Sunday, March 4, 2012

Turn Around

Psalm 32:1-7
1 John 1:5 - 2:2

The other morning as I was getting the kids ready to leave the house in the morning, I overheard a confession from the other room. The kids, to my knowledge, had had a great morning; everyone was getting along well, staying on task, helping each other. Or so I thought. From the hallway outside their bedroom, as clear as a bell I heard William's voice, "Hey Karoline! Don't tell Mom, but I hit Margaret in the head with my light saber when she was still in her crib. It was an accident. But I hit her."

Knowing that Margaret was just fine since she hadn't made a peep and there was no sign of the this hit in the last hour I had spent with her, I moved right past worry about the injury to wonder at William's response. He had been sitting on this little nugget of truth for over an hour. His only witness to the "crime" was himself and his 21 month old sister who couldn't divulge the secret easily or audibly. There was no logical reason to share it with anyone, but apparently he felt he needed to let it out. He needed to get it off his chest.

His little not-quite-five year old soul was maybe an age appropriate version of the soul the Psalmist describes. While he kept silence it was groaning all morning long, his strength to go on carrying this burden dried up like water on the sidewalk in the heat of a summer day. Aren't these descriptions beautiful? Aren't they accurate? We can feel that feeling in our spirits, in our souls. That feeling of carrying more than we know we can; that feeling of our energy been drained right out of our consciousness because we know we have started down a wrong path. We have felt what it is like to know that we have moved further away from the people we were created to be whether it is in thought, word, or deed, and we have felt what it is like to want to be rid of that truth.

A few weeks ago when we were working our way through the first chapter of Mark's gospel we saw the Jesus' mission was one of reversal. He touches tshoe who carry the spiritual contagion of uncleanliness. He surrounds himself with "mere mortal" fishermen, not synagogue leaders. His identity is recognized by demons, but not religious men. Over and over again in the gospels he is upsetting the norms of life around him. He touches those who carry the contagions of uncleanliness. He heals on the sabbath. He includes women in his inner circle. He talks to foreigners.

Over and over again he challenges the expectations of "good religious folks." Over and over again he stands up in the face of a culture that honors money, political authority, and honor and proclaims God's blessing for those who are poor, those who have no voice in the public square, those who are empty before God and humanity. Over and over again Jesus demonstrated and taught that the way we tend to go, the direction we would choose on our own, the one that makes us feel good, the one, actually, that makes us feel better than others, is not the direction God chooses for us.

From the very beginning Jesus announces, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” Repent, I said, isn't the scary word that sign carriers and street corner shouters have turned it into. Repent simply means to turn around, to go in the other direction. When Jesus calls it out to the crowds who listen to him, to his disciples who are near to him, to believers who still struggle to this day to join him, it means stop moving away. Turn around. Reverse your direction. Follow me.

Somewhere inside each of us is the urge to turn around, and the first step of turning around is acknowledging we're moving in the wrong direction. The letter from John calls it sin, darkness, unrighteousness. The Psalmist uses transgression, iniquity, and deceit. For William it was a whack with light saber. Intentional or unintentional, in our mind, in our heart, or in our actions, we find ourselves moving in directions away from God, but the promise the gospel delivers is one of reversal in Jesus our Christ.

Each week in worship we take the first step toward reversal corporately. We lift our voices and our hearts in prayer as we acknowledge the ways we have turned from God. We speak them out loud together, confessing even if not or own specific failings the ways humanity falls short of what God desires. This act of confession is something we do weekly, usually at the beginning of the service so that we are clearing the air right when we walk in the door. We are recommitting ourselves to walking in the way of God as we great the day with joy and praise. We are being cleansed and presenting ourselves wholly and completely before God in worship.

Likewise this practice of confession is one that is integral to the season of Lent. If each Sunday is a little Easter, a little celebration of the resurrection, in which we wouldn't think of worshipping without coming clean before God, how much more important is it stop what we're doing in Lent, acknowledge the ways we move from God, and begin the process of reversal, the process of following Jesus before the celebration of his new life on the feast of Easter? This whole season is about examining our lives, confessing to God the ways we have turned away, and recommitting ourselves to discipleship with our whole lives.

We take the first step toward reversal by naming that which has gone wrong in our attempt to follow Jesus faithfully, and when we do we should also always, every sing time, without fail, we hear the good news he proclaims. The kingdom of God is near. The possibility for a new future here. Turn around and enter that future today.

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