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Summary: A sermon for the 3rd Sunday in Lent, series C

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3rd Sunday in Lent, March 7, 2010, “Series C”

Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, as we move through this season of Lent, help us to grasp and embrace the true meaning of what it means to walk in relationship with you. Open our hearts to the fact that we need to turn to you daily in humility and repent of our sins. And through the power of your Holy Spirit, grant us the strength to accept the truth of your forgiveness. This we ask in the name of your Son, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

The Several years ago, I read a book by the Psychologist, Carl Menninger, entitled What Ever Happened to Sin. Having studied both psychology and theology, I was particularly impressed with Dr. Menninger’s argument that simply because we may now be able to label and understand that certain motivations often result in certain behavior, does not give us the right to excuse that behavior.

His point was that certain behavior is still wrong, and may be destructive to society, whether or not we are able to understand the motivations that precipitate that behavior. The problem is, according to Dr. Menninger, is that with understanding motivation, our society has come to accept the behavior. Thus the title, What Ever Happened to sin.

Perhaps our society does have difficulty embracing the reality of sin. I

remember an E-mail that Josie brought home that had been circulated around the staff at work. It depicted a father talking to his son about the changes that he had experienced over the past 50 years. There were the usual innovations listed, as the dad said, “I was born before television, penicillin, polio vaccine, frozen foods Xerox, contact lenses, Frisbees and the pill, etc.”

But then this father also expressed some other differences. He said, “Your Mom and I got married first – then lived together… Until I was 25, I called every man older than me, ‘Sir’… IN may day, ‘grass’ was mowed, ‘coke’ was a soft drink, ‘pot’ was something your mother cooked in… and we were the last generation to believe that a woman needed to have a husband to have a baby… and I’m only 51 years old. End quote.

Well, can you imagine the changes in society that have happened over the past 2000 years? To be sure, the world is not the same place as it was back in the first century – except for one thing! The society in that day didn’t have a good understanding of sin either.

Consider our second lesson for this morning, which was written by Paul in the middle of the first century. He is writing to this early church to remind these new Christians that even though they were baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, even though they shared the body of Christ in the Eucharist, they still were sinners in need of repentance.

He begins his argument by asking the Corinthian Christians to recall the story of Israel’s wanderings in the desert, after God had acted to free them from bondage in Egypt, and to find an analogy in that story to their own situation. He reminds them that Israel was ‘baptized’ in the Red Sea. He reminds them that Israel ate and drank the miraculous, God-given food and drink, to sustain them on their journey to the Promised Land.

But still, none of this kept Israel from sinning. And so, to those who might think that since they are baptized and partake of the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper that they are immune from sin, Paul reminds them that God was not pleased with most of those making the Exodus. And with the stark reminder that many of those freed were struck down in the wilderness, Paul issues his call for repentance.

If we turn to our Gospel lesson for this morning, we find Jesus issuing an urgent call to acknowledge our sin and repent. Apparently, some people come to Jesus and tell him of how Pilate had slaughtered some Galileans who were in the act of worshiping and offering sacrifices to God. It was as if they want Jesus to explain the reason for this tragedy, to offer some justification as to why God would allow such a thing to happen. Was it because these Galileans’ sins were offensive to God?

But Jesus refuses to have any part of that line of thought. Instead, he moves us to a discussion about our sin and our need to repent, saying,

“No, these Galileans were not worse sinners than anyone else, but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did.”

Jesus is suggesting that we don’t really know how to interpret such events. He gives another example, where a tower collapsed and killed some workers, saying, “Surely you don’t think those workers were worse offenders against God than others living in Jerusalem.” And today we might add, “What about the people who died in the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile? Were they worse offenders against God than the others living in those countries who survived? To this line of thought, Jesus says “No. Such events should be seen as pointers to the destruction that threatens all people, unless we repent.”

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