Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: sin (page 1 of 3)

Guest Post: Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday in the life of the church. It is the beginning of the season of Lent, a season where Christians are called to repentance and self-reflection. A few years ago my friend and colleague, Rev. Alan Combs, an elder in the Virginia Conference, wrote the following post for this blog that I’m reposting as we enter Lent. May this season be a season of gut-checking. Peace, Jason

Photo by Ahna Ziegler on Unsplash

On Ash Wednesday, we hear the words “Remember you are dust, and to dust, you shall return” as ashes are placed on our forehead in the sign of a cross in order to remember both that we are mortals, and that we are creatures of a Creator.  We remember also that our death and our life are wrapped up in the One we are following to the Cross.

 

One thing I always find so fascinating and helpful on Ash Wednesday is the Gospel lesson for the day.  It comes from Matthew 6:1-6, and 16-21, which contains this admonition from Jesus:

Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven (Matthew 6:1). 

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Guilty

“Pilate said to them, ‘Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ All of them said, ‘Let him be crucified!'” (Matthew 27:22, NRSV)

Courtroom.

Lawyers.

Police officers.

Victims.

Judge.

Who is innocent?

Who is guilty?

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The Yoda Verses: Anger Leads to Hate

The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why do you look so resentful?” (Genesis 4:6, CEB)

The Jedi Master Yoda warns both Aiken and Luke Skywalker about anger. Yoda tells Luke in The Empire Strikes Back, “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

Someone should have warned Cain.

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Sermon: Love: More Than Words

3 Shades of Grace: Introduction

Three Shades of Grace“We know no gospel without salvation from sin.” -John Wesley

Charles Schultz’ Charlie Brown says to his friend Linus, “Life is just too much for me. I’ve been confused right from the day I was born. I think the whole trouble is that we’re thrown into life too fast. We’re not really prepared.”

Linus replies, “What did you want . . . a chance to warm up first?”

It could be said that “the whole trouble” of humanity is original sin. Original sin is the corruption of the nature of every human being. In the beginning, God created, and it was good. God created humanity in the image of God, and it was good. John Wesley referred to this original righteousness as “original perfection.” But, when the first humans ate the fruit of the tree, sin entered the world. The Fall, as the Genesis 3 narrative is commonly referred to, left humanity fallen from perfection.

Sin is the “whole trouble” with humanity. It has left the image of God within humanity disfigured and diseased. As Paul says in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Wesley understood that what we inherited from Adam and Eve was not so much guilt, but corruption and disease.

There is no escape from sin.

This is why humanity is in need of divine grace. Grace is the undeserved, unmerited, loving action of God. It is grace that renews and restores the fallen image of God within humanity. Grace is the answer to the problem. Grace is the medicine for the disease of sin. Grace transforms us from a sinful state to a righteous state. As United Methodists, we affirm that salvation comes through this loving action of God we call grace.

John Wesley understood grace in three shades, or three movements. Prevenient grace is God’s love at work in our lives from the beginning, even before we realize our sin-filled reality. While justifying grace pardons us through Christ, sanctifying grace empowers us to participate with God in healing our sin sick selves. But only if we choose to cooperate. This has been called Wesley’s “Way of Salvation.” It is the story of how grace restores us to original righteousness.

The next few posts will explore these three shades of grace.

 

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