Sunday, June 10, 2018

Sermon: Seeing Sins, Full of Forgiveness

The Psalmist writes:
“If you were to keep watch over sins, O LORD, who could stand?
Yet with you is forgiveness, in order that you may be honored.”
So much is captured in these two verses:
That despite our best efforts, our sins, big and small
—that we are captive to Sin itself
—is plain for God to see
that Sin does not have the last word, but instead God’s grace, mercy, and love is ever before us!
That when we recognize these two realities together
—Law and Gospel encountering each other
—we are left in a state of fearful/awe by it
—left honoring God!
Let us pray

“If you were to keep watch over sins, O LORD, who could stand?”
Before you, we would be naked, O LORD, exposed at our worst, and even our best, brought low.
We would, in vain, hide ourselves from God, holding tight to any camouflage we could find, but at the end of the day, we would still be (TV show)naked and afraid.

It’s an unpleasant thing, it is a common fear, being exposed. 

In fact, one of the most common stress dreams people have is being exposed
—who hasn’t woke up in a cold sweat after dreaming you are:
-naked at work,
-or unprepared for a test,
-or unable to get into your locker
-or your sermon notes
where did they go, and look, it’s a full house, and the bishop is in the congregation, and they didn’tknow I was the preacher
and where are my sermon notes?

We hate being naked, being exposed, 
we seek to hide our sins and our imperfections, both real and imagined,
we try to hide what is inside, for surely, we think, we are unworthy.

Did you know Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister to Bobby Kennedy and JFK, has a portrait in the National Portrait Gallery in DC, the first portrait there of someone who was neither First Lady nor President. 
She was one of the founders of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, not to mention a founder of the Special Olympics—the 50thanniversary of which is next month. 
She was declared Sportsman of the year, received a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and a Papal Knighthood.
I bring all this up, because, for her, that was all a kind of camouflage—she told her family that none of it mattered—she knew she could never be enoughunless she ranfor something—for political office… and she never did.

And our society is steeped in that kind of thinking…
as the confirmation students and I talk about when looking at the 10 commandments, advertisementsuse this fear of exposure, of not being enough, to potent effect,
advertisements use this human fear to turn TVs into idol making machines
—insisting you aren’t enough unless
unlessyou buy this soap,
unlessyou purchase this life insurance,
unlessyour car runs on this oil or you run on this coffee and eat at this burger place… 
The average American is exposed to an hour and ten minutesof being told they are not enough each day
8 hours and 10 minutes a week of ads, of being told to create little idols of your imagination,
told that you need to hide yourself because you are not enough!
It is enoughto make you try to hide in the woods from the very face of God.

Or, perhaps, like that weird chain of blame
—Adam blames Eve, Eve blames the Snake, the Snake… has no fingers to point to someone else…
perhaps it makes us want to point to someone else,
to scapegoat until we get to someone without arms to point the finger and pass the buck
… perhaps being exposed before God and the World makes us shout out a new slogan: 
“The Buck stops anywhere, but here!”
And Ads are not just Idol making machines, they are also Coveting Machines.
Not only do they tell you that you are not enough, they also tell us there are people who areenough
—those happy smiley people purchasing their products.
Soon enough you resent your neighbor,
you measure yourself against your neighbor,
you blame and shame and harm your neighbor.
Wasn’t that the trap Eunice Kennedy Shriver fell into? She measured herself by her assassinated brothers
—such impossible shoes to fill.

“If you were to keep watch over sins, O LORD, who could stand?
Yet with you is forgiveness…”
Do not lose heart, my siblings.
God’s grace continues to expand, it reaches more and more people each day
—maybe youeven need to be reminded of God’s grace, today… 
The world may shout If/Then, If/Then, If/Then…
Ifyou get the right look, thenyou are off the hook.
Ifyou run for political office, thenyou are worthy of love and respect. 
But it is not so here among us… 
The world may say If/Then, but our God is a Because/Therefore God!
Confirmands, today you are confirming your baptism… that God has acted first in your life… confirming that freeing truth that:
BecauseGod has named you and claimed you, Thereforeyou are beloved children of God!

This re-centers everything! We are no longer naked and exposed, but always clothed in Christ!
The buck doesstop here, becauseit stopped with that most perfect of scapegoats, outside the gates of Jerusalem, at the cross,
in the person of Jesus Christ,
our Lord!
Therefore, we can live out, together, what it truly means to be Christ’s family
—look really quickly with me at Mark 3:32-35.
It talks about brothers and mothers and sisters… what’s missing? is does not mention fathers. 
That’s no accident, Jesus wasn’t being forgetful there
—in fact, no one is ever described as father in Jesus’ community, save the one Jesus calls Abba, Father
—Our Father in Heaven. 
That’s because when God is Father, we can all be community in a way that we can’t if we’re always trying to figure out who is on top.

In that way, I suppose Christian Community is a little like participating in a Tough Mudder race
—you know those intense marathons with crazy obstacles, like swimming in a dumpster chilled with 75,000 pounds of ice, and crawling under live electrical wires
crazy stuff
—so crazy that winningsimply means getting through
it has nothing to do with beating anyone else’s time… it is designed so you can’t even get through, without working together… 
It's the difference between playing a cooperative board game like Pandemic, where all the players are seeking a similar goal—everyone wins or everyone loses, instead of a game like Sorryor Monopoly, with only one winner. 

Or to use a much older metaphor, Hell is everyone tied together by the hand with a bowl of porridge in the center fighting tooth and nail for a bite, everyone starving,
heaven is the same scenario, except everyone is feeding one another
… so too Christian community.
And Kenneth, Keith, Amy
—please know this is our ideal here, you are equal with any one of us, you are part of this family here—you are our mother, brother, and sister, our sibling and friend—we’re all in it together.

“If you were to keep watch over sins, O LORD, who could stand?
Yet with you is forgiveness, in order that you may be honored.”
Siblings in Christ, we ARE grounded in God’s grace!
We ARE made right by God,
we ARE reconciled with our neighbor…we ARE forgiven!
Let us honor God and give God thanks and praise.
Let us give thanks for our confirmands today, Amy, Keith, and Kenneth.
For the 20 years of ministry that God breathed into Cross of Life in Plainfield—our neighbors whose congregation is closing today,
for God’s ongoing faithfulness,
for God’s steadfast love and plenteous redemption, 
for Jesus taking us on as siblings,
for love of our neighbor,
for God’s love for us!
Thank God that Jesus lifted me!