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Lent 1 a 2014
Gen. 2:15-17; 3:1-7; Ps. 32
Rom. 5:12-19; Matt. 4:1-11
The revival preacher is in town. He starts his sermon.
“Brothers and sisters, what should we do with Sin?”
A young boy in the back pew looks around wondering why the grownups don’t answer, he realizes they don’t know. The boy feels bad for preacher, he tries to help, he mouths quietly. “We don’t know.” But preacher doesn’t see.
The preacher goes on for a while and then says again, “What should we do with sin?”
The boy feels really bad for the preacher, starts waving his hands quietly, “Preacher, preacher. We don’t know! They don’t know! I don’t know! Only God knows, ask him.” But preacher doesn’t notice. The Boy wants to help the poor preacher. He decides if the preacher asks again he’ll stand up and tell him.
Finally the preacher says one last time with great conviction, “What should we do with sin!”
The boy can’t let him go on, but he doesn’t want to get into trouble with his parents who are sitting further up front. He decides to disguise his voice as Barney Fife from the Andy Griffith show. He stands up in the pew and he answers as loud as he can, “Nip it in the bud!”
It’s on youtube, look it up. Funny stuff.
The voice, the impulse. Just this once. No one will know. Everyone else is doing it. They won’t miss it. I deserve it. Let someone else take care of them. It will stop the pain. They have it coming. I’m in a crummy mood.
The many voices of temptation to sin, to distort and twist the goodness of God’s creation, to become and be something that we are not.
Adam and Eve. She made me do it. The serpent made me do it. Well who made the serpent do it?
The devil tempting Jesus. “Use your super powers.” “What’s the point in being divine if you can’t use it to your advantage?” Quoting scripture even. “Make these stones into bread. Take a leap from a tall building. I’ll give you the world and you can fix it back up again. Use your super powers. Avoid suffering at all costs.”
He was tempted to give up his humanity and to bend the world to his own advantage. Tempted to be twisted into what he was not.
What twists us into what we are not? Some temptations are loud and clear, but most are more subtle, wrecking us a little at a time.
A wreck that is ultimately unavoidable and inevitable.
Sin. It is inescapable, no matter our best efforts and intentions, we get caught up in twisting creation, in twisting our relationships. We are culpable and helpless at the same time. A conundrum.
What should we do with sin? What was Jesus up to?
We just heard from the fifth chapter of the letter to the Romans where Paul introduces the idea that came to be called original sin. The teaching is usually misunderstood, that sin is passed on through procreation. That isn’t what it means. What it means is that creation has been caught up in a train wreck that has been piling up since humanity began, wrecking everything and we can’t escape it. That catches the point.
But that isn’t really what Paul was interested in. He was interested in humanity and history starting over in the person of Jesus Christ. If sin and death entered and captured the world through an ordinary man putting himself in God’s place, then so much more have grace and mercy entered the world through the God who puts himself in humanities place.
If we think the train wreck of human history is impressive then wait till we see the avalanche of God’s grace in Jesus Christ that takes sin away.
So it shouldn’t be called original sin, it should be called original grace.
So the question, brothers and sisters, is what should we do with grace?