Proclaim Original Grace, First Sunday of Lent, 2017

The title for my sermon this morning is “Proclaim Original Grace”, which is the title of the second chapter of our Lenten book Find Your Way Home. Our Old Testament reading today is actually the story of our original sin. That juxtaposition was intentional. One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that original sin is not a particularly popular Christian doctrine. When most people think of original sin (which isn’t often), they tend to recall some vague sense that it’s about how cute little babies are in fact terrible sinners, and need to be baptized to get rid of all their horrible sinfulness. Or we might think it has to do with the way humans procreate, and how that’s inherently bad. If those are what we mean by original sin, no wonder it’s unpopular, because that’s an absurd notion.

Our reading from Genesis today reminds us that human sin doesn’t really have anything to do with babies or hell fire or sex. It’s a familiar story. God makes the world, puts Adam and Even in the garden of Eden, tells them to have a good time, just as long as they don’t eat this one fruit from this one tree. A serpent tempts them to eat the fruit, they eat it, and now childbirth is dangerous and painful and life is hard.

The key to understanding sin is how the serpent hooks Adam and Eve. “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God.” You’ve got this situation here where you are in relationship with each other, and with God, and with all the great stuff in the garden. But eat this fruit, and you won’t need God. You’ll be able to know it all and do it all on your own. Our original isn’t about all the naughty things we do, it’s about the way we reject our need for God and for one another.

We were made for community. We were made for relationship with God, with each other, and with creation. That’s why we’ve selected the book Find Your Way Home for Lent. The twenty-four spiritual principles outlined in that book were developed by and for women who have experienced unspeakable trauma to help them learn how to live in the kind of genuine, loving community both they and we were made for.

See, what comes before original sin in the Bible is original grace. We were made in the image of God. The perfect, beautiful, loving, compassionate, thumbprint of God can be found at the center of every single one of us. Original grace is the idea that every single human being is endlessly valuable. Every single human being is sacred and worthy of love. Original sin is nothing more than the way we reject original grace in ourselves and in the people around us. We forget that we are loved immeasurably by God, so we try to fill our love hunger with money or booze or stuff or status or whatever. We forget that we are all invaluable in the eyes of God, so we spend our days trying to prove that we are valuable by trying to be perfect or by overworking, or by shrilly trying to win the game of life.

In a recent sermon, Bishop Barker quoted a friend of his who says there are two types of people in the world: the enough love people, and the not enough love people. The enough love people are generally cheerful and pleasant to be around. They are able to let perceived slights and insults roll off, they forgive easily, and they are a joy to be around. The not enough love people are generally irritable and grumpy, demanding of friends and family, they hold grudges over any small insult or perceived slight. The enough love people act out of courage and generosity. The not enough love people live with fear and a sense of scarcity.

The first step in finding our way home is to reclaim our original grace. Finding your way home begins with remembering that you are loved. Finding your way home is about learning how to live as an enough love person instead of that not enough love person all of us can be.

You are loved deeply, immeasurably, unalterably: not because you are perfect, not because you deserve it, but simply because you bear in your body, soul, and mind, the very image of God. True peace, true joy, true freedom all start from really believing that to be true. And if it’s true for you, (which it is), it’s also true for every other person on the planet. It’s true for the people you like, and the people you don’t like. Your life, and our world, will really start to change when we really believe that. If you are loved endlessly, if the people around you are loved endlessly, then they don’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to be perfect. As our book puts it, “We don’t’ have to live in shame for all the things that have been done to us or that we have done to one another.”

Lent is a time when we are called to repent. That doesn’t mean feeling ashamed and beating ourselves up for all the crumby things we do. Repenting means turning it around, re-turning to the fact that you are loved. Repenting means remembering that we need God, and we need each other. Repenting means admitting we can’t go it alone. Repenting means accepting the first sentence of our book: “No matter where we are, we are better coming together than living separately.” Repenting means proclaiming original grace, seeing yourself and everyone around you as beloved, valuable, wonderful children of God.

Try it this week. Try sitting quietly for ten minutes some morning or evening and just thinking of how you carry the image of God, just contemplating the fact that God loves you. And then, if you really want to see your life change, anytime you see someone–at work, or at home, the person behind the cash regiser, the person you walk by in the store–think about how you are seeing the face of god. Think about they, with all their shortcomings, are beloved of God. Reclaim original grace, and then proclaim original grace. Right now, this week, start to find your way home to the God who made you by love, through love, and for love. Amen.

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