Messiah is in the midst of a five week sermon series using the book Making Sense of the Christian Faith, David Lose. This week sermon was on Chapter 3-Sin. The sermon utilized scripture, Genesis 3:1-14, John 8:1-11.
Picture of man ice sculpting. Recap on creation-God is an artist, taking delight in what God is creating. God is constantly at work creating, you, me, new species, and new ways to be in relationship with the world. God is an artist, like this ice sculptor cutting at the block in front of him, sometimes surprised at where the work of art is heading, but never tossing that block out. God shares his delight with us, making us co-creators, junior partners in the firm. Our task is to help all of the creation become what God had hoped. God trusts us with this task. God has faith in us. The story of creation is hopeful. This is the Original Blessing, that God is pleased with what God has done, saying it is not just good, but very good.
Picture of Afghan Children. The problem is that creation is often not delightful. Pain, suffering, caused and uncaused are all around us. It is a great and beautiful world and at the same time it is a really messed up place. The gap between God’s intention for the world and the reality of the world is like geography, a space, a land, and that land is called sin.
Picture of small s, sin, When the Church uses the word sin, they can mean one of two things. The word we translate for sin in scripture most often actually means missing the mark. Scripture sees sin as those things in creation that fall short of God’s vision, plan, will. Sin with a small s, are those things we do that hurt God or God’s creation. Most of the laws in the bible seek to describe these things, the Ten Commandments and then some. There are sins of commission, those things that we actually did to hurt God or creation. There are sins of omission, those things we did not do when we had a chance that could have helped God or creation. Christians spend an inordinate amount of time debating what exactly is a sin and is not a sin. Many of us also see it as our duty to point out to others their sin, even though Jesus told us to worry about the log in our own eye first. The more fruitful conversations in my mind are about why we are sinful.
Identical picture of Sin with big S. For these conversations, the church uses Sin with a big S. Capitalized Sin is naming our inability to avoid sinning. It is this inability to avoid sinning in our world that the idea of original sin is getting at. It is the universality of sin that Jesus speaks of in the lesson today when he challenges the crowd to only throw a stone at this woman if they have not sinned with a small s. No one can throw a stone at her because everyone in the crowd had sinned.
Picture of Island named God. Augustine called Sin the great confusion. He elaborated that God gives us things to use and people to love. We get confused and love the things and use the people. Original Sin is the church name for our human nature of being confused as Augustine said. It is the bad geography of our lives. God is right there, we can see God, know it, believe it, but yet for whatever reason we can’t stop doing the things that don’t allow us to land the ship on the island and embrace God. Instead of living in God’s presence, it feels like we are drowning in Sin, not just our sins, but the sins of the world.
Picture of a Serpent These ideas about Sin with a big S, or Original Sin are described in the first story in scripture about humanity, the famous story of Adam, Eve, a snake, a tree and God. The serpent is identified as crafty. Notice how he exaggerates what God has commanded at first, that God said they couldn’t eat anything in the garden. The woman corrects the serpent. It is only one tree God is concerned about. The serpent then pounces on this, creating uncertainty in the woman that she then shares with the man, which scripture indicates has been right there beside her this whole time, not saying a word. God has not been honest with us, they think. God is keeping this from us, they think. The serpent (evil) convinces them they can’t trust God. Before the encounter with the serpent, they were secure, trusting that God had their best interest. After the encounter with the serpent, they are insecure, not trusting that God has their best interest.
Picture of a tree. What’s so bad about knowing the difference between good and evil? For the writers of scripture, this may have been a catch phrase for knowing everything, like we would say from A to Z. So, if they eat of this tree, they will know anything about everything. The serpent convinced them God didn’t have their best interest, causing them to be insecure and when we get insecure, what we want is information. Knowledge gives us a feeling of control, but to know everything would make God irrelevant to our lives. Instead of our created roles as helpers of God, co-creators, junior partners, we figure we can take over the firm. Knowledge makes us think we can be independent of God. Yet, this is a lie. God made us to be in partnership, not to be alone from each other or estranged from God. The lie of the serpent was not that there were things they didn’t know. The lie was that learning more, getting more, would cause them not to need God. The serpent convinced them that their insecurities could be made better by a fruit and not God.
Picture of a naked Adam and Eve. Once they ate the apple, the knowledge they gained exposed them to each other. They realized that they were not trustworthy. They had not trusted God and were not able to continue to trust God. Everything goes haywire after they eat the fruit. What used to give them joy, being in the presence of God now fills them with shame and fear. Eating the fruit it turns out doesn’t only hurt their relationship with God, now they start blaming each other. Sin hurts our relationship with each other, too. This is what it meant that they realized they were naked. They are ashamed of themselves and when we are ashamed, we try to cover ourselves. Most often, we can tell when we are ashamed of something we have done when we find ourselves explaining it profusely to someone else. “No, no, it is not what it seems at all. You see, it was really like this…” Do you want to know when you are sinning? Listen to yourself. When you hear yourself having to explain your actions, you are likely sinning. It is a sign we are ashamed.
Picture of Amy Yekisa and Evan This is the human dilemma. We have been gifted richly with Original Blessing, trusted by God to be co creators, affirmed by God as very good. Yet, all of us fail to return that trust, trying to seek something anything other than God for wholeness. We live between what we know about creation through faith, and what we experience through life. We live right here. Where the Original Blessing, God’s affirmation can be so wonderfully apparent as it was yesterday when Brent and Amy Yekisa welcomed their son Evan Andrew into the world. This is the picture Brent sent out to friends and family moments after the birth. I really thought Brent and I had an understanding and he was going to name him Karl. I’ll have to follow up on that when I see them both. Regardless, can there be any doubt in the richness of God’s blessing in these faces. Yet, we know that even Evan who is blessed by a strong family and a good church will still live in the brokenness of this world that continually falls short of God’s hope. He will be raised in a land called Sin. It can be a dangerous place where some can lose sight completely of God and be lost. God cannot bear to lose one of us, so God made a plan to save all of us. Next Sunday, we will talk about Jesus.