When visiting a new congregation I like to show off my sense of humor, trying to offer a nice mix of comfort and challenge, so I spent much of the week looking for something light-hearted and funny to say about the first Sunday of Lent. “Satan walked into a bar,” “Knock knock. Who’s there? Temptation.” You won’t be surprised to hear that none of these worked out. To tell you the truth, sin and temptation just aren’t funny. It is hard to do an upbeat sermon for Lent.
We have become accustomed to avoiding the subject of sin lest we make someone uncomfortable. In an age of religion-consumers, we try to keep things happy. And we certainly we need some comfort and happy in our lives. It sometimes feels as if we are under constant assault, as if beloved institutions and systems have been corrupted by a “me-first” culture. But even in dark times, the Way of Jesus demands that we avoid corruption and sin. So, yes, this is a sermon about sin. Those who were contemplating a nap might want to settle in.
This past Wednesday I opened the newspaper to the “Dear Abby” column and got quite a shock. A single gay man explained to Abby his discomfort at being sexually propositioned by a heterosexual couple. No matter what you might think about same-sex relationships, the question and Abby’s response were about the ethics of inviting someone into adultery, as if adultery could ever be ethical. In fact, as a country music fan, I have become increasingly alarmed at lyrics which condone sex outside of a covenanted relationship. Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but I preferred the day when country songs condemned rather than celebrated that lyin’ cheating dog of a man. Continue reading →