Saturday, May 21, 2016

Year C, Proper 4, Galatians 1:1-12 Of boldness and timidity

What I lacked in righteousness, I made up for in timidity.

"God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners.  Be a sinner and sin boldly.  But believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world."

The Synod gave my wife a calligraphy wall hanging with this quote from Martin Luther on it.  I kind of chuckle every time I see it.  "Sin Boldly" simply does not describe either Karla or I.  I imagine that the most rigorously honest confession we could offer would probably bore a confessor to death.

Its not that I haven't had either the opportunity, nor the temptation, nor the inclination to sin.  Its just that in most cases I lacked the confidence, the boldness, and perhaps the intestinal fortitude to 'go for it'.

I think my sponsor in AA was looking forward to hearing my fifth step as I was the first pastor he had ever had sponsored.  Alas, there were no tantalizing and juicy tidbits to share.  Like I said, its not that I was/am so righteous, as much as it is that I am quite timid.  A friend once shared that she skipped "Senior Skip Day" lest she would get in trouble with her teachers.  That about sums it up.

The part of the traditional confession of our Church that I can really relate to, though, is where it said "sinful thoughts and desires that I do not fully understand but which are fully known to Thee".  Ok, there you got me.  I may not have 'sinned' near as often as I could have, but deep down there is a part of me that wishes I had.  Some of my ability to resist temptation also has to do with obliviousness.  "I bet if we took this exit we would find a hotel."  Confession:  It took me over twenty five years, and the help of the people I was going through chemical dependency treatment with, to recognize how overt a proposition this was.  I am getting better though.  When Karla and I traveled to Russia, before we had been there twenty four hours I had received multiple offers.  I actually recognized them for what they were.  Its hard to be oblivious to the statement "Would you like to have sex with me?"  Thankfully the two Russia words I had mastered were "spesiba nyet".

"God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. . ."

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age."

And from Romans 8:  38 "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

And from 2nd Corinthians 5:  "17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation:everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation;"

Push me to the wall and ask me to confess my faith, and my understanding of the Gospel, and you will hear me reference Romans 8 and 2nd Corinthians 5 more than any of the passages that deal with atonement.  The promise that God will make all things new, of reconciliation in the context of a world that is too often estranged, and of the love of God that is so great that "nothing" in all of creation can separate us from it-- these epitomize the Gospel for me.  And the Gospel is all about God, not about me.  It is God making all things new, God reconciling the world, and God's love that define the Gospel.  I am but the recipient of it.  

God loves and accepts me as I am, even the 'timid sinner' that I be.  This is the Gospel.  "Sin boldly" if you must, but know that whether you are a timid one or a bold one, you will always be a beloved One.

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