We come, this evening, for comfort,
to experience the graciousness of God.
Many people are not distressed by their sins....but we are.
We arrive carrying a burden.
Our sin has separated us from God.
We will depart from this place rejoicing,
knowing our sins are forgiven.
We are here this evening as an expression of the sincerity of our faith.
We come to stand in the light, and not stay in the darkness.
The God who created us…heals our broken humanity.
He binds up our wounds.
He sets us free from slavery to sin.
This ritual, this sacrament of our church,
is one of the ways we enter into the mystery of salvation.
Over and over again Jesus says in the gospels:
“this is what you need for your salvation: forgiveness of sin.”
God doesn’t delight in human achievement, accomplishment.
God delights in offering his love.
He delights in the human heart that is humble, contrite, repentant, and forgiving…
a heart that is dependent upon God’s help.
We cannot be restored to a right relationship with God by our own efforts. We can’t.
You see this wall, standing before us. An ordinary wall. Nothing more.
Walls protect us, keep us safe.
Walls provide boundaries, they set appropriate limits on our mobility.
But walls can also be obstacles…standing between ourselves and some good end.
Sin is a wall.
It separates us from God.
The light of God can’t penetrate this wall…so when we sin we find ourselves is darkness.
God speaks, but his voice is affected by the wall….diminished, lacking clarity.
God wants to give us blessings and gifts…
but the wall stands in the way.
We want to establish a relationship with God, share in his friendship.
Again the wall prevents true intimacy with God.
The wall must come down if we are to re-establish unity and communion with God.
But even though we are the ones who have sinned,
we are the ones who have chosen to separate ourselves from God’s love,
we cannot de-construct the wall.
We cannot free ourselves from the oppression of sin.
We cannot save ourselves.
If we could repair the harm caused by our sin,
if we could pay the price of atonement ourselves,
we would not need a savior. We would not need Jesus Christ.
We would not need the sacrifice of the cross.
The only way the wall of sin can be demolished
is by the will, the power, and the grace of God.
As we come to this Sacrament of Reconciliation
we submit ourselves to the help of God, to the mercy of God.
We ask, we plead, we implore.
We acknowledge our guilt and we acknowledge our helplessness.
Like Moses who pleaded for the Israelites
when they bowed down before the golden calf
we say “why O Lord should your wrath blaze up against your people.
You have accompanied us along the journey of life.
You have blessed us and shown us your favor.
If you abandon us now, if you leave us to die in our sin,
might the world not think that you have acted with evil intent?
Relent in punishing us, O Lord.
Remember your promises.
Remember, with great love you gave your son Jesus Christ
that those who believe in him might have everlasting life.
We believe in him!”
We can attempt to rid our minds of the memory of our sin.
We can cover it over.
We can make the surface of our lives look clean
…like this (paint over the word “sin” which is on the wall)…
….but this isn’t forgiveness. This isn’t restoration.
This is repression. Pushing our sin out of our consciousness.
The sin doesn’t go away when we do this.
It may be out of sight and out of mind, but it’s not out of our lives.
The wall hasn’t come down. The wall doesn’t come down until God takes it down.
This is our prayer: “O Lord, remove that which stands between us,
that which keeps us from seeing and hearing and obeying.
Restore us to friendship with you.”
God waits for us to want his love and forgiveness.
God waits for us to ask him to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
We have broken our covenant with him, our agreement to remain faithful.
We suffer the effects of being separated from God.
God waits on the other side of wall…he waits to hear our voice.
He waits for the invitation to set things right between us.
Because of human freedom we sin.
Because of human freedom we can choose to believe in his mercy and forgiveness,
we can choose to ask for His help.
We can choose to ask him to save us from our sin.
We can ask him to re-create us and to make us new.
That’s what were here to discover…the generosity of our God.
He provides for us…. a new spirit, and new heart.
These are not things we accidentally stumble upon.
Through grace, we actively seek a new way of being in communion with God.
We actively seek the source of the fountain of life.
We actively seek a new way of living in this world.
We actively seek a new way of seeing, a new way of thinking, a new way of understanding.
We actively seek a new encounter with divine love.
We actively seek a new meaning, a new purpose for our living.
We actively seek a new freedom, a new hope, and a new experience of being.
Whomever and whatever we invite into our heart
will take up residence there.
There is sin in our heart because we have invited it in:
anger, lust, self-righteousness, vindictiveness….
all 365 ways that were listed in last week’s bulletin.
It’s time to kick these vagrants out.
It’s time to evict these squatters.
If we want peace to reside in our heart, we must invite it.
If we want love to reside in our heart, we must invite it.
If we want the Spirit of Jesus Christ to reside in our heart, we must invite him.
Sometimes we think that the sins we commit in darkness can be confessed in darkness.
The process of forgiveness would be easy, painless, if this were the case.
What we do in darkness must be brought to the light and confessed in the light.
I believe that most if not all of our sin is committed, we chose what is sinful,
because we think it will make us happy.
We convince ourselves, like Adam and Eve,
that somehow God’s commands keep us unhappy.
In truth, it is sin that makes us unhappy.
God gives us his commands to keep us out of sin
and sooner or later we learn the hardest lesson of life: God’s ways are best.
Think for a moment….
what will we become if we never acknowledge our sin, confess our sin,
become free of our sin?
What will we become if we drift away, or even stray away from the Lord,
and never answer his call when he says “come back to me”?
I dread to think of it.
Our prayer tonight: “O Lord, break through the hardness of my heart and the deafness of my ears. Convince me on the deepest personal level that sin will make me unhappy. Save me from the voices in the world that say “...adjust to sin; compromise with it; accept it as part of the reality of life. Integrate it into your life.” Save me by the voice of Jesus who says “struggle against sin; face and deny sin; change what is necessary to triumph over sin." Give me new life in him. Amen!”
Lent Reconciliation Service
We come, this evening, for comfort,