He is Risen; He has Risen, Indeed! These are the words we proclaim on Easter morning. But what exactly does that mean for our lives? Easter morning isn’t a time to do analysis of the resurrection in a sermon any more than it is appropriate to discuss the process of child birth on someone’s birthday. So, I would like to explore one aspect of the meaning of resurrection in this column.
Resurrection has had volumes of books devoted to it. I simply want to reflect upon one small aspect of what the resurrection may mean to us in our day and time. Resurrection frees us to be fully human. What is fully human? Fully human is very simple and very complicated. Fully human means we are flawed. That sounds like a simple statement. However, our society is struggling with this issue.
Recently, I listened to an interview with Martha Crawford, a counselor in New York who has a podcast called “What a Shrink Thinks.” She discussed in the interview the problem of guilt. The premise of the interview was that we are losing the ability to process guilt. We live with a false dichotomy that we are either fully good or fully bad. We also hold each other to these same standards.
Examples of this are seen in the media all the time. Almost daily, someone is publicly acknowledging a sin they have committed and has been brought to the surface by the press. The eyes of the public are upon them judging their actions. The fully good are judge and jury of the fully bad. Then how much contrition is needed to feed the appetites of the sinless onlookers? Usually it lasts until the next episode of “juicy morsel sin” of another character.
She points out that in her practice working with clients this is a constant question. What do we do with sin? How much contrition is enough? How do we move forward? Who gives us permission to proceed forward? We are either good or bad and there is no in between.
The fact is we are human. We are both good and bad, but never fully good or fully bad. What are we to do with the sin that we commit? Acknowledge it! This is crux of our dilemma. We struggle with what to do with sin. To admit sin is to say in our society that we are not good. It you are not good, you are bad. This dichotomy leaves us in an unmovable position. It is check mate. What are we to do? How are we to answer for our sins? How much contrition is enough? How do we get ourselves out of this mess?
The only way to get out of this corner is to know that you are forgiven. The public or whoever you have sinned against may not forgive you. In fact, in some cases, the one harmed by your sin may take time to deal with the harm you have caused them. But know this, God has forgiven you. That is heart of the cross of Christ. In the cross we see how much we have failed God at the same time how much we been loved and forgiven.
Once we accept our sin, we can move forward, but not as totally good or totally bad. We move forward as fully human. We moved forward a changed person. We are flawed but we are forgiven. Accepting that premise we can then discuss how we might improve from our mistakes.
We can grow from our misdeeds into better humans who recognize our frailties and the frailties of others, which we call empathy. That is a huge move. When we can be better understanding of ourselves, then we can be better understanding and less condemning of each other.Martin Luther called this complex paradox, Saint and Sinner. We are both Saint and Sinner at the same time. We are fully forgiven and fully sinful at the same time. By Jesus lovingly giving of himself for the world, we discover a forgiveness that could only be given by God. He who was both human and God and sinless. God is the Rook in the deck. God overrides everything else. Freed from this check mate we are able to change. We do not ever believe that we can be perfect like God, but we can be better than we are. If we can recognize that we are able to be forgiven and become better, then there is the possibility that other human beings can do the same. We can pray for them and ask them to pray for us, that all of us may grow in love towards ourselves and others.
Imagine a world where we forgive and lift each other.
He has risen; He has risen indeed! These are not just liturgical words used to start a celebration. These are words of freedom. We are freed from ourselves – yes, freed from the power of Sin, that paralyzing demon. This demon looks down upon us and says that we are no good and we will never be anything else. This demon turns us into people who ignore, defend, and self-justify our sinful actions so as to try to say to others that we are not bad, could never be bad, never will be bad, because bad means we can never be good. NO! NO! NO! Au contraire! We are God’s beloved and we are His children. We have been set free from slavery to sin and now we live to honor our Lord and King. We raise high our voices with praises and leave our sanctuaries inspired that we can be loving and caring people for others.
Let us pray: Lord, loosen the shackles that keep us tied down to hopelessness and free us to honestly see and accept ourselves and others for what we are – sinful and forgiven at the same time. Let others see our willingness to admit our sin and move forward that they too may be freed to do the same. To God be the Glory.
~In His Service – Pastor MItchell