Sermon – 06-28-20 – Proper 8 – Cycle A
Scripture: Jeremiah 28:5-9; Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18; Romans 6:12-23; Matthew 10:40-42
Sermon Title: “Are We Born With A Sinful Nature?”
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”
Our bulletin cover and the artwork we have seen of Jesus with children gathered around him seem idyllic – perfect and serene. Rarely is anything in life that perfect for more than two seconds. But it is good to keep those pictures in our mind as visions of what can be.
It is generally accepted in Christian religious circles that we are born in sin because Adam and Eve, who were created sinless, became sinful thanks to the devil in the form of a serpent. This sinfulness is said to be passed from generation to generation and that only Jesus Christ can accept our sins onto himself so that we are free momentarily.
Even though this is generally accepted, it is not how I see this dilemma. I propose that we are born innocent of sin. Some babies can bring out the worst in us because they have physical pain and cannot help crying. No sleep for the family. But this cannot be called sin.
It seems that some babies are born with happy dispositions while some are born with a more grumpy personality. Is this sin? What if we think about a two-year-old being on the receiving end of a new baby moving into the house? Is the two-year-old happy and pleasant about the baby or does the two-year-old wonder why he or she was not asked? Is the older child afraid of this new presence and does he or she feel neglected? Is this sin when a child’s reactions seem unkind?
When does sin start in a person’s life? Does it depend on a child’s personality? What are your memories of being unkind? How young might you have been? Maybe you are one of the lucky people whose disposition was so good from birth that you really were, and are, not unkind.
What about the commandments that are only apply to ourselves? Are there any? How about keeping the Sabbath holy. To whom are we being unkind if we mow the yard on a Sunday or pull weeds in the flower beds or garden? Well, you might say that we are being unkind to ourselves.
Is that a sin? Then again, setting a poor example for our family and other people could be seen as sin. What about being unkind to ourselves? Does it hurt God to watch us weaken our bodies when rest is the prescription every seven days? Does it hurt God to watch us spend time away from his word or sharing his word with children or peers? How can we keep from working for money on Sundays when our job mandates that we comply or lose the job or expect other people to work in our place?
Oh my! Where does sin start and end? Well, sin ends at the cross! That is a good thing that God has provided even though we cringe that Jesus suffered so that we would not be carrying a bushel basket of sin on our backs.
When children are unkind to each other, when does it become sin? Is it sin before they know it is sin? How will children learn that there is a side to them that is not precious? That is where parenting comes in. That is where Sunday School teachers and school teachers enter the picture meaningfully and needfully. Education is part of preventing sin?
Then there is the community! You know – it takes a village to raise a child. Eveyone setting a good example and being loving is what God has in mind when he rebukes the disciples for setting the children aside. “Bring them to me,” Jesus says. These are the ones who can set the examples for us. These are the meek ones who belong in the kingdom of heaven.
What about God’s kingdom on earth now? We believe God’s kingdom is partially here now. Else we would not be guided by the Holy Spirit. Else we would not feel the presence of Jesus in our daily walk. Else we would not look upon our world and see how good it is, having been created by all three persons of God. The problem is that Satan is still not eradicated.
Would you not think that God should have eradicated Satan instead of just chasing him from heaven? Instead, God shows us over and over that his mercy is great. The Father sent Jesus to earth to save us from Satan. The way that God works – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is largely a mystery to us. Do we like it that way? Of course, most of us don’t like to be kept from knowing. But, just as we keep children in the dark about some realities of life for their own sake, we are kept from knowing all of God’s thinking.
We can know what we need to know. If we read the beginning of Romans 6, we are told that baptism with water symbolizes our dying as Jesus died. But we are not left dead by that water. Neither was Jesus left dead on the cross. As Jesus lives again, so we live again after our baptism. In our baptism, we are connected with Jesus and the Father and the Holy Spirit so strongly that we increasingly live into them. We increasingly want to follow the rules. But even more strongly, we come to realize that it is not only by rules but by the grace of God that we are saved. The sin stops here with God’s grace.
You may be wondering why we believe in baptizing babies while other Christian religious groups think the person should know what is happening and should want to become so attached to God. We believe that we are wrapping this child securely in God’s love. Why would we want to wait to do that? We believe there is blessing upon the child with the water and the word of the Lord. I picture a child being born with an invisible thread connecting him or her to God. As the child is brought to the house of the Lord, as the child is part of the prayers in the home, as the child is loved and praised and encouraged to do kind things, the thread becomes thicker. When I illustrate this idea on paper, I make the thread gold – precious gold.
At baptism, the thread becomes thicker. If the child continues to be nurtured in the love of the Lord, that thread becomes stronger. When and if Confirmation rolls around, the young person is invited to say, “Yes, I accept Jesus as my Savior.” There may be times when that thread seems thinner and weaker. There may be incidents where it widens because our person truly experiences the presence of Jesus – a problem is solved, a life is saved, a transgression forgiven. Yes, Yes! Jesus is real! So is the Father and the Holy Spirit! Thanks be to God!