This sermon was performed at our church a number of years ago but we feel the content is still poignant today.
“Jesus died for our sins” but what does that mean? So what are our sins?
Luke, my son, told me about an interesting discussion he had during a lesson at school. They were asked “What is a sin – but not illegal”, so it’s wrong, but it’s not against the law, you’re not going to get arrested for it or go to prison.
Can you think of any?
“Jesus died for our sins”. What does that actually mean to you and me?
Sometimes we sin but then pretend we haven’t sinned. We bury things deep down we know we’ve done wrong. We are very often in denial. Maybe you’re upset about something a friend has said to you or done to you. But look at the situation again – was it really all their fault? Could you have done something different? Did they take it out on you because they were in a dark place and needed to lash out at the person they love? Was your reaction right? It’s very easy to match the attitude of the person you’re talking to. If a friend were to say to you “Why did you say that to her, I didn’t want you to tell anyone?”, it’s a natural reaction to be defensive “I’ve done nothing wrong – you shouldn’t have told me if you didn’t want her to know!”. Was that situation really your fault or theirs? Could you have handled it better? Could you have said “I’m so sorry, I hadn’t realized you didn’t want anyone to know. How can I put this right?”
Recently I’ve been listening to audio CD’s in the car. They’re all about improving your life, your fortune, your success and your happiness. But they all lead to the same conclusion – it’s about changing you. It’s how you look at things, it’s how you react, but mostly it’s how you learn from your mistakes. Many of the CD’s talk about reflection. Going back over the week’s activities.
Did I handle that meeting well? Could I have done something different? Was the outcome what I intended?
Have I given enough attention to the children this week? One of the children was being awkward and bad-tempered the other night. Was there something bothering them? Rather than just tell them off, should I have asked more questions about their day, about their friends, their teachers?
Have I shown enough love to my partner this week?
It’s through asking ourselves these questions that we realise we have sinned. We’ve not put ourselves in other people’s situation or to paraphrase the bible, we haven’t treated others as we would like to be treated.
Since listening to these CD’s I’ve found myself looking back at situations from years ago and realising just how wrong I was. I’ve then asked God for forgiveness. I don’t know much about Catholics, but maybe that’s the idea behind the weekly confessional? It’s a time to force yourself to look at what you’ve done wrong this week; admit it, then ask for forgiveness.
My friend’s a catholic and she jokes saying, “It’s OK, I can do things wrong. All I have to do is go to Confession, ask for forgiveness and then go out and do it all again.” She is only joking when she says this. It’s not about being able to do it again, it’s about confessing you were wrong and learning from it. This is sometimes very difficult to do, but once you’ve done it, you can then feel very, very guilty and sometimes deep remorse.
In my job, I teach people how to use a computerised accounting system. Over the years I’ve seen bookkeepers make the same mistakes over and over again. It’s not the same bookkeeper that makes the same mistake – each bookkeeper makes the mistake just once. So during my teaching, I give out exercises that I know will cause most of the students to do the work wrong. This is so that they can fall into the trap whilst working on meaningless data and not important data being scrutinised by the likes of HMRC. Telling them about the mistakes is not the same. They need to experience it so that they can learn from it.
Maybe life is like that – full of lessons for us to learn and sometimes we learn the hard way, sometimes we repeatedly make the same mistakes but are too arrogant to see them. Not admitting to ourselves that we were wrong is a heavy burden that we’re probably not even consciously aware of.
It’s at the point when we realise we’re wrong that God is waiting for us to ask Him for forgiveness. And He forgives us totally and without question. He takes that sin away from us so that we can learn from that experience and move on with our life. We don’t need to spend any more time dwelling on it. God has totally and utterly taken away that guilt, and that sin, and has forgiven us. The weight of that sin has been removed from our shoulders. Jesus died so that you can feel that enlightenment, that feeling of true freedom.
But of course, don’t forget that although God may have forgiven you, you still have to make it right with anyone you have wronged.
So to conclude, we need to analyse ourselves, realise our mistakes and ask for forgiveness. We need to make the first move.
I’ll finish with a quote from Matthew 11:
“Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.”
Sermon by Karen Garrattley