Friday, April 22, 2011

Sermon - John 13:1-18; 31b-35 - Maundy Thursday

John 13:1-17; 31b-35
Maundy Thursday
April 21st , 2011

Pride, Coveting, Lust, Anger, Gluttony and Greed. So now we come to the final deadly sin on our list – Sloth. As we said at the beginning of this series – these 7 sins aren't the only deadly sins. Indeed, each and every sin is deadly to the sinner – apart from Christ. But in Christ, our loving Savior – no deadly sin can keep us away from God. No dark misdeed cannot be forgiven. No sin of thought, word, or deed places us under judgment – for Christ has paid the price by his blood, his suffering, his death.

Sins of thought, word, or deed. That's one way of categorizing sin. But not the only way. We also confess things we have done and have not done. The sins of commission and sins of omission. And here falls our final sin of Sloth. The things we don't do, that we should be doing.

It's more than just laziness, although it includes that. But we sinners are guilty of more sins that we can imagine – partly because we also break God's law by our inaction.

Take the command Jesus gives on Maundy Thursday (by the way, that's what Maundy means, “command”). He says, “Love one another just as I have loved you.” And here we find our failure.

He's not talking about washing each other's feet. But he is talking about loving our neighbor. He's not talking about warm fuzzy feelings of love. He's talking about what you do for your neighbor. Love. It is action. It is humble self-sacrificing service of another. Washing feet. Changing diapers. Giving a ride to the doctor's office. Extending a welcoming hand. Speaking a word of forgiveness.

And so what happens when we don't? What happens when our lazy, sinful nature lets those opportunities pass us by? What about the fact that we could be seeking out opportunities to love our neighbor – but we don't?

This is a hard sin, my friends. It's one thing to see and confess a sin that you actually do. A goof or gaffe that other people might also notice. You hurt someone with your words. You dishonor an authority. You take something that isn't yours. You can point to the sin, confess it, be done with it. God forgave me for that sin and that sin and that sin.

But how do you confess the good deeds you failed to do? How do you enumerate the actions you never got around to doing – and perhaps didn't even know you should have or could have?

Yes, sloth, laziness – it's more than just sitting around. It's missing out on our God-given privilege and duty to love one another. Oh the excuses run freely on this one, don't they. Chief among them, “I'm too busy!”. Maybe it's too hard, or you are too tired, or you just don't want to. Or else we say, “someone else will do it”. Maybe you even know you should, but you'd just rather have a root canal – and so you avoid. And so passes the opportunity to love your neighbor and serve him.

There's that parable Jesus tells about the talents – a king is going away for a long time, and entrusts three servants with different sums of money. The first two get busy – they invest the money and when the king returns present him with even more than he gave them. But the third servant, (perhaps out of laziness?) doesn't use the gifts he is given. He buries the money and sits on it. The king is enraged, and takes away even what that servant already had! A stinging rebuke of the servant's inaction.

Where does this sin leave us? God doesn't just chide us for sins, he threatens punishment – condemnation – even death. Yes, even for those sins of sloth – the things we have left undone. But God doesn't only threaten and judge. Through Christ, he offers life!

Christ was no lazy-bones. He was active and working, working, always for our good. His earthly life of service was far more than foot-washing. He taught his people the truth of God, but was far more than an example. His perfect obedience fulfilled the law. He did what no human had ever done – he didn't sin, and he always did everything he should. Even down to the last details of prophecy, “in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, he said, 'I thirst”. Every T crossed and every I dotted. Surely he has done all things well.

We call this Christ's Active Obedience – and he does it all for you. And then there's his Passive Obedience, also for you.

His Passive Obedience is his humble submission to the Father's will. He gives himself, his life, as a ransom for many. He suffers, he dies. What he doesn't do is save himself. What he doesn't do is find a better way, with less pain and suffering. What he doesn't do is forsake his task, forsake his sheep. Instead he is forsaken by God for us. Jesus doesn't avoid the hard work of the cross.

For us who leave so much undone – Christ does all things – both in his life and death – and does them perfectly. For us who don't even know all the ways we fall short – Christ knows our weakness, and gives us his strength, and his victory over death.

We fail to love. But Jesus never misses an opportunity. And the best opportunity was his cross. Where God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son. That Jesus loved us so much that he gave his life up for his friends.

Deadly sin, we see, is not deadly when we are in Christ. For he faced death and destroyed it. He took sin and conquered it. He does what we do not, and cannot do. He goes where we cannot go. But he returns to take us with him, even to life forever.

This Holy Week, ponder the deadliness of sin – whatever sins you commit, struggle with, and feel the guilt thereof. And see sin meet its death on Calvary, in our Lord's loving sacrifice. And keep an eye on Sunday, for life is coming, and victory is on the horizon.

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