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For just as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. - Romans 5:19
Dear siblings in Christ, let me begin by naming I am happy to be back with you all here at St. John’s. I look forward to talking about my time with the Navy in the coming weeks through conversations and sermons.
The above excerpt from scripture highlights the paradoxical relationship of Adam in the garden of Eden to Jesus Christ: The First Man vs. The New Adam. This Sunday, we hear from the Book of Genesis, when Eve is tempted by the serpent (an allegorical reference to Satan) to eat the fruit from the tree Adam and her were forbidden to eat. This reading is paired with the Gospel from St. Matthew, when Satan tempts Jesus in the desert. St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans ties the two scenes from the Bible together; it’s here, where Paul calls us to recognize how disobedience pulls us away from God. This ranges from how sin has corrupted our personal lives, to how the corporate church has been corrupted by sin on the systematic level by the historic treatment of vulnerable persons and minorities.
I realize the enormity of this statement. The church does have a troubled past. Hypocrisy is a tense topic in the church and one for clergy as well, as we too are sinners. It’s when we, the universal Church, forget to mention that we have erred in our ways and judgements and do not hold ourselves accountable, that we are hypocrites and no better than the Pharisees and Sadducees who condemned Jesus to die on the cross. Let it be known that I am indeed pro-church. I am intending on focusing that the church hierarchy and leaders have not always been correct on everything. We are a human entity following our beliefs regarding the divine, but our own ego and intellect interfere. We are flawed; we must always continue to acknowledge that we have faults. This alleviates our being complicit - not that our responsibility ends there. The ultimate sin is when we do not recognize a need for change, growth, or vain enough to believe that God has finished growing us (humans or the institutional church) into the full stature of Christ.
Many of you are aware that I am pro-confession. At Deacon Claire’s monthly Healing Eucharists, I support by offering the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the back of the church from the Book of Common Prayer (BCP 447). It is a sacramental rite that invites the people of God to unburden themselves, by confessing their sins to a priest. A 19th century English nun, Maude Petre, said “True confession consists of telling our deed in such a way that our soul is changed in the telling it.” Releasing our deepest, darkest, secrets has shown in studies to alleviate stress and I would say, by extension, allows people to open up and believe God really does unconditionally love them.
What I truly love about the Rite of Reconciliation is how it closes out on page 448 in the BCP: the priest says “The Lord has put away all your sins,” the penitent (person confessing) says “Thanks be to God,” and the rite concludes with the priest having the last word: “Go in peace, and pray for me, a sinner.” WOW! The universal Church hasn’t been the poster child in history acknowledging our sinfulness, but here, in black and white, the church and the clergy attest to our humanity - being broken like Adam and Eve, and yet having hope in eternal life through the New Adam, Jesus Christ. It is in this spirit that the Episcopal Church continues to grow and learn from its past and attempt to be a better church for the future of Christianity.
Siblings in Christ, I acknowledge that as the Burial Rite (BCP 499) says: I am a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. God forgives us when we ask for forgiveness. Is there something on your heart that you would like to ask forgiveness for? The Seal of Confession is unbreakable - the rubrical instruction states that the secrecy of confession is morally absolute for the confessor, and must under no circumstances be broken. Feel safe and secure to seek one of your priests or a priest from a neighboring church and ask for forgiveness of your sins this Lenten season. Use this time of the year to deepen your relationship with God. Be released of your burdens and live into the full stature of Christ, the New Adam. As we approach Spring, I pray you have a spirit of resurrection and are reborn.
Your sibling in Christ,