Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Next - Sermon, Part 2

Lent is the time when we take a look at where we are, so, where are we? In verse 1, Paul tells the Ephesians that, “In the past you were spiritually dead because of your disobedience and sins.” I think if we are honest with ourselves, the same can be said of us.

What does that mean?

My mother tells a story of when she was a teenager. She went to a revival at a church near her home. As she tells the story, “The preacher called for us to go to the altar to get “saved” as he called them pigs and swine. She never went back to that church, and rest assured, I’m enough of my mother’s daughter to say, “We are beloved children of God; not pigs.” I tell you that so you’ll know it’s not what I’m talking about today.

But if we look around at the world and we pay attention to our lives, then we know where we are. We know what we do – we are disobedient, and we are sometimes, as the Message version says, “Mired in that old stagnant life of sin.”

We say it – we say it at least once a week when we pray the Lord’s Prayer in worship – “forgive us our trespasses.” Lent is the time when the knowledge of our present state – our deadness – moves from knowledge to preparative, transformative, realization. And truthfully – it doesn’t matter how good we try to be, how hard we strive to be obedient – this is where we are.

There is a description of our need for God’s grace – written either by Philip Yancey or John Ortberg -- that has always stuck with me. To explain it to you, I’m going to frame it in a real story from my time in middle school. This was during the class we called “gym” – physical education – the teacher had split us into two halves and had each half line up on opposite sides of the gym. Each of the lines had girls on one end and boys on the other. We counted off 1 – 2- 3 -4 … etc. Then the gym teacher called three numbers – 1, 2, and 3 – and three people from each line went onto the court to play 3 on 3 basketball – playing until one side scored, and then moving back to their lines. She had arranged this so that girls played girls and boys played boys and she worked from one end of the line to the other and back and forth. At the end, she had one number she hadn’t called – so she called one number – it was for the person in the exact middle of each line. It was me. And the male basketball player from the other line. We went out to play one on one basketball until one of us – ha! Scored. He could play basketball – I so much could not. I was ever so happy to let him run down the court (following him) and let him jump up and score so that we could go back to our lines and end my embarrassment.

There was a vast difference in our ability to play basketball. He could jump up and drop the ball in the basket. I could jump. A very little bit. And that was it.

But – what if the goal of the game had been to jump as high as the moon? Neither one of us could do that. Would the fact that he could jump a few feet higher than me have made any difference? No.

None of us there that day could jump to the moon. None of us here, today, can be sinless. Some of us might be more obedient than others, but all of us are in the same place – dead in our trespasses. And it’s no good to judge others – it would be like my opponent that day laughing at my jumping ineptitude because he can reach a basket when the goal is to reach the moon. None of us reach the goal.

And Lent is the time when we come to terms with that.

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