking account for your words. If I had lived in Ireland where children are named Shea instead of Escalon, California where no human was ever named Shea, this would be a very strong option to consider. 

What did the freshman version of myself do instead? I double-downed, obviously. 

"They look funny. Not bad, just not like you see in the store. Kinda weird shaped."

This made sense to me. Lean all the way into your thought process and describe this labor of time, money and kindness as looking not like a cookie. What's the worst that could happen in the face of honest assessment of cookie norms? 

I can remember hearing the cookies slam against the back wall and break into dessert shrapnel.
I remember hearing something to the effect of "an ungrateful generation who will be the end of humanity as we know it."
I remember the deafening silence as Mrs Coslett stormed back to her desk and didn't say another word until the bell rang. 

I was totally and completely shamed in that class. My commentary on the treats had cost most of us a chance at cookies and all of us a chance at a harmonious end to class. My actions had impacted everyone in that class and it wasn't in a positive way. 

This week Harriet Congdon will be taking us through the book of Philemon through the lens of an honor/shame society. While all of us have experienced shame, the United States isn't a honor/shame society. Understanding how these kinds of societies function can open up the Bible and can help us better interpret and deal with the shame we experience. 


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