Pentecost 5 – Wednesday, July 12, 2017

July 12, 2017  

Romans 7:15-25a

I’m guessing most of us have played the game “Follow the Leader.” It might have been a long time ago. But we have each played at following someone around the house, or around a yard—doing whatever that person does, following wherever that person goes.

Throughout the gospels we hear Jesus invite his disciples, or his listeners, to follow him. Following Jesus isn’t a game, it is a way of life. And it isn’t always easy.

In the 2nd chapter of the gospel of Mark there is a story about Jesus and a tax collector named Levi. Jesus was walking along when he saw Levi sitting in a tax booth. Jesus looked at Levi and said “follow me.” He didn’t say anything else. No explanation of who he was or where he was going. No formal invitation to become a disciple. No argument, trying to convince Levi to come. Jesus just said “follow me.” And Levi followed.

Later, the two of them (Jesus and Levi) had dinner at Levi’s house. There were other tax collectors there. There were other people Mark referred to as “sinners.” And there were disciples of Jesus.

The scribes, holy men, saw Jesus dining with all of the “sinners.” The scribes spoke to the disciples about what they saw, asking the disciples why Jesus was with “those people.”

Jesus discovered that the scribes were asking about him. So he answered their questions. He said, basically “Why not?” Why not dine with “those people”? Jesus knew “those people” were the people he was called to serve. Jesus knew “those people” needed him. Jesus told the scribes he came to the world to call sinners to him, and to salvation.

We can be like the scribes, looking at “those others” and seeing that they are sinful. Or we can look in the mirror and see our sinful selves. The choice is ours.

Seeing what wrongs others do is easy.

Seeing our own wrongdoings may be more difficult. Knowing ourselves as sinners. It isn’t always a comfortable thought. Then again, maybe it is too easy.

The apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (7:15).
Paul wrote that “sin dwells within us” (7:17).

It isn’t comfortable, looking inside ourselves and seeing the sin that dwells there. It isn’t pleasant, admitting (even to ourselves) we are sinful and unclean.

I wonder, when we read the order for confession and forgiveness, as we did today—do we reflect on a list of things we have thought, things we have said, things we have done that separate us from God? That’s what sin does, it separates us from the God. When we read words of confession, do we make a mental list of our wrongdoings? Or do we generalize things? Or, are we fortunate enough to not be able to come up with a single thing we think was sinful and unclean?

Sin. It is a word we toss around in worship… is it something we think about all those other days of the week? If we think about something we have thought, or said, or done—and know it to be sin even as we do it or think it or say it—do we confess? Do we ask for God’s forgiveness? Do we pray, knowing we have done exactly what the sin that dwells within us tempts us to do? Like the apostle Paul, do we find the whole subject confusing?

Scripture teaches us: we all sin. We all fall short of what would be an ideal relationship with God. We all turn away rather than turning toward the God who loves us.
This is why Jesus came to the world. To call us back to God. To call us to follow him. He came to show us the way.

We will keep on sinning. We will keep turning away from God, rather than toward. We will continue to need to confess.

The good news is, God will always be there, hearing our confession, forgiving us our sins. Always. Forever.

God loves us. God loves us exactly for who we are. God calls to us—encouraging us to live as Jesus lived, knowing we won’t always succeed. Which is why God calls again. And again. And again.

God loves us. And God loves the world.

Amen.