Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Lent 2 - Layreader Homilies

Having been asked to write homilies on the Sunday Lessons at Morning and Evening Prayer for the use of layreaders has caused me to spend a lot of time meditating on these reading. I'm not as far ahead as I intended, partly because the lessons for lent have so challenged me personally as I've been writing. They are currently posted from the First Sunday of Advent up through the Second of Lent (this week coming), at


This week I felt impressed to post the text of one of the four messages below.

Lent 2, second set for Morning Prayer
First Lesson: Ezek 18:1-4, 25-32
Second Lesson: Matt 5:27-37

Whatever became of sin?
Didn't it used to be that there were certain things
that God Himself had forbidden?
Wasn't there a limit to what mankind could do?
Wasn't there a thing called "guilt"?
Weren't there actions to be ashamed of?
Weren't there consequences of committing sin?
Didn't we get ourselves into such trouble
that we needed a Savior?
That was the reason for the Cross, wasn't it?,
and yet . . .

The idea of sin isn't fashionable anymore.
Personal responsibility has gone out of style,
as has the whole idea of objective right and wrong.
There's a saying
that has become the guiding principle
for certain foolish people
that call themselves Satanists:

"Do what you will, and it hurt none,
is the whole of the law."

The Christian conscience knows, deep within,
that there is something terribly, even frighteningly,
wrong with that,
something that makes it fitting
for the worshipers of evil,
but the current secular world has embraced it.
We hear a lot of talk about "choice"
as if that were the guiding principle of the universe,
and for those whose choices are seen as hurtful,
well, there is the therapeutic model --

"The devil made me do it"

Or, as we moderns would read "devil':
some kind of mental illness, chemical imbalance,
or societal inequity
(poverty, oppression, whatever)
makes it inevitable that such things happen.

"Mistakes were made," say the politicians,
but no one admits to making them

So sin is not sin and doesn't need to be forgiven.
It's just illness and only needs treatment.

But there is sin.
God has spoken,
and what He has declared to be right is right,
and what He has declared to be wrong is wrong.
Righteousness is not defined
by what we figure out,
but by what God has said,
and sin,
regardless of how we come to be tempted by it,
is the responsibility of the sinner and none other,
and sin has consequences.

As Ezekiel said in our Old Testament Lesson:
"The soul that sinneth, it shall die"
and as St. Paul wrote to the Roman Christians:
"The wages of sin is death..."
Note the words of Our Lord in St. Matthew's Gospel.
We heard them read today.
Our loving Jesus who came to give His life for us
did not consider sin to be a small thing.
Which of us has not looked lustfully on another?
How many do we know who have been divorced
for just such reasons as our Lord condemns?
And can we all be trusted to speak truth
without the assurance of an oath or guarantee?
Our Lord speaks strongly.
Pluck out your eye,
cut off your hand,
do whatever it takes to avoid the pains of hell.
Hell, there's another unfashionable idea.
We won't go into that now, but suffice it to say
that sin does indeed have terrible consequences.

but hear what Ezekiel had to say:
"When a righteous man
turneth away from his righteousness,
and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them;
for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die.
Again, when the wicked man turneth away
from his wickedness that he hath committed,
and doeth that which is lawful and right,
he shall save his soul alive.
... he shall surely live, he shall not die."

and what Our Lord said in John 3, verse 16:
"God so loved the world,
that he gave his only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in Him
should not perish,
but have everlasting life."
Lent is about sin.
It is about repentance.
It is about amendment of life.
But, above all, it is about forgiveness,
the forgiveness won by His Cross and Resurrection,
given to those who repent and follow.

Let us pray.

Almighty God, Father of all mercies,
grant that we may have knowledge of our sins
and wickedness,
that we may turn from them unto thy divine mercy,
and that, by the power of Thy Holy Spirit,
we may know thy forgiveness,
through the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ,
who liveth and reigneth with thee
and the same Spirit,
ever one God, world without end. Amen.

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