Fasten your seat belts, dearly beloved. This morning we are going to talk about SIN. That’s right – S I N! Yes, sir, we got trouble – right here on Tybee Island. Yes, ma’am, we do! NOW. This is not going to be fire and brimstone – I am too old for that sort of stuff. This is going to be more like ice and glaciers. Still a bumpy ride.
Listen: “For most of us, the danger is not that we will renounce our faith. It is that we will become so distracted and rushed and pre-occupied that we will settle for a mediocre version of it.”
Quote from John Ortberg, Sr. Pastor, Menlo Church, Menlo, Calif
Think about this as you hear Mark’s telling of the conflict between Jesus and His biological family. Of all the passages where Jesus’s family is alluded to, this is the one that convinces me that Jesus did indeed have brothers and sisters. Can’t you just hear it: Oh, Lordy, Mama, He has gone off the deep end this time! They got the Temple big wigs down here now! And He is talkin’ about demons and “casting them out” and Lord knows what else and He is making this family look like idiots! Daddy would be havin’ a fit, you know he would! Mama, we gotta do something……”
And they did! Jesus’s family marched right down to the Pier where Jesus and the disciples and who knows who all were doing that “demon casting out stuff” and attempted to tackle Him and drag Him straight home!
After all, nice folks don’t deal with demons. And Satan! Oh, for heaven’s sake! That is just silly! There’s no guy in a red suit with horns and a pitch fork! Certainly not on Tybee!
“…that we will become so distracted and rushed and preoccupied…”
Think about Adam and Eve. A whole garden full of fruits and vegetables and only one is forbidden. So that one forbidden fruit is the one they could not resist. How very human! By the way, notice that Adam quickly becomes a weasel. Eating the fruit was not his BRILLIANT idea so he points blame straight at Eve. She gave this to me!!! Did you see the revolver that Eve held to his head as she forced him to eat? Neither did I!
More important, neither did God!
So, what did Adam and Eve do when they ate the forbidden fruit? They realized they were naked. Now nudity is not evil. Our bodies are given to us by God and they are designed for the pleasures and commitments of sexual relations. When Adam and Eve recognized they were NAKED, they realized that they were different from each other and from God and from everything around them. They felt estranged, vulnerable. They allowed EVIL into the Garden – not sex and nudity but the power to choose against God.
The power to disobey is a precious power. Without the power to disobey there would have been no American Revolution, no new country. Without the power to disobey, Rosa Parks would never have cracked open the racial prejudice in our country. Without the power to disobey, we would never think for ourselves. Without the power to disobey, intellect and creativity and wisdom and progress ALL wither away.
Notice that Jesus does not say that SINNING will earn one the title of ETERNAL SINNER. Jesus said that BLASPHEMING the Holy Spirit of God is the UNforgivable sin. Blaspheming the Holy Spirit is not standing on the Pier shouting angrily I HATE YOU, GOD! Blaspheming the HOLY SPIRIT is walking away from God, turning one’s back on God, not bothering to listen to God or seek God’s ways.
Adam and Eve walked in the Garden EVERY DAY with God in fellowship and conversation. What do you think God would have done if on a lovely Sunday afternoon, Eve had said: Um, God, I have a question? The serpent – oh, my, he is so gorgeous – those colors you gave him – uh, the serpent says that the fruit on that tree You told us not to eat? That fruit, he says, will make us smart. He sure seems to be smart! Is that true? Do you really mean to keep us from gaining that knowledge? Do you think God would have struck her dead on the spot? Thrown them out of the Garden forever? Yelled at Eve and called her stupid? Did you do that to your children when they asked you questions? Of course not!
See, this is the problem. We make too many choices without thinking about God, without evaluating the choice in light of our faith, without believing that God loves us so very dearly that GOD appeared in our flesh and died for us. Without God. And we do not even notice.
Think of the Good Samaritan story. The sin of the clerics who passed right by the man lying groaning in the ditch was NOT that their intentions were evil. They were busy being good church people, doing the work of the church which they substituted for the work of God.
“…that we will be so rushed and so distracted and so preoccupied…”
Sin does not invade us. Sin invites us. Sin distracts us. Sin walks in through doors we forget to close. Sin looks like just another option or an interesting toy or lively party. Sin NEVER appears to us as ugliness or open wounds or unburied corpses. Sin entices us by offering something good without telling us that the roots are wrapped around and fed by evil. No shady deal ends in a sunny picnic. We are caught up in seeing what we desire. We forget that tiresome adage: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Beyond that – if it seems too good to be true, it probably does NOT come from good. If we are trying to present ourselves, our bodies, our lives, to God as LIVING SACRIFICES, why would we want to ACCEPT gifts from not good sources?
Let me be clear. I am not a Biblical literalist. I am a Biblical truth seeker. What happens if the “story” of Adam and Eve and the serpent is not literally true as a factual report of one man and one woman and one snake? The inspiration that came from God to write this story is grounded in God’s desire to be in relationship with us. God chooses to teach us in languages and images that we can grasp. Only in learning these lessons from God can we risk the faith necessary to receive the things we cannot see.
Remember all those times you told your children: Son, you can talk to me about anything. Daughter, I will always listen and be on your side. You were telling your child how very much you loved him or her. You wanted to make that knowledge rock solid in your kids. That is God’s lesson for us in this story. God is shouting ASK ME ASK ME ASK ME. I love you and I will answer your questions. Don’t put your faith in pretty colors, in big promises for gain, in doing things I have told you not to do. God wants us to be rock solid in our knowledge that God loves us. God loves us.
In that knowledge is the ultimate horror of sin. We are taking the gifts that God gave us, the bodies that God designed for us, the skills and knowledge that we have worked for and throwing them before the LOWEST bidder. God made us social creatures and treats every living person as a beloved child. But we channel the love we have received into indifference to those in need, into racial divisions, into acquisition of power and control. We accept that indifference to righteousness is the price of doing business in the “real” world – as if God’s world were just a nice tale.
Sin is real – right here on Tybee Island, and we are not immune. Do not look for a demon under every bush. Look at your own thoughts, your own choices and decisions. Don’t start with beating your chest and searching for the bad things you do. Invite God to walk into rooms with you, to listen in on conversations you have, to bless your decisions and plans. After all, if you are uncomfortable asking God to be with you where you are headed, why would you want to go there?