We Are Not Mistakers. We Are Sinners.
Reflecting on the First Sunday in Lent, Two Days after Sunday (Year C)
Psalter: Psalm 17
Old Testament: Zechariah 3:1-10
Epistle: 2 Peter 2:4-21
Artist of souls, you sculpted a people for yourself out of the rocks of wilderness and fasting. Help us as we take up your invitation to prayer and simplicity, that the discipline of these forty days may sharpen our hunger for the feast of your holy friendship, and whet our thirst for the living water you offer through Jesus Christ. Amen.
They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their dissipation while they feast with you. They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed (2 Peter 2:13-14)
I’m not OK and you’re not OK. There is something wrong with us. Yes, it is true that we human beings have been made in the image of God, but that image is distorted. We are not what we should be. For awhile now it has been fashionable not to use the word “sin” too much. We don't sin anymore. We make mistakes. Viewing my shortcomings as mistakes sounds less ominous, and using such verbiage allows me to believe that the problem with me is not me; it’s a few bad decisions I make here and there, as if those decisions really do not indicate the problem with me.
Then into our mistake veneered lives comes Lent, and we must face the truth about ourselves—we are sinners. The house of our lives doesn’t only need a little paint here and some new moldings there... anything less than renovation is insufficient. In Jesus Christ God wants to do a new work in us that is transformative in character. The work needed is so extensive only God can do it. As I heard someone say years ago, “If I’m OK and you’re OK, why did Jesus need to go to the cross?”
I realize that there are some preachers out there who spend so much time in their sermons talking about the bad news of our sin, that they never seem to get around to the good news. Such a lopsided proclamation of the gospel leads only to despair and its own kind of legalism. But it is not a better thing when some other preachers spend so much time talking about the good news that one has no idea what the bad news is or if any news about the human condition is bad at all. Indeed, it’s only until we understand the bad news about ourselves that the true wonder of the good news can come into focus. Once we hear the bad news about ourselves we can receive with joy the great news of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.
We can celebrate that God has freed us once we realize that our situation, our prison of sin, is of such that only God can free us. The cross was not an accident; it was not, in the words of the late John Howard Yoder, a hurdle on the way to the Kingdom... the cross of Jesus Christ is God’s kingdom come.
We cannot have Easter without Good Friday. The truth of the depth of God’s love for us cannot be understood nor embraced in all of its wonder and mystery until we face the truth about ourselves.
We are not OK... We are not “mistakers”... we are sinners.
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