Monday, February 16, 2015
Stupid sinners. . .
Sin makes us stupid. I read that on the internet so it must be true. Brian Williams proves my point. At the apex of his career with all the world watching, he invents some truth. The stupidity of sin is that we think we can get away with it. Worse, we believe our own lies and we cannot distinguish truth from error anymore.
One of the biggest of those lies is the idea of moral progress. I am getting better and better. It is getting easier and easier to be a Christian. I am learning to resist temptation. I don’t get angry. Loving God above all things and loving my neighbor as myself are not so difficult anymore. I don’t make bad choices or have as many regrets. Sin makes us stupid. The truth is that I am like an alcoholic teetering on the brink of a bender but my inclination is to lie about that to you, to God, and even to myself. Occasionally, in moments of rare Spirit-filled candor, I confess to this truth.
We want to believe we are getting better and that this proves God is real, Christianity is right, and I am saved. St. Paul insisted that being saved only made him more aware of his own sin. In fact he goes to far as to say He did not even know sin until He knew Him who died for that sin. St. Paul did not stumble across that on his own – the Spirit had to reveal this. Sin makes us stupid and nothing is stupider than to be the victim of our own lies.
Jesus did not come to teach us how to be holy. “If I can do it, you can too!” Nope. Jesus came to expose the lies. Jesus came to call us from our fears. Jesus came to call us to repentance. Jesus came to fulfill all righteousness for us (remember how Epiphany began). Jesus came to redeem the wicked, to save the lost, to give life to the dead, and to give us confidence in the mercy of God which is His greatest glory. He did not come to pat the backs of those doing just fine.
Sin makes us stupid. We lie because we are afraid of the truth. We lie because we want to believe we are better than we are. We lie because we are afraid people won’t like us or love us if they knew who we really were. We lie because fear leaves us no choice – afraid of God, our sin, and being held accountable. Satan, the father of lies, tells us what we want to hear and whispers our lies right back into our willing ears until we have no choice but to lie more and more and more.
In the Transfiguration Gospel, Peter was terrified. When you stand in the glory of God all your lies are exposed and you are left with only your fears. Peter did not know what to say. He was lying about wanting to stay there. He did not want to be there at all. None of the disciples was comfortable with Jesus when His glory was not hidden. So Peter lies. “Lets just all stay here and be happy as equals on the mountain” – the lie that they were all good and things were fine.
Then the voice came. It was not about Peter or his lies. It was not about how stupid sin makes you. The truth of God was not the terrible truth of their fears but the saving truth of God’s gracious surprise. Jesus is the answer to fear, the truth to end all lies. Moses gives up the law and hands it to Jesus to whom it belongs. It is not ours to keep but His. His obedience is our hope not ours. Elijah hands over the promise of the prophets. There no future other than the future that is Jesus, whose death and resurrection define tomorrow. Just when they were most afraid, everybody is gone. Just Jesus is left. Only Jesus. So they head back down the mountain into the valley with Jesus.
Heaven is filled with stupid people and liars just like me and you. So we admit it. We are sinners. Sin has made us stupid. It has filled our minds with lies about moral improvement. We have believed these lies in our hearts and spread with with our lips. But do not fear. Jesus is here. His cross is truth for sinners – truth that saves. His blood was shed for people who keep finding out how rotten their hearts are. Repent. Confess to Him your sins. He will not leave you alone to your fears. He will always be with you. He will save you. And in the end you will see only Jesus, too. And that is what we hope and dream for! Amen.