Does it really have to snow EVERY Wednesday? In my little bit/lotta bit of whininess this morning I was reminded that there are years that it snows every Saturday night into Sunday, so I probably shouldn’t complain. But every Wednesday? Confirmation night, youth ministries night, choir night, bells practice night, Disciple Bible study night??? And tonight Confirmation Class is about SIN! Who would want to miss THAT?
I’ve often wondered if the best way to come at sin is to ask volunteers to come and confess sins publicly for students to see what happens with different levels of sin. For some bigger ones there might be a dramatic internal combustion process causing consumption by fire from the inside. Sort of the melting process at the end of the first Raiders of the Lost Ark movie after the bad people look at the Ark of the Covenant when it is opened when literally EVERYBODY knows you cannot look at the face of God and live, especially if you’re the big bad kind of sinners they were. Maybe other sins would simply cause small external brush fires that might singe eyebrows and arm-hairs that we could easily put out with fire extinguishers. And then maybe there would be a few sins one way or the other that would cause completely destructive 911 call explosions and others that would be relatively minuscule like the Christmas Eve candle flames that are easily blown out and forgotten. Wouldn’t scaring people into heaven work way better if the effects of sins were that dramatic? One train of theological thought would take us down the road of “turn or burn” for eternity – not so much United Methodism . . . mostly.
Big “S” sin for us is broken relationship with God. The things we think of as sinful then, are the symptoms that illustrate that our relationship with God is broken, i.e., lying, cheating, stealing etc. The thought being that when God and our faith and our seeking to live like Jesus is a priority, those symptomatic-of-sin things become less likely and/or less attractive. We sorta don’t need those things to make us look better to others or to try and feel better about ourselves when our relationship with God is actively working in our lives reminding us that we have nothing to fear and our value is not based on worldly judgment but on God’s claiming and calling us beloved. When relationship with God and even or neighbors and ourselves is more broken then, our insecurities and fears often cause us to look at life as a zero-sum game, i.e., if you have more good looks, money, position then I have less; and if I have more, then you have less. It becomes a perspective of scarcity rather than abundance, and the fundamental question underneath is: who is God? Is God one of abundant blessing, grace, and forgiveness; or a God of scarcity with only so many blessings to give and if but a few offerings of grace to extend. It’s possible we may say we believe in the God of abundance but actually live, in actions with ourselves and our neighbors, a God of scarcity.
Maybe the temperature will stay above freezing at least long enough for us to talk about sin tonight. Or maybe hell has to freeze over before we can examine what broken relationship with God is. I wonder if Confirmation students are the only ones that should be invited to think about sin as an intentional group process and subject? I’ve been tossing around an idea that was sent to me by a member of this very church, about having intermittent discussions about God NOT at the church, but maybe at ummmm, Johnny’s, and call it “Beer and the Bible”. Would you come? Would you be willing to admit you would come? If the Pastor had a beer, would it destroy your faith in humanity and the whole credentialing process that would spit out a clergyperson willing to have a beer with folks and talk about Jesus??? How about if I only had Lite beer, or maybe wine since Jesus turned water into wine at that one wedding? I’ve pretty much put my tongue squarely in my cheek, yet I also do not take lightly what too much alcohol can do when it’s a disease with which some folks struggle. I simply wonder sometimes who might be willing to visit about issues of life and faith with a pastor if the pastor came to where they are rather than staying ensconced within the brick and mortar of a church building. Maybe those younger clergy can get away with that, so let’s leave it to them. Really? We gray hairs pretend a beer and appetizers don’t sometimes cross our minds, or our lips, and in that setting possibly feel more o.k. being honest about ourselves and our lives than in a chapel or glass classroom???
Contemplate this . . . maybe what some of us need to give up for Lent is our holier-than-thou spirit and consider having a beer, or a diet sprite or a coke zero, or a glass of wine, and talk about what Jesus really means in our regular everyday lives. Maybe we talk about when we’re most likely to let our anger or fears control us and what that’s like and what we do to ask for and believe we can be forgiven – if we do and we have, or not. Do we live with guilt as an on-going spirit and do we have to? What would happen if we didn’t? What if God knows all of that and more and loves the veritable stuffings out of us #wearevelveteenrabbits and even takes joy in our return??? Lookout friends, Lent is coming and Johnny’s is just down the road and your pastor wore a Chiefs t-shirt on Superbowl Sunday and it might have opened up a whole new world! *snort In the meantime whether it’s tonight or a week from tonight or the middle of July, the Confirmation class is going to talk about sin, AND grace and forgiveness and mercy, and together we will affirm that we are beloved AND We. Are. Grace!!!