It is really good to be back with you and to start being part of the life of the Church once again. I have found the last few months intensely frustrating being unable to do things that should be easy.
I won’t go into details but many of you know that last year was one of the hardest of my life. Losing both parents in such a short amount of time is difficult for anyone. But when there is already pain and hurt in those relationships the fallout can be magnified. I have found my self in a place of emotional instability and have had to be very intentional in dealing with the things that have been thrown up by the passed year.
I am learning that our emotions are a complex thing and that the fallout of our past can have some difficult and devastating effects far into our present
Our epistle reading today, as we begin the journey of Lent together, brings this home is a big way. Our whole human condition is summed up by Paul as he traces all the suffering in the world, all the hardship and pain and death back to the actions of Adam. To that initial rebellion of humankind against God.
In the Church we often get accused of teaching people that we are all guilty sinners, dirty and unclean. I’m not sure this teaching comes from because surely the very purpose of Jesus’ mission on earth was to bring redemption for humanity. To allow us to live free and guilt less.
You may have seen this photo that is doing the rounds. It originated from our favourite Atheist Richard Dawkins:
I have a lot of issues with this picture and I’ll clarify this another time. But essentially what Dawkins is doing here is setting up a straw-man, a pastiche of religion, and a fairly clichéd one at that.
Because the idea of faith as a morose guilt inducing dogma is one of mid 20th Century hyperbole. It’s a caricature drawn up by a culture that was forced into religion instead of led to discover faith. It’s a convent school, Sunday School weary rebellion from a generation that was told to act in a certain way without being introduced to the one who enables us to change.
And the Church has been complicit in this because of the limitations of our language. We do, I myself have used some of these words to describe the human condition: Broken, Flawed, Sinful, Weak.
Because we are broken, flawed, sinful, weak – but we are also redeemed, loved, valuable and saved. As we approach the glorious time that is Easter we are reminded of the truth in v18
Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.
You and I are able to have a right relationship with God – not because we have earned it, not because we are worthy but because of Christ’s act of righteousness. It doesn’t matter how good we are – we have all fallen short and yet Jesus choose to redeem us anyway.
If I have realised anything over the last few month it is how grateful I am for that relationship with God.
For 40 days and nights Jesus was in the wilderness – time spent apart. Time to face his deepest doubts and temptation. A time of testing. Was he strong enough to endure what was to come – did he trust his God. Lent for us is an opportunity to look at who we are before God. Where in life do I rely on my own strength and not Gods, who do I wear a mask to and with who am I real, is Jesus my saviour in my heart or just on my lips.
Lent is a time to face our doubts – not to shy away from them. Its a time to acknowledge that we are all broken, flawed – but that Jesus resisted temptation, and chose to fulfil the act of righteousness that triumphed over sin and death.
This lent look in the mirror – be vulnerable to who you real are and be thankful for the amazing gift of life that Jesus has given you. Amen.
NB. A response to the Dawkin’s Foundation image can be found here: Why Dawkin’s should know better.