Now Is The Time Lent Study

Broken and Contrite - Reflections 6-9-16

 Texts for Sunday June 12, 2016
 4th Sunday after Pentecost

 2 Samuel 11:26-12:10, 13-15
 Psalm 32
 Galatians 2:15-21
 Luke 7:36-8:3

Is “sin” a word that connects with folks these days? I do know that the public most often hears “sin” in the news as a pronouncement by someone about somebody else who is doing something that the first someone understand to be; sin has taken on a sense of exclusion and self-righteousness in many people’s eyes.  Another sticking point:  this society has worked hard to build self-esteem among our young – “everyone is a winner”; calling someone sinful is seen as an affront to self-esteem. Even theologically that affront has been accused of overlooking the goodness of God’s creation by an over-emphasis on the brokenness of it.

In spite of all that, there is no way for me NOT to talk about sin this week.  The texts are too compelling. 

First there is an amazing confrontation by the prophet Nathan of King David.

David was chosen by God to be king of God’s people. David had a terrific relationship with God and at first acknowledged that God had extravagantly gifted him in his life. But, of course, that reliance/recognition begins to erode as David becomes more and more successful and more and more powerful.  David began taking credit for being such a great king and military commander, becoming more and more self-centered.  In the incident to which Nathan refers, David breaks at least 7 of the 10 commandments in a horrible sequence of events which includes rape, duplicity, deception, murder, and cover up. Nathan uses a story to evoke David’s righteousness about wrong – that person, that sinner, deserves severe punishment. Nathan (at risk of becoming target of  David’s “righteous anger”) replies – ahem, that would be you, sir – and brings David up short. Seeing his sin through the lens of the story, David does not try to weasel out of the guilty verdict:  he fully admits his sin against God. 

In the Gospel story by Luke, “sin” is a dinner table topic. A woman barges into a dinner party weeping and pouring ointment on Jesus’ feet and worse yet, taking her hair down to wipe the ointment/tears off Jesus’ feet.  The host, Simon the Pharisee, is annoyed at this intrusion (admit it – you would be too). Plus he is horrified that Jesus doesn’t stop this OBVIOUS sinner from touching him.

A couple of notes: Some of the reason the sin is “obvious” is because the whole taking-down-the-hair –and-wiping-Jesus-feet is inappropriate sexual behavior for anyone in this semi-public space, i.e. “get a room folks”. Secondly, please notice that the woman even before she enters the house is named a sinner.  She has done something in her community to earn that title; also note, however, that it does not mean she is a harlot nor is the sin obviously sexual.  There are bibles and commentaries out there that call this scene something like “Jesus and the harlot in Simon’s home”.  Really….

Let us just stick with the fact that she is an identified sinner before entering the scene AND relate that to Jesus’ story of the creditor and debtors.  I don’t think this was her first encounter with Jesus.  I think she received the glorious word that her sins were forgiven and that she was absolutely loved by the God who made her. I think that forgiveness is what makes her go a little – Ok, a lot - overboard on her expression of gratitude at the dinner. A burden that was almost too heavy to bear was lifted from her soul; anointing Jesus’ feet with tears and ointment could only begin to express the freedom she received from forgiveness. As Jesus’ story goes, she shows great love because she has been forgiven a great debt.

Finally, take a peek at Psalm 32. Happy are those whose transgressions are forgiven, and whose sin is put away. Sounds like anybody from today’s Gospel??  If you read the whole psalm, you can feel the burden that is lifted. When the author does not confess s/he withers and dries up. Then s/he confesses the transgressions to the Lord and receives that precious word of forgiveness. Rejoice!

So back to sin…all of us regret things we do….all of us make really stupid choices….all of us take deliberate actions that we know are not the ones that bring life to ourselves or others. I just don’t know what else to call it – brokenness, separation, missing the mark? Sometimes you just call the duck a duck.

Lutherans describe people as simultaneously sinner (full of the brokenness that pervades creation) and saint (full of the goodness of a beloved re-created being).  When I teach confirmation kids, I use a quote from St Paul in Romans where he falls all over himself in words in talking about how he sins whether he want to or no.  Even confirmation students admit that such a thing occurs now and then in their lives.
I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

David still has to face the consequences from his uber-sin. But ultimately he receives his identity back (did you know the name “David” means “beloved”?) and from his family tree comes the one who takes all our sins away.

So what do you think? Is the word “sin” still useful? What word would you suggest?

You are invited to use the comment section below.

For more reflections on these texts see the post G.I.F.T. for Sunday June 12.

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Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

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Iowa City, IA 52245