Lent: It’s Not About YOUR Sin
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
As you encounter the brokenness of this world that goes back to the days of Adam and Eve, my you know how great the difference is in your life, because of Jesus Christ our Lord!
A friend of mine commented this week that “we aren’t supposed to “like” Lent. Because that would defeat the whole purpose.”
It was an interesting thought, and I wondered about what her dislike Lent so much.
Perhaps it is because we have the focus on the wrong part of Lent. Because while Lent has us look at sin and our need for the Holy Spirit to grant us repentance, Lent isn’t about sin.
The purpose of these 40 days is to evaluate out lives, to see the places where the Holy Spirit needs to work, and to invite that work, to desire it, to allow God to clean out the unholy, unrighteous stuff that stops us from truly living life.
The goal of Lent isn’t to beat ourselves up for what we’ve said or thought or did.
The goal of Lent is to realize that crud is there and to desire it gone from our lives.
But how does that happen? How do we see the reality that sin doesn’t have us locked down and headed straight to hell?
Your sin is nothing new…
Please understand that I am not saying sin doesn’t exist, or that we shouldn’t be repentant. Not at all, sin is serious business, but it is not our primary business.
Hebrews 12 tells, “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up… and let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.” (Heb 12:1)
That is the invitation of Lent, to recognize sin for what it is, and to cast it aside. Yeah, it is bad, yes it damages our relationship with others and really damages our relationship with God.
As Paul says, this sin kills, it brings death as serious as any plague known to mankind. And we are its latest victim, in what appears to be an unbroken line, all the way back to Adam. That seems to be the point Paul makes over and over in the passage from Romans 5 that was read this morning. Time after time Paul tells us that Adam’s sin, his stepping over the line brought death, it brought condemnation.
For each of us, without salvation, would stand condemned, passing on sin as if it was a genetic syndrome.
Christ’s Act, and your right relationship
But I’ve said that Lent and this section of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome aren’t about sin.
They are about bring delivered from sin, and to look at our lives, and learning to desire to live in the like Christ, in His glorious holiness rather than in the darkness of Adam’s sin. To live, in what Christ righteous act on the cross brought us, what Paul calls a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.
This relationship, this life is the focus of Lent. Forty days to think about what we retain from Adam and to ask God to cleanse our lives. To depend on Him more, to live with Him in a more devout way. Not some kind of false holiness that would exalt us, but simply depending on Him, trusting Him, adoring the God who would take our debt and lay it on Christ, who would bring about righteousness in us.
To want to see this happen, to desire this above all, that is what these days we call Lent are about.
The Continuation of the thought..
At the beginning of the next chapter, Paul will ask the Romans the question which boils down to – who are you going to be like, Adam under condemnation, or Jesus who brings life. I like the way the Phillip’s translation phrases it,
1 Now what is our response to be? Shall we sin to our heart’s content and see how far we can exploit the grace of God? What a ghastly thought! We, who have died to sin – how could we live in sin a moment longer? Have you forgotten that all of us who were baptized into Jesus Christ were, by that very action, sharing in his death? Romans 6:1 (Phillips NT)
This is what we are aiming for in Lent, the desire expressed here, to live in sin’s power not a moment longer, to receive the grace that makes us live in triumph over sin and death as Paul mentioned in today’s reading.
To run to the altar, seeking the comfort that comes from knowing there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. To remember what was done in our baptism, to remember His death, burial and resurrection, not as historical facts, but as part of our life, for we died and rose with Him. This is what we celebrate, as we partake of His body and blood and know, the Holy Spirit is changing us, even as we can’t take our eyes off of Jesus.
This mystery of the faith is what we celebrate during Lent, building up to Good Friday when we hear Jesus’ words, it is finished. It is accomplished. We are clean, we are holy, we are righteous, for we dwell in Him!
Lent helps us realize that, and realizing that we do toss aside that sin, and look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. To realize in Him we live and move and have our very being.
For in Christ, we exist in the unexplainable, unsurpassable peace of God. We are safe there, our hearts and minds kept there by Jesus. AMEN!
Devotional/Discussion thought of the day….
” Tell Our Lord constantly and sincerely that you desire to be a saint and to do apostolate… Then the poor vessel of your soul will not get broken. And should it do so, it will be put together again and acquire an added attractiveness, and it will continue to be of use for your sanctity and the apostolate.”
This morning, as I prepare for Sunday’s sermon, I am thinking about those I know who have passed away in the prior year, and the names just seem to keep coming.
Some I know well, Warren, Joseph, Shirley, JoAnn, Frank and Peter. Other’s I know of, because I know their families or friends. Janice, Melanie, LaVonne. There are other friends that I still can’t believe are gone, Clyde and Armando, Rich, Richard, Dale, These people make a mark on our lives, and among those names above are some people whose lives spurred an increase in my faith, as I watched them live, even as their bodies were betraying them. The lessons they left me are invaluable – the faith they modeled inspired.
Today is All Saints’ Day, and depending on one’s church traditions, it is celebrated differently. I remember preparing for it as a young student, looking through the lives of saints and seeing how different they were. Francis, Bonaventure. As a Lutheran pastor, we look to those who have gone before us, to join the “great cloud of witnesses” as described in Hebrews 12, or in the words of our liturgy, the whole company of heaven. It is rare that in reciting that line that I don’t think of some of the names above, or other names that have impacted my life over the years.
But if there is a reason to consider those who have gone before, it is to remember how God sustained them. How God worked through them in so such diverse ways. Some where, as the quote from St Josemarie notes above – broken, yet in their brokenness, they found God’s beauty in ways we can never explain, except to agree – it demonstrated how God had set them apart, how God had made them holy, and how that holiness was such that it called people to them. As we see what God did through them, even though they were bed-bound, even thought their bodies were broken, we realize that God can do such in our lives, He can and does work to heal our brokenness. He can bring us into places, where we are His representatives, His apostles, brought there to share His mercy and grace.
We are called to be holy, we are called to be saints. we are called to be His children.
Learn to desire it, looking to those who have seen it happen in their own lives, imitate them, even as they imitate Christ.
Lord, teach us that you do have mercy on us, even as You had mercy on those who have gone before us….
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1413-1415). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.