A Lutheran Says What?

Sermons and random thoughts on God, the world and the intersection of the two

A Multitude of Sins Sermon on Psalm 51 March 25, 2021

This sermon was proclaimed for the community at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT. It can be viewed on our YouTube Channel: Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC.

The text was Psalm 51: 1-12

As humans, we can smell a cover up a 100 miles away, can’t we? We don’t like having truth hidden from us. We want to know the truth, what people might be hiding, what we don’t know. Unless, of course, it’s something that WE did that we don’t want anyone to know, then we try and distract, use smoke and mirrors like a master magician to get people around us to dismiss the faults or sins that we don’t want uncovered. The phrase “covers a multitude of sins” has been rattling around in my brain in connection with psalm 51. I know that I see my faults or sins as objects to be mitigated. If I do something that is less than attractive or isn’t the image I want to project, I try and cover it up through words, or actions that are designed to disguise or distract from what I did, to hide the truth. It could be as simple as make-up that covers a perceived facial flaw, to a mint to hide the garlic I had for lunch, to suddenly slowing down to the speed limit when I see a police officer. I know the truth, I know what’s under the make-up, behind the mint and the law I had just broken, but I don’t want anyone else to know. It seems harmless most of the time, doesn’t it? Until we take that train of thought all the way to its logical conclusion of hoping that we can cover up the bigger sins in our lives and hope no one, including God, will see them.

And there a multitude of sins that I have, individual ones and ones that we share communally that we do try and cover up: ignoring people we don’t like, or are different from us, the reality of our planet in crisis, people hungry, in poverty and unhoused. We try and cover up the sins of not truly loving creation and our neighbor, of covering up the truth of our own complacency, comfort and self-interest by recycling plastics, offering disingenuous pleasantries, or our left-over canned food to food banks, or money to other charities. I’m not suggesting that any of the above actions are wrong, but they allow us to cover up from ourselves the bigger truth that we refuse to address. What happens when we can no longer cover these sins up with charity and simplistic acts? What happens when we have climate crisis, whole groups of people hated and more and more families on the street? What happens when there are more tent cities than affordable housing? What happens when the truth is found out?

The psalm writer has come to this hard truth-that sins can’t be hidden or covered up forever, but they’re always found out. There will come a time when the make-up is removed, the garlic breath overpowers, the speed trap is up ahead, our healthcare, education, and social systems collapse under the weight of people neglected, undernourished, and unhoused. God already sees this truth and is waiting for us to come clean. The psalm offers us the path for coming clean that lays our hard truths at the merciful feet of God. We can’t come clean on our own, as when we try, the cover up will only continue. It is God who reveals the truth not only of who we are, but of who we can be. We can come clean, because God can’t cover up God’s unconditional and unrelenting love for us. God sees our sins, our faults, with God’s love transforms them and therefore transforms us. God who creates, creates the world, creates humanity, creates relationships, will create us new again and again. When we try and cover up, pull the sheets up over our heads to hide, God peaks underneath to coax us out, to call us to see ourselves in freedom, to see ourselves as worthy of restoration to wholeness, unity, and joy in the truth that we are loved and beloved.

God’s truth is new each day with love, newness and joy. May we never cover that up. Amen.