S I N<br>First Sunday in Lent, February 29, 2004<br>Christ Episcopal Church, La Crosse, <br>Wisconsin<br>The Rev. Canon Patrick P. Augustine

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A man after his death passed through the pearly gates and arrived in heaven. Immediately upon his arrival he noticed that all the clocks had names under them. He asked St. Peter, "What's with all the clocks? St. Peter answered these were not cloc

The Great Litany, lessons from the Holy Scriptures and hymns point to one theme - that we are sinners. The Word of God is very clear on the affect of sin on our spiritual well being. We learn that sin causes human soul to be in exile from God our Creator. "The wages of sin is death." The season of Lent invites us to give up our ways, which create hindrance in our relationship with God and our fellow human beings. What causes us our separation or alienation from our creator is called sin. The word sin occurs 447 times in 388 verses and its concept occurs many more times than that in the form of words such as transgression, errors, and faults. Sometime I have heard a phrase like this: "It seems like everything that is fun is sin."

Recently, I read an advertisement in a magazine:
A r e y o u r e a d y? Prepare yourself for a whole new type of action game. Always expect the unexpected. With levels and characters that change depending on the decisions you make and the path that you choose. Never before has a 3D action game ever been produced with this level of reactive technology and innovation. Get ready for a new era in 3D action gaming. Get ready for S i n.
Our popular culture affirms that "everything that is fun is sin."



The season of Lent negates that understanding of Sin. Last week the liturgy of Ash Wednesday clearly defined the purpose of Lent. After receiving the imposition of ashes we recite Psalm 51 together:


Have mercy on me, O God according to your loving kindness;
in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

Wash me through and through from my wickedness
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions
and my sin is ever before me.

Against you only have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight

Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure;
wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

Some have called Psalm 51, a prayer of a sinner repenting of his sins. You know the expression, "Hands caught in the cookie-jar." It means when caught "red handed" of illegal and unethical practices. These are the words of someone who had realized the state of the ugliness of sludge of sin. He deep down in his heart was remorseful for his actions.

Prophet Nathan had confronted King David of adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah to cover his tracks. He had violated God's Law. David betrayed God's trust as the king and shepherd of God's people. Nathan the Prophet of God confronted David of his greed, subversive tactics and unjust actions. Prophet Nathan said, "Thou art the man." (2Samuel 1-7) David realized his wrong doings, misuse of power and lustful desires which violated the rights of his neighbors. He called his transgressions sin. Now he wanted to make things right. David humbled himself before God by asking for forgiveness.

In my own experience when we make a mistake or violate God's Law whether intentionally or unintentionally. Often we try to cover it or hide it. Bible tells us that after our first ancestors Adam and Eve committed sin they were hiding from God in the Garden.

You know the example when a mother was baking cookies and asked her child to stay out of them. The moment she looked to the other side. The child shoved the cookie into his or her mouth. Mother turned back and noticed a cookie missing and asked, "Did you take a cookie?" and in response to that the child said, "No!" while the crumbs were still falling out of his or her mouth. This is how often we try to behave in the presence of God. We think we can dodge God. Paul in Romans says, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23.

Every time Jesus looked at sinners he had compassion on them. He healed the sick, fed the poor, welcomed in the kingdom of God sinners like tax collectors, drunkards, prostitutes, Gentiles and leapers etc…The Word of God has a good news for us that "God does not wish death of a sinner, but offers them life." Lenten season is not to belittle us or create more guilt and cause depression in our human soul, but to reconcile us to God (Ephesians 2:1-10).

David prayed, "Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

It reminds me of my years of work on my turf green lawn in Virginia. Each year during the summer I started with a beautiful lawn but then crabgrass got into it. I spent the whole summer by pulling crabgrass. One of the characteristics of crabgrass is that it has a long, hearty root. This root went deep into the earth to collect water to live. When I was pulling out the weeds, I could not get the whole root out, the crabgrass soon grew back. This was a constant battle. Sin is the same way. If one doesn't get every bit of a sin out of our life, it will slowly find its way back into ours lives.

I know many of us try to get rid of the sludge of sin deep rooted in us like crabgrass. For David the turning point in his life was when he said, "I acknowledge my transgressions" (vs. 3). And for many of us whose "sin meters" are running like a fan. The good news is that "If we confess our sins, 'God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9)! God is not mean spirited to punish us but full of compassion to love and forgive us. Jesus invitation to all the sinners is: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burned, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will rest from your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" Matthew 11:28-30. Christian Gospel has a radical message for a sinner as A. M. Hunter observes that "the new thing in Christianity is not the doctrine that God saves sinners. No Jew would have denied that. It is the assertion that God loves them and saves them as sinners."

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