My unofficial tutor, who brings me various articles to read and mull over, is Deane Keuch. Not infrequently, he’ll pass me a clipping from a newspaper that addresses a particular religious issue. These articles sometimes end up in my sermons and/or writings.
His most recent submission was an article from the Cape Cod Times. It was written by an Anglican priest in Brewster having to do with sin, a topic of interest during the run-up to Easter.
The editor’s pull-quote sums it up: “Like dirty oil drained from a car, in people the dirt is sin. It is that which distances us from God, and taints the lives we live by disturbing our harmony with the universe God created. It’s an ugly word though, ‘sin.’ Really ugly, I’m afraid, today.”
The author, Alan Wilmot, talks about how he regularly changes the oil in his car, believing that to do so is to insure the health of the engine. It may cost him now, he says, but firmly insists that it’s far cheaper in the long run, as it prevents serious trouble down the road.
“I believe,” he writes, “that just as periodically draining dirty oil from a car is beneficial to its performance, so too is taking stock of our own spiritual condition. That is the beauty of Lent…a time when we prepare to fully celebrate the meaning of Easter by reflecting on just how much we need the salvation and rebirth Easter represents.”
“It is a simple concept,” he offers. “How can we fully appreciate the gift someone gives us unless we realize just how much we need it?”
He then goes on to talk about churches where the subject of sin is rarely mentioned. For one, it goes against a culture that’s “mantra” is “‘non-judgmentalism.’”
Similarly, some churches, seeking to grow, worry that talk of sin “might turn people away” before they hear the gospel’s larger message of hope.
But the larger message of hope is indeed what the gospel is about. As with changing our oil to insure maximum health for our car, we need to disencumber ourselves of the toxins that otherwise leave us spiritually dissipated and burdened.
Jesus once famously said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” To live unencumbered by the sludge of sin is to know true joy. For sin is that which diminishes and compromises all our relationships. It creates unnecessary separation, distance. But when the impediments born of sin are removed by our gracious, forgiving God, genuine freedom is the result.
That, in a nutshell, is the Easter story.