Saturday, December 05, 2009

Sermon for Advent II
St. John’s – Moultrie, GA
December 6, 2009

I’m sure that in the midst of the news coverage of the Health Care Reform bill in the U. S. Senate and the President’s address to the nation concerning his war strategy in Afghanistan, you probably came across a small news story that made a few headlines regarding Tiger Woods. The larger-than-life golf superstar made major headlines last weekend when he ran over a fire hydrant and hit a tree at his home in Orlando at around 3:00 a.m. The grocery store tabloids had been circulating stories about marital infidelity by Tiger Woods a few weeks before, and naturally the rumors began flying when news first broke on this story.

This morning’s sermon isn’t about piling on Tiger Woods. He’s already had enough piled on him already. Rather it’s about the written “apology” he posted on his website. I put apology in quotations because I had to search for what I considered to be a heartfelt apology. I do realize I’m not privy to private statements made that are not included in what he wrote, but I’m still not sure I found one. His letter sounded more like the words of someone who was sorry for being caught and not someone who is really sorry for his actions. He starts off first by saying that “I have let my family down, and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves. I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect.” I realize to a certain extent that many of these statements are prepared with publicists, attorneys, and agents weighing in, but in this first paragraph there is no admission of sin, adultery, infidelity. Why would you soften what happened and refer to what occurred as simply a “transgression?” Why not stand up like a man and admit with an humble, lowly, obedient, and penitent heart that he disobeyed his marriage vows to his wife, and committed serial adultery and infidelity? The only time he mentions the word apology in his statement is in the very last sentence when he says, “For all of those who have supported me over the years I offer my profound apology.” The people who deserve his most profound apology are his wife, Elin, and their children. I have no idea whether Tiger considers himself a Christian or not, but first and foremost, he needs to repent for his actions and seek the forgiveness of God Almighty. That may not have been his style to have said something like that in print, but I sure would have been quite impressed if I had read those words from his pen. Instead, he includes a paragraph where he almost sounds like the victim by the tabloids exposing his infidelity. He says further, “Personal sins should not require press releases and problems within a family shouldn’t have to mean public confessions.” There’s only one problem with a statement such as this one. The public funds his salary. The general public buys the products which finance his sponsorship deals, and fund the purses at PGA Tour events. He’s made hundreds of millions of dollars from the public, so yes he does owe us an apology. He owes an apology to all of the children who look up to him as a role model, and have had to have their parents explain to them what happened if they didn’t already know.

I said I wasn’t going to pile on Tiger Woods, and this probably sounds like exactly what I’ve done, but I believe within this Season of Advent this is an appropriate illustration of what we are to wrestle with as we await our Lord’s coming. It’s appropriate because we must first and foremost ask ourselves the question, why did Jesus have to come to earth in the first place?

God could have very well left us to our own devices to earn merit and favor with him by what we do and what we don’t do and then see how things shake out in the end. However, St. Paul helps us out when he declares with complete conviction that he doesn’t do the things he wants to do, and does the very things he wishes with all his heart that he didn’t. He was a disciple and follower of Christ when he made those statements. He understood what our Lord did for him on the cross, and every way he sliced it, he ended up short. The following story about English slave ship captain and the author of the hymn Amazing Grace, John Newton conveys this same point perfectly.

Two or three years before the death of John Newton, when his sight was so dim that he was no longer able to read, a friend and brother in the ministry called to have breakfast with him. Their custom was to read the Word of God following mealtime, after which Newton would make a few short remarks on the Biblical passage, and then appropriate prayer would be offered. That day, however, there was silence after the words of Scripture “by the grace of God I am what I am” were read.
Finally, after several minutes, Newton spoke, “I am not what I ought to be! How imperfect and deficient I am! I am not what I wish to be, although I abhor that which is evil and would cleave to what is good! I am not what I hope to be, but soon I shall be out of mortality, and with it all sin and imperfection. Though I am not what I ought to be, nor what I wish to be, nor yet what I hope to be, I can truly say I am not what I once was: a slave to sin and Satan. I can heartily join with the apostle and acknowledge that by the grace of God I am what I am!” Then, after a pause, he said. “Now let us pray!”

That is what true repentance looks like. That is true acknowledgment of the human condition. That’s the honest admission that we are wrestling against something far more powerful than we can ever fight through our own devices and desires of our own hearts.

God sent Jesus to earth because he wanted to open every door and provide every opportunity for us to be reunited into fellowship with Him. He wanted to be able to move through the Garden again in the cool of the day and not find us naked and ashamed because of who we are, but rather look upon us again through the lens of his perfect Son. He opened the door, and now the choice is ours as to whether or not we will accept this fact and pass through on the only way to our salvation. Can we truly accept our condition for what it is? Here’s how the Moody Monthly defines sin – are we able to accept these points?

What Is Sin?

Man calls it an accident; God calls it an abomination.
Man calls it a blunder; God calls it blindness.
Man calls it a defect; God calls it a disease.
Man calls it a chance; God calls it a choice.
Man calls it an error; God calls it an enmity.
Man calls it a fascination; God calls it a fatality.
Man calls it an infirmity; God calls it an iniquity.
Man calls it a luxury; God calls it a leprosy.
Man calls it a liberty; God calls it lawlessness.
Man calls it a trifle; God calls it a tragedy.
Man calls it a mistake; God calls it a madness.
Man calls it a weakness; God calls it willfulness.

This is of course a harsh reality to face. The Good News is the God did not leave us to face this alone. He did not leave us to face it uncomforted. He did not leave us to face it without hope.

This Season of Advent is a time of reflection. It is a time to reflect upon who we are as a people in need of a Saviour. Most importantly, it’s a time to reflect upon a God who would send a Saviour, and would do so in the form of His only begotten Son.

As we approach our Lord’s Incarnation, we are called to reflect upon the love of a Heavenly Father who would deign to be our guest and come and be among us. Thanks be to God for this most remarkable gift.

No comments: