Psalm 103: 6-14
1 JOHN 1: 7-9
MATTHEW 6: 12-15

March 1, 2020

But, if we live in the Light … in the same way He is the Light … we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from every sin …”.  John writing to a second generation of Christians in Ephesus who had started to debate, question, and even challenge their extremely new faith in the man called Jesus.

Or, was He a man church?  Was He a a rabbi?  Mary Magdalene upon hearing His voice outside the empty tomb … it was empty because HE IS RISEN <<HE IS RISEN INDEED>> … Mary turned and declared Rabboni, which means rabbi or teacher because He had taught her so much … has that same Jesus taught you the lessons that matter?  Do you get Him … accept Him?  Are you willing to follow Him and not yourself?

And, THIS MORNING, just who is this Jesus to you?  Who was He to you yesterday and who will He be to you later today, tomorrow, on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday before you come back here for your hour with Him next Sunday … that is if … if … if you have time to fit in for Jesus next Sunday at this hour.  Who is Jesus? To you?

That question truly matters this morning … perhaps matters more than ever before because the Lord’s Table is once again set before us and we each have had a moment of public confession and I hope in the quiet seconds I gave … a quick prayer of personal confession. As you approach the table perhaps you will be praying to the Creator how unworthy you are to receive God’s forgiveness to eat the bread and drink from the cup or will you be checking the time to insure that the service today ends on your time?

I believe in the COMMUNION of SAINTS … the FORGIVENESS of SINS.

As a man unworthy of God’s love … as a sinful man … I stand before you again this morning challenged by my humanity and as DC Talk sang in their song IN THE LIGHT. … “I am a man in need of a Savior!” Are you with me, DO YOU NEED a SAVIOR?

When you gaze out into the world around us and consider those you encounter both famous because their names are broadcast around the world or not so famous because they are just part of your world … when you think about others how often do you think how much better you are than them?  How wrong they are?  How bad they are?  Is your voice one of the familiar voices we hear insisting that church and church leadership and church rituals and church benefits are only for people like you but not for them?   Are you holier than thou when you consider life and living?  Do you neglect your own sins so that you can relish in criticizing what your god-like insight has declared directly to you what the sins of others are or how the lives those you disagree with or dislike are so wrong or perhaps so sinful? They are wrong because they are not like you, right?

Frankly, we all do it to a degree … and that perhaps should be the first sin we attempt to repent from … the first sin we confess to … this First Sunday in Lent, which should not just be the first Sunday in the 40 days of our hunger for our next Peanut Butter Cup because they are off the menu until the chocolate peanut butter filled egg appears in a basket on a Sunday in April … many of us had ashes applied to our foreheads this Wednesday … we are in the season when we should be assessing who we are in relationship to the Holy not excitedly criticizing who they are because they differ from us.

When you had your silent moment did you ask God to forgive you for not loving all of our neighbors as you love yourself?  ALL your neighbors not just the ones you like.  Did you ask God to forgive you for not loving God because you worship something else more? Those are the two greatest commandments … stop worrying about the ten of Moses but instead focus on the two from Jesus and God’s clarification about what matters to God.  The Convenient Christian demands that the Ten Commandments get posted in all government buildings and schools but refuses to ask that signs telling us to love all and love God get shared with the world.

Sin is a difficult topic … sin is not something we enjoy thinking about, hearing about, and frankly in my 31 years on the planet I have found that people … when you really get them to be honest. … for the most part don’t pause with regularity to admit or confess their specific personal sins to God and Jesus Christ through prayer.  It’s so easy to see that speck that fills the eyes of those we dislike, disagree with, and are different from us in their lives isn’t it … to complain about them rather than to pray for our own sins. It’s so easy to relish in their failings whisper, post, or shout about them because somehow that let’s our friends know we are one of the good ones … we are right; we are godly … they sin, they are wrong … not us … never ever us.  We are better … so much better …

And, then there are those who we know did us wrong.  Well … reject them, right?  Toss them aside!  Make them suffer in their wrongdoing …. Hate them! Despise them! They deserve our scorn and derision because they did us wrong but …

Somehow our struggle to forgive is directly related to our inability to examine our own sins.   Yes, I think that we know how much God loves us … and I know if I asked any of you who are here today about the cross and Jesus you would quickly tell me that Jesus died for the sins of humanity so that we could be forgiven.  We heard David in today’s Psalm declare to God’s people, “God doesn’t deal with us according to our sin.”  And, this was a good thing for a man like David who pretty much violated every one of the Ten Commandments … David continues, “AS high as heaven is above the earth is how large God’s faithful love is for those who honor God. As far as east is from west … that’s how far God has removed our sin from us … those who honor God.”

Interesting … David’s added four words … those who honor God and then there is that Jesus who in a prayer we all remember because we say it each week; telling us that when we pray to God we are to pray like this, “forgive us for the ways we have wronged You, just as we also forgive those who have wronged us.”  For emphasis, Jesus added to those gathered around Him, after giving His prayer lessons, “If you forgive others their sins, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.”  BUT, Jesus continues … “if you don’t forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your sins.”  Those who honor God … Friends, who is this Jesus?  Is He your teacher, your rabbouni?  Your Savior? Do you buy into His words for life or are they an after thought?  A Sunday School lesson for children but not your life?

I am talking about sin … no, I am not going to list the TEN DEADLY SINS, whatever the heck they are because we just heard about what might be the worst sin because when we commit it God doesn’t even forgive us our sins.  But, in these times when we hear news reports that can frighten us … in these times when the future once again is a great unknown … isn’t it time that we start to really “get Jesus?”   Isn’t it time for all of us to stop with the holier than thou approach where we act as if we can set the parameters for God boxing God in? Shouldn’t we be coming back to the holy book of faith, which is where Jesus clearly lays out the expectations of God for God’s people.  So that we can walk in the light as John wrote.  Being part of the communion of saints and experiencing the forgiveness of sin.

Read Matthew 25 for a solid and frightening lesson on what God expects from believers because buying into those few verses will get you living in THE LIGHT; a life countering the world’s expectations but rejecting Jesus very clear lessons in those verses from Matthew … well, it’s sinful and the results aren’t very promising.

Jesus explains that sin is much more than direct actions … sin can thrive in our thoughts and when we don’t work on those sins then it only makes sense that our actions and life attitudes will mirror what we think.  As Adam Hamilton writes, “sin can enslave us and it can rob us of joy. In the last century, hundreds of millions of people died needlessly due to war, greed, ethnic violence, terrorism, unclean water, lack of food and health care, and more … the underlying causes of all these things can be summarized by one word: sin.”

We know Paul’s words from Romans, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  All not just them .. you and I.

The good news church is that when we focus in on our personal truth and the truth that we are sinners and we confess the sins we each know that we have to the Creator …  then God is there ready to forgive us.  And, as a forgiven people the fruit of the spirit is our reward, “love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”  Just hearing those words remind us of what being in the Light of God should be … how wonderful our possibilities are. What our Savior offers us!

On the night before He would be beaten and taken to the cross Jesus spoke before His disciples.  He broke the bread and held the communal cup of wine and said, “Take and eat.  This is my body broken for you.  Drink from this cup all of you.  This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many so that their sins may be forgiven.”  After He had risen from the empty tomb, Jesus taught His disciples, “The forgiveness of sins MUST be preached in God’s name to all nations.”

Friends, God is always willing to forgive sinners like us …. God is waiting for us to come to God and confess our sins.  David wrote that “God doesn’t deal with us according to our sins nor repay us according to our wrongdoing because that’s how large God’s faithful love is for those who honor God.  As far as east is from west … that’s how far God has removed sin from us.”

DC Talk sings, “I am the king of excuses.  I’ve got one for every selfish thing I do.  I despise my own behavior.  I am still a man in need of a Savior.  I want to be in the Light as You are in the Light … Lord be my Light and be my salvation.”

John writes .. “If we live in the light in the same way He is the Light … the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from every sin. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from everything we have done wrong.”

I believe in the Communion of Saints and the Forgiveness of Sins …


© 2017- St. Paul's United Methodist Church, West Deptford, NJ