Sinners Unite!

1 John 1:5-2:2           July 20, 2014

tumblr_static_image2 songs rattled around in my brain this week and I played them over and over. The first is called Neon Cathedral by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, a hip hop duo from Seattle who declare in the song, I actually might feel something if I don’t cover it up and I got sins that scold my throat. The refrain in this song tells about his battle between pride and shame and he dismisses the empty “Lord have mercys” sung by the faithful. The song paints a shadowy, smoky and neon version of church as bar – after all, the bar is open later than the church is.



The 2nd song I listened to is by Kanye West and Jay Z, 2 hip hop artists that collaborated on a song entitled No Church in the Wild. The video for the song shows conflict in the streets reminiscent of the race riots in the 1960s.

Both of these songs make it clear that there is a separation between the world and the church. Between the church and every day life. Between church and the stuff of life and death. Their songs point to a deeper truth: there is a separation between God and us.

separate-people-groups-join-unite-merge-together-18229843And we’re good at that too, aren’t we? Separating things into what is Christian or un-Christian, anti-Christian. Black and white categories. And maybe, when we leave worship today, there’s a pull to separate what we’ve done here with the rest of our lives. There’s a pull to leave it behind. To keep our lives of faith in this place and not bring it with us into our every day lives. To keep them separate.

It’s human nature to try and categorize things – to try and figure out what goes where. To get things ordered and decided. Do you separate your work life and home life from God? Do you separate the awful conflict in the Middle East, the Malaysian flight tragedy, and immigrant children crisis, the bees that are dying – do you separate all these terrible things from church? From God? From a life of faith?

It turns out, we’re pretty good at separating things. Things we claim to be or do as Christians. Things we claim to not be or do as Christians. Preferences we have. It’s human nature. So let’s do an activity. I want the kids to help me lead it. And kids, you can bring an adult to help you too.

A note for those playing along at home:  wouldn’t you know, most folks stood up to do this.  ha!  They stood on tape lines on the floor and stepped to either side depending on their category of preference.(country/rock-n-roll; coffee/not coffee; Ernie/Bert; water park/Valley Fair; naps/no naps; sweet/salty; night owl/early bird; squeeze toothe paste from end or middle)

shadisDid you know that people think sin is separate from following Jesus? From church? Did you know that people think “church people” are supposed to be perfect and not sinful and then, when they see us behaving otherwise, we are then anti-Christian or hypocrites or both? Kanye and Jay Z and Macklemore have called us out, haven’t they? In their songs, church is separate, unconnected to every day life. Above it all and out of touch with real human struggle.

Yet, right from the get-go we’ve embraced sin. It’s at the beginning of our story. It’s in our bones, in our blood, in our flesh to run from God. Adam and Eve in the garden raced toward the tree of knowledge as Don_Drumm_Adam _Eve_Sculpture Rust Msoon as they hit the ground. God gave them limits and said don’t touch that tree- you can’t handle it and they ran all the faster toward it. In wanting to be more like God, they were separating themselves from God – they were trying to separate themselves from being human too.

It’s like the book of 1st John is saying to us, “not so fast there! admit it. you are a sinner.” This writer puts our nose in it, right? If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

228674100_640I am willing to bet not one of you has said “I’m not a sinner.” or “I don’t sin.” I’ll bet you’ve never said that. But I’m sure we’ve all said, “I’m fine” when, in fact, we’re not. Or maybe you’ve said, “I don’t have a problem with…” (eating, alcohol, cheating, lying, sex, depression, anger) fill in that blank. Or maybe you’ve said, “I didn’t know…” when, in fact, you did. “I can handle it” when, in fact, we can’t. Or “it’s all under control” when it’s absolutely out of control. Or “everything is going to be fine” when it’s just not.How-people-lie-every-day

You see, there are all kinds of ways that we say we have no sin.

The world is not prepared for us to tell them we are sinners. Christians, faithful followers of Jesus are not supposed to sin. We’re the good ones, right? I mean, here we are at worship! We’ve got it all figured out which is what Christianity is all about, right?

4597631232_493x328-2No! And our story in the Bible tells us that again and again. Crack the Bible open even a little bit, the lives of sinners come pouring out. From Adam and Eve to King David who murdered and lied; even Moses was a murderer; the disciples balked at feeding hungry people; Pilate washed his hands of Jesus’ fixed trial; Paul killed Christians; Jacob was a liar; Sarah laughed in the face of God; Jael drove a stake through a sleeping commander’s head; not to mention the atrocities of war.

This is our gift, people! This story – the story found in scripture – helps us tell the truth about ourselves. Because when it comes down to saying we have no sin, the first person we have to deceive is ourselves. The first person we have to convince that our lie is true is our own selves. Our story and God’s story (the Bible!) helps us tell the truth about ourselves. And the truth is this: being a person of faith means you don’t have to pretend everything is ok.

In fact, being a person of faith means you have power to call a thing a thing. Because nothing can change until you acknowledge that the thing that is not ok even exists.

Like Harry Potter daring to say Voldemort’s name when everyone else called him “he who shall not be named.” Calling a spade a spade shatters the silence and lessens the power, giving light to the reality, shining light down the road of change1339717211-he-who-must-not-be-named-voldemort-vs-aro-21933014-495-660 and possibility. This sin, this thing that has now been named can now be dealt with. And it’s not yours alone to deal with, which is the true gift of being a child of God. It’s God who transforms us, changes the ugly thing that has control or taken root or causes us to stumble. It’s God that then does something with that named thing.

5-sensesOne of the practices in the Faith5 steps is the first one and it’s one we practice here together. What was a high and low of your day? Doing this with your spouse or partner or parents or sister or friend at the end of the day is powerful. Empowering your kids to name the low part of their day lets them see they are not alone and that lows are part of life. That there is no shame in calling it out and dealing with it. When you share it with others who love you and want the best for you, the fear is let out of the room. And giving your children the gift of seeing that their parents also have daily highs and lows lets them see you as a growing, loving, fully human parent who is not cowering in fear from the reality of daily lows. But is, in fact, shaped by them.

Because being a Christian means you don’t have to pretend everything is ok. What a gift! We are sinners – but it doesn’t end there. God made sure it didn’t end there and sent Jesus to be our light, to be our advocate, to be the one who redeems and forgives us and the entire world.

forgiveness-332x263Because confession and forgiveness brings change. It doesn’t erase memory. It doesn’t say “oh, no big deal” or “it’s ok – I’m ok, you’re ok.” Confession and forgiveness calls out the sin and says “no, that’s not ok.” Confession and forgiveness doesn’t let things continue as they are. It can hurt. It can take time. Lots of time. But the truth is, the Good News is, forgiveness is going to run roughshod all over your life, and you will be changed. You will be transformed. Forgiveness doesn’t excuse the sin. Forgiveness doesn’t forget the sin. Forgiveness changes it and changes you. It saves your heart and your life. It obliterates the lines we draw and it absolutely sends us out into real life, into living that says that the church is not separated from the world but is in it, in the thick of it. Because that’s where God is. It’s right where Jesus leads us – and is waiting for us – in our every day life.