Sunday, July 4, 2010

[sermon] Living in Sin

[sermon for the people of Abiding Peace Lutheran Church. Preached 2010-07-06.]

Luke 7: 46-50

Living in Sin

I have Good News for you -- wonderful news -- gospel news -- you are an incorrigible sinner! You are living in sin.

That phrase has been co-opted to mean cohabiting with a person with whom you aren't in a publicly committed relationship, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about LIVING in sin, living in a sin-drenched world. Being born into sin and growing up in sin and being steeped in sin.

Living in a world of broken promises. A world with no right choices. A world where, by going about our daily lives, we sin. We are gluttons, consuming the world's energy and polluting its resources. We are disconnected from each other by cultural mores that define the spaces between us with privacy and shame and keep us from life-sustaining, nourishing relationships.

I, personally, think uncharitable thoughts about fifteen times an hour.

We spend money on luxuries. We are soaked in inescapable privilege. We do not do all the good we could do.

We are lazy, slothful, arrogant. We sell ourselves short and deny the goodness of God's intention for us.

No matter which way we turn, we sin, because we live in a sinful culture and are part of a sinful species. We are called to perfection and we fall short.

When we make a searching and fearless moral inventory (Step Four) we discover that we are powerless over sin. We are slaves to sin and cannot free ourselves.

I know the last time you 'went to confession' -- it was only a few minutes ago. And I gave you space for that fearless moral inventory, and maybe you used it, and maybe you confessed to God, in the safety of this holy place, the nature and extent of your sin.

I hope so.

I hope you realize that you, just like everyone else, just like me, are sinful. Because knowing is so much more joyful than not knowing.

This morning's gospel tells us about two sinners -- one a woman of the city, the other a Pharisee named Simon.

I say they're both sinners, but I could just as easily say they're both human. To be human is to fall short of God's glory, to take actions that thwart God's plans, to be unheroic and cowardly and judgmental and slothful and sinful.

But we know, specifically, that these two humans are sinners, because the text tells us. It doesn't tell us the nature of the woman's sin -- no, it really doesn't! -- just that she is a woman of means, a sinner, and faithful.

Simon, on the other hand, is inhospitable, unloving, self-righteous, and judgmental. He sins in failing to anoint and welcome Jesus, and he sins in judging the woman who does. Simon is a sinner like lots of us -- a self-righteous sinner with a log in his eye. He is religious and good at religion. He is good at the Law, and you know what? I bet he's good at giving alms. He invites Jesus into his house! He sets a place for Jesus! -- He knows, let us say, that just living, and not burnt offerings, is pleasing to God. He is a Pharisee, which means he is moving away from Temple-focused, sacrifice-rich Judaism. He interprets the law for daily living for diasporic Hebrews under occupation. He's very good at this.

And he is miserably unhappy, because he refuses to accept the Good News that he is a sinner.

The woman has accepted this news. She's absorbed this news into her skin, and if Simon's reaction is any indications, she's reminded of it daily by people in the city.

Nevermind them, though -- she's learned to ignore them.

It's the way queer folks are ignoring protesters at Pride events this weekend -- those sad, miserable-looking men and women holding signs that tell gay, joyous marchers that we are sinners. Duh, we know that -- at least, I do -- although not at all for the reasons the protesters think.

If you pretend you aren't a sinner -- if you fight and fight and fight against all your body's urges -- if, like Martin Luther, pre-lightning bolt, you tally every evil thought as if you could exorcise the sins by listing them 00 if ou make a fearless searching moral inventory of Them, of the religious right, of Roman Catholicism, the Republican party, the people marching in the parades you don't approve of -- you will be miserable like Simon.

BUT, if you hear the Good News, and let it change you -- if you believe the Good News --

-- you will be like the woman and throw yourself at God's feet, begging for mercy.

You will not count the cost or consider the consequences, because you will know you can't save yourself.

You will not wonder when the money you spent on the ointment might've been better spent, because you will know that, no matter how wisely you give, there will always be better causes, more equitable distributions.

And God will welcome you home, wash away your tears and forgive your sins and turn you around to face the world again, telling you to try, this time, to fail better.

So you will try, and you will fail, and you will confess, and God will forgive, and you will repent, and you will try again --

and like the sinful woman, you will come and go in peace.