The Light of Truth
1 John 1:5-2:2
I want to talk about sin and redemption today.
Those are two very theological words.
And if there was any a time when I could hear a congregation switch off then it was probably now.
My wife says there are times I drive her nuts because I think too much.
I will be lying in bed and she will say out the blue, ‘Will you stop it I can’t sleep.’
And I will say, ‘But I am not doing anything.’
And she will say, ‘I can hear you thinking. Will you just stop it.’
According to her I can be so focused, so wrapped up in whatever is bugging me that she can hear me thinking.
Well whatever is the opposite of that, that’s what I hear when I say the words, ‘I want to talk about sin and redemption.’
It is like the congregation as a whole is deciding it can sleep for the next ten minutes because they are not going to understand it and probably don't want to hear it anyway.
The trouble is the words.
Probably only a handful of people really understand the word redemption.
And as for sin...I would guess that no one wants to talk about that because what can you say?
Any talk on sin is about how bad we are.
And who wants to hear a talk on what failures we are?
And it is not as if any of us feel we are going to come out of a talk on sin feeling that we are doing well.
I can’t imagine you going home and talking to a friend who asked you how the service went and you saying, 'It was fantastic, The minister was talking about sin and it seems that I am sinning just about the right amount.’
Sin is so misunderstood.
Let’s get technical.
Sin is not a verb, it’s a noun.
We think sin is a doing thing.
Sin is what you do.
So if you don’t do then you don’t sin.
It takes us back to the misunderstandings we were discussing a couple of weeks ago with the Ten Commandments. And if you missed any of those you can read them on our web page.
I remember a funeral I took a long time ago and I started it off with saying, ‘If the Ten Commandments were a test Bob would have got 2 out of 10.’
And that is the way we look at the Ten Commandments. We think they are a test to see how close to God we can get, and the more you pass the closer you are to God.
And it has never been about getting closer to God; it is about seeing that God is already close to us.
But because we get that wrong we think that breaking the Ten Commandments is sinning. That we are being bad.
And that is not sin.
Sin is not about doing bad things or being bad people.
Sin is not a doing thing.
If we believe that then we waste our time trying not to do bad things.
And we then think that because we are not doing bad things then we are good people.
And then we think that because we are good people then God must care for us, at least better than the bad people. And if we can be really good then maybe God will let us into heaven.
We end up trying to earn our way into heaven.
Which is fine as long as we don’t think about it too much and pretend that we can earn our way into heaven.
The trouble is that none of us are really that dumb.
And one day we realise that no matter what we do, we aren't perfect, there are all things that we have done that we are ashamed of. Things we don’t want to talk to anyone about. Attitudes and thoughts that have crept into our mind and reveal our true character.
And once we realise that, then we don’t even just give up, we do bad things.
I am told physiologists call it the ’What-the-hell syndrome.’
A perfect example is dieters.
They are a perfect example of how this idea of sin is not only wrong, it is dangerous.
At some point we go on a diet because we know it is good for us. We will be a better person, more fit, slimmer, less weight on our joints, if we just loose some weight.
And we are determined to be good.
So we go on a diet. And initially it is easy. So we get a bit judgemental. We look at all those folk not on a diet and we judge them. How come they aren't on a diet? How could they get themselves into that state? Just lack of discipline, lack of moral fibre.
But then after a wee while we are struggling. We aren’t loosing the weight we feel we should. And worse we crave bad things. And for a while we fight it. Because we want to be good. But then one day we are just going through a bad phase and we are so down and we just want a wee pick me up and that cake is so appetising, and one cake won’t do any harm. So then we take that bite and it seems so good. And instead of thinking. ‘Fine I’ll get back on my diet right now,’ we think we have blown it all and we say, ‘What the hell.’ and start stuffing more cakes into our mouth.
Our life is not about being good, and sin is not about being bad.
Sin is a description of something that is...sin is a description of the barriers that are between God and ourselves. It is like a fog that stops us from seeing the sun. It is like having cataracts that stop us from seeing clearly.
Sin is whatever stops us from seeing God.
Sin is whatever stops us from feeling God’s care.
So let me give you an example.
Last week I was doing elders training classes for another church. We were discussing visiting the bereaved. And they started to talk about a past case when this church-goer suddenly lost their spouse. And they just cut themselves off from everyone. They didn't want to talk about the death. It was too raw, too hard to face.
They didn't want to come to church because they were scared that they might cry during the hymns or that someone would ask them how they are getting on.
They think they are protecting themselves from the pain but instead all they are doing is cutting themselves off from those who could support them.
That is sin.
Sin is not about doing evil.
Sin is that thing, whatever it may be, that cuts ourselves from seeing God’s love for us, God's care for us.
It can be evil.
It could be abusive relationships, either being the abuser because we don’t want to hear a God telling us that we are doing wrong, or being the abused because we believe that no one can come to our help.
It could be power and believing that no one can stop us doing what we want to do.
But it can be stuff that we wouldn't; think of as evil.
It can be indifference, just believing that nothing we do makes a difference, so why bother?
It can be great sorrow and believing that nothing can change. Our life is the way our life is and it will never get better.
It can be frustration as we hit against institutions that seem to be hell bent in making life hard for us. Mental health treatments where you are in crisis now but it can take 6 months to get an appointment and feeling that no one cares.
It can be humiliation, like working and feeling that you should be able to look after the family while you work but still having to go to the food bank because you are on zero hour contracts and you feel everyone is judging you as a skiver and waster and you are doing the best you can.
Sin is whatever clouds our vision of God’s love and care.
Once we understand that, we understand what the redeemer is.
The redeemer is the one who is whiling to do whatever it takes to let that vision be seen.
The term comes from the Old Testament. There was the idea that the land and the people were one. That God had given the people the land so that they would be safe. The land was security. The land gave them food. The land gave them a home. The land was passed on from generation to generation so that your children and grandchildren and all the generations afterwards would have the same chance of having a home and food and security.
But times change and sometimes people would need money, so they would sell their land. And with the selling of the land went the security for future generations, the food for future generations. Without that security of food and land, that act of selling the land could lead to future generations ending up in slavery to survive.
What would happen in that case would be another member of the family would try to buy back the land, redeem the land, so that they would have the security and hope returned. And it didn't matter the cost. What mattered was knowing that the family had the security and hope returned.
When Jesus was describing the redeemer he said it was like a good shepherd who had lost one sheep. And the shepherd would never stop looking until he found the sheep and brought it back to the security of the flock.
When we say that Christ is our redeemer that is what it means. That Christ is willing to do whatever it takes to get through that fog that distorts and hides our vision of God’s love. And give us the security that we need again to trust in God's love..
Whatever it takes.
The thing is, it may not take that much.
That person I was talking about that is grieving.
People are going round to their house with small dishes of food. They might not be able to know the words they need to help, but with their actions they can show they care, that God cares, that they are not alone.
For some it may need confrontation. That you say to folk that the path they are going down is self destructive, and that you care too much to let them just wander down it as if it doesn’t matter, because they do matter. They matter to you, they matter to God.
For some it may be deliberately making time for folk so that they don't drift into thinking that they are alone. One of the most redeeming things I see is wee groups of people that meet in the coffee shop for breakfast, or the Johnston Arms for coffee on a Saturday morning, or going into Stirling on a Friday afternoon...just to meet up with old friends on a regular basis to remind each other that no matter what life hits them with, that they still have each other.
I know that many of you help out in the Strathcarron shop or other charity shops and the folk that go round the hospital wards with tea and papers and sweets. Those are acts of redemption, doing whatever it takes to show to people, maybe even people they will never know well, that they matter, that they are cared for.
There is a darkness in the world. that darkness seeks to hide the love of God and the care of God from his creation. That darkness is sin. And it comes in many forms.
But there is a light that seeks to shine in the darkness and when it does the darkness has no choice but to flee.
That light is redemption, the acts of God to reach out and do whatever it takes to let us see his love and care again.
Where is there sin, darkness in your life, or the life of someone you know?
Where does the light need to shine, so that you or they can feel that security, that trust in Gods blessings again?
Because whatever it takes...it will be done. And maybe we can even be part of it.