March 1, 2013

Grace That is Greater Than All our Sin: A Lenten Sermon

Filed under: Sermons — William Witt @ 10:03 pm

Exodus 3:1-15
Psalm 103
I Corinthians 10:1-13
Luke 13:1-9

The Prodigal SonWhen I was a doctoral student at the University of Notre Dame, there was a less than charitable joke among the graduate students about one of the the priests at the local church many of us attended – that he had only two sermons, a love sermon and a sin sermon, that he was for the first and against the second, and he would preach one or the other every Sunday. If I were that priest this morning, the readings would leave me with a dilemma. I could preach my love sermon, in which case I would preach on the Old Testament readings. Or I could preach my sin sermon, in which case I would preach on the New Testament readings. But I couldn’t preach on both.

However, if I am going to be responsible to my task as preacher, I think I need to be honest with the readings the lectionary gives me. That means I have to preach on both. And I have to ask how what the Bible says about love is connected to what the Bible says about God’s judgment of sin – because that’s what the passages are about. My starting point will be Psalm 103, where we find a clue in the Hebrew word hesed,which is usually translated in English as “loving kindness” or “steadfast love” and appears several times in the Psalm. The Psalm begins: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” It continues in verse 4, “who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.” In verse 8, “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” In verse 11, “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him.” In verse 17, “The steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him.” This word translated “steadfast love” is not the sentimental love of pop ballads: “What the world needs now is love, sweet love, It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.” Or the Beatles’ “All you need is love.” It is certainly not what our culture currently means by “tolerance” or “inclusiveness.” (more…)

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