Sin. I am United Methodist and frankly this is a term we don’t normally hear in many of our congregations. I can’t tell you how many sermons I’ve heard about God’s grace and love in my life but I can honestly say that I can count the sermons I’ve heard on sin on one of my hands. It’s the pink elephant in our sanctuaries that we never give name or voice to.
Lent is a season where we are to be reminded of our sinful nature as humans. Over time we’ve changed this to mean it’s a season where we try to kick habits such as chocolate, cigarettes, caffiene, etc. But this is not entirely accurate of what the season means. We are on a journey. Like it or not we are headed to Jerusalem with Jesus. These 40 days will be over sooner than we expect and we will find ourselves on the cusp of the Passion Week. We will be in Jerusalem for a celebration and we will get much much more than we bargain for instead.
It is very true that Lent is a season where we examine those habits in our lives where we fall short of the glory of God. But let’s not forget that Lent requires that we add as much as we give up. Where we cut a habit we are to replace it with prayer. Fasting, for example, is a wonderful discipline. But the biblical notion of fasting is not without the other half of the equation-praying. Christ faced temptation in the wilderness but make no mistake-He went there to pray and be close to the Father. Wherever we give things up during this season we are to replace it with prayer and meditation.
Further, we are to do more than make this a season of endurance where we go as long as we can without something in order to take it back up after Easter. This is a very real season where we are to be reminded of just how sinful human nature is. We can’t figure it all out. We don’t get it all-no matter how much we try and convince ourselves of the contrary. We spend so much time legitimating and justifying ourselves “just as we are.” But we often forget that we have a God who very much does love us “just as we are.” And we can’t forget this as many walk out of our churches because we preach, teach, and try to convince ourselves otherwise. But the beauty of this God is that this God’s love doesn’t stop there. This God loves us just as we are but refuses to leave us just as we are. This God loves us so much that we are following him to Jerusalem for the ultimate example of this love. And it is only when we know how depraved the human condition is that we can truly receive the redeeming love of a God who will go to Jerusalem and the very ends of the cosmos to get us.