As of today we find ourselves at the end of the first week of Lent. So, how’s it going? The giving up of something, maybe. The taking on of something? Maybe you decided to take up reading the Bible or doing some other spiritual reading.
Around the Cathedral Church of St. Paul this past Sunday, the topic from the pulpit was sin. Yep, the 3-letter four letter word. Preachers, well most Episcopal preachers, and pretty much all congregations wince at the thought of “sin” being the preacher’s topic. Now, if the preacher was making some salacious confession, the congregation might be willing to rethink their interest. Well, that didn’t happen, but ….
It seems to me that folk in Scripture want to get very precise about what is, and what is not, sin. Folk a few thousand years later in the 21st century simply may not care so much, but when they do, they tend toward a desire for hairsplitting “is” and “is not” determinations as well. Clergy and theologians have filled volumes and volumes on the subject. And, frankly, I think we make the whole thing much too cumbersome. That’s probably because cumbersome is very easy to hide behind.
Seems to me the definition of sin is pretty simple. It is putting our (my) wants ahead of God’s wants – something that Jesus was unwilling to do in Sunday’s Gospel – Matthew’s version of the temptation in the wilderness.
If the definition is really that simple, doesn’t it beg the question, “Why then do we continue to sin (so much)? That answer, too, is pretty uncomplicated is seems to me: We want what we want, more than we want what God wants.
I’m sure you’ve already beat me to the next line. This would be a lot more simple if I could be sure I always know what God wants. That is sometimes harder, I’ll grant you that. But, I don’t believe it is as hard, as cumbersome, as we often argue, or hope, it to be.
If you are using the Penitential Order (a particular beginning to the Holy Eucharist included in the Book of Common Prayer 1979) or visit our Rite 1 Holy Eucharist, you encounter very early on one of Jesus’ summaries of the law. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself – my simplification. (The whole “Who’s my neighbor” question has been addressed in the Gospels – it’s everyone – so no need to go further down that path.
So the intentional and ever arching question is – are my wants consistent with that? If so, my wants are consistent with God’s wants.
So, now we are back to where we started. So, how’s it going?