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.

 

What Fits? Homily on Matthew 21: 1-9 December 7, 2015

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*The text for this homily is Matthew 21: 1-9 and Romans 13: 11-14. This sermon was part of a vespers Bach cantata worship service at Bethany Lutheran Church on Dec. 6th, 2015.

 

We live in a world where things don’t always seem to fit. I often feel this is highlighted in this season of Advent or what our culture has been celebrating since October: Christmas.  We are told by Lexus, Target, Walmart, and every other retailer in the world that this time of year is magical. Christmas is magical. All around is a Silent Night. Idyllic scenes of snow, peaceful and happy families gathered around a fireplace sipping coffee or hot cocoa, laughing and opening just the perfect gift. This is the picture that we are all sold in this season and we buy it hook, line and sinker.

But it doesn’t jive with our reality. Reality where in-laws don’t always get along; children don’t play nicely together, expensive gifts are not possible, beloved family members are missing for a variety of reasons, disease makes it impossible to feel hopeful, people are killed while at a work holiday party, or at school or while at a concert. Things just don’t fit how we think they should. The season seems off, not quite what we have built it up to be in our minds or what the world wants us to think it should be.

The Matthew 21 reading struck me as not quite fitting in with this season of Advent, or really almost Christmas and our other winter festive themes. You see in our modern Church year, this reading comes on Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter. It’s Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem right before Passover, right before he is killed on a cross as an enemy of the state. This is not the pastoral scene of young parents welcoming their sweet baby boy that we are used to hearing in December. But you see, this gospel reading was the scripture that Bach would have heard at Advent. This would be the biblical passage for those in attendance in worship. The people would be expecting the juxtaposition of Jesus final coming to the holy city as they prepared for Jesus’ coming to the world-God incarnate, made flesh, Emmanuel, God with us.

The crowds in Matthew 21 shouting Hosanna, which means “Save us now!” are not the cries of Merry Christmas or caroling choirs that we expect. But I wonder if the words “Save us now!” shouted to Jesus as he rode in on a lowly donkey are exactly what we need to hear today-even if it seems to not fit. Unlike other worldly leaders, Jesus was entering Jerusalem amidst fanfare but not as a typical celebrity or king. Jesus, as God dwelling among us, didn’t fit what the Jewish people thought of as a messiah and certainly didn’t fit the Roman Empire’s version of a leader. Unlike a worldly king, Jesus came to humanity not to demand service but to serve. Jesus entered into the world not to point to himself but to God. Jesus entered the world not to conquer the world with violence but to conquer our hearts with God’s unconditional love. Jesus entered the world not to judge but to forgive. None of that fit with what the people knew of a messiah and a king.

But they also knew that how they were living, didn’t fit, either. They were broken, lonely, stressed out, sick, hurting, oppressing one another, killing one another and the only words they had were “Save us now!”  We also know today that how we are living, doesn’t fit. We know that we are created for more than what the world tells us. We are created to be more than consumers, more than taxpayers, more than medical patients, more than lonely people, more than political affiliations, more than whatever label others try to put on us. We are created in God’s image, we are created as God’s beloved people and we know that doesn’t fit with who we are today.

So maybe the words “Save us now!” are the perfect fit for this Advent season. Maybe the words “Save us now!” are exactly the prayer and the cry of our hearts as one people of God. Save us now from brokenness, save us now from fear, save us now from isolation, save us now from division and save us now from anything that separates us from you, God and your eternal and unconditional love through Jesus Christ.

Jesus entering the world didn’t fit the world’s plan, but it fit God’s plan. God promises to enter into our daily lives no matter how broken or how much we think we don’t fit into God’s plan. Through Jesus’ entering into the world through human birth, human suffering, human death and divine resurrection, God proclaims to us this Advent season that we all fit. We all fit into God’s very life and heart. We fit into the work that God is doing to save not just us but all people and all of creation. We fit into God’s plan of life and love forever. Hosanna, save us now, are the very words we need this Advent season. Amen.