As our “Lenten marathon” nears the home stretch, we are drawn deeper and deeper in the mystery of God’s economy: the interplay of sin and salvation, shame and glory, justice and grace, death and life eternal, the prince of this world and the King of Kings.
In 2009, Katherine Lauer Rigler offered readers of Homily Service a poignant reflection upon the workings of sin and grace in God’s economy, and the way in which christians must come to terms with the call to repentance.
As Christians, we do not believe that we are doomed to a past that we cannot escape, as past of sin. However, we do understand that the past shapes our present, and that the sins of our past can and do cause us to suffer in the present. The earth can show us many examples of this: the pollution in the rivers and lakes, the melting ice in the arctic tundra, and the extinction of thousands of species of plants and animals. We can also find evidence of suffering caused by past sins in our own lives, bodies, and even churches.
These texts require that we look closely at ourselves and acknowledge our “not so pretty” pasts. This is often something that is hard to do. Repenting for our sins means that we must first acknowledge what those sins are and take responsibility for them. Sometimes we misunderstand the Lenten season to be one where we take account of our failures and shortcomings.
The brokenness of the earth and our lives does not symbolize our failures, though. It symbolizes our humanness and need for God’s forgiveness, grace, and love. The readings this fifth Sunday of Lent remind us of that.
The call to repentance has often been used as a cudgel with which preachers beat upon the people of God, and there are individuals who do not feel that they have been adequately “preached to” unless they leave the sanctuary feeling just dreadful about themselves. Conversely, there are other individuals who feel that they have done a dandy job of living righteous lives, and resent any preached implications to the contrary.
How do you, as a preacher, how do you balance the biblical proclamation of God’s economy with the predispositions of your congregation?
Katherine Lauer Rigler (2008): 29 March 2009: Lent 5, Homily Service 42: 2, 61.
Katherine Lauer Rigler is a Presbyterian Minister (PCUSA).