Beyond the Pulpit

October 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ, greetings to you all in the name of  our Lord Jesus Christ.

By definition, sin is rebellion against God and God’s will. The Greek word for sin is ‘hamartia’ – an archery term which means ‘to miss  the mark’ and the mark of God and God’s will for our humanity is relation  ship – relationship with God and with others. And so, sin hinders us from enjoying the loving relationship which God offers us in Christ.

We have lots of excuses for our actions which we know are sinful, but I think the real issue goes back to the very beginning, back to garden and the first temptation.  Genesis 3 tells it like this, Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.  He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”  And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

O, we would love to blame it all on the serpent, or Satan (whose role we should not too quickly over-look), or even God for tempting us, but we all know that the real issue is that we, like Adam and Eve, desire to “be like God.”  God had offered them everything they needed and more, but that wasn’t good enough.  They desired to be like God, to be equal with God, to be in control.

God created us for a loving and trusting covenant relationship, but our desire to be in control drags us down into a sin that constitutes turning away from that relationship in order to pursue the desires of our own heart.  This self-centered sin drove us from the garden and presence of God.  And it continues to do so.

The sin of our obsession with our selves runs even deeper.  For when we are fixated on ourselves, we not only take our eyes off our Lord, but our sin distorts our vision of ourselves as well.

The story is told, that one day Michelangelo was down at the quarry starring at the huge blocks of marble when a man interrupted his trance and asked, “Master, you are the greatest sculptor that has ever lived how is it that you can know just what to chip away to shape such beautiful creations?”  Michelangelo replied, “I see the angel in the marble, and I carve until I set him free.”

Our sinfulness hides the truly beautiful creation of God within us.  We are blind to the rubble that imprisons who we really are and constrains our ability to live in genuine relationships.

We become trapped in a worldview of our own making where we stop listening to God and instead listen to the voice of the world which seeks to distract us and drag us further from God’s grace and God’s intention for our lives, and creating barriers, that alienate us from God and from others.  So often covering us in a cloud that makes us believe that we are ugly, that we are in-adequate, that we are un-worthy of God, and just as often that the people around us are ugly, and in-adequate, and un-worthy of us.  Again, robbing us of the relationships with God and others that are at the heart of God’s will for us.

We may have missed the mark, for indeed, as Paul writes in Romans 3:23 “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  But we have good news.  God so loved us that he sent to us a savior in Jesus Christ, who died for our sin so that we might be forgiven, justified, and reconciled to God, and ultimately to one-another.

As we move through the Fall and make our way toward Advent and the celebration of Christmas, the coming of Christ into this world.  Compare the self-centered sin that stands in the way of the relationships we might have with God and one-another with the selfless sacrifice of Jesus which has broken the power of that sin.  Let the power of that loving sacrifice transform you and the way you look at the world.

May the blessings of God, the peace of Jesus Christ, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit be with you all.