Thursday, January 29, 2009

Blessed Unrest...

Sin is a word profoundly out of fashion in Unitarian Universalist circles. In fact, I would argue that a personal sense of sin is out of fashion even in evangelical circles where it seems to largely be used to identify the practices of others. There are some good reasons for this circumstance: the word sin can and often has been used as a psychological battering ram and its demise in this context is welcome. And yet the loss of a personal sense of sin has its negative side as well. Here is Rev. Rufus Ellis in his sermon, "To Him it is Sin"

"Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. — James, iv. 17.

IT is sin not to live up to our light. Young and old, wise and simple, we are sinners so long as we fail to live up to our light. It may be twilight, or it may be noontide; the light may be very dim or very bright; the good that we know to do may be little or much ; our moral growth may have just begun, or we may have made much progress in goodness, — but it is true, all the same, that if we are not living up to our light it is sin. The revelation of truth and right is a disclosure of obligation, a call to obedience...

'Therefore to him who knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin.' The good may be something unexpected, unusual, not a mere conventional good, — like a paltry dole to the poor, a pittance from your hoard, a crumb from your luxurious table, an hour in your week, a word which costs you nothing. The good may be a nobler style of living, simplicity perhaps amidst surrounding luxuries, a consecration of your leisure to work for which the world pays no wages and will scarce give you thanks. The good may be very hard, because very good and very beautiful and very blessed... Christianity is a revelation of good things to be done on earth, — of human purity, simplicity, justice, brotherhood, service; and to him who knows these things and doeth them not, to him it is sin, and Christianity is preached to him in vain unless he has a consciousness of sin.
The hope of every human soul and of human society is bound up with blessed and fruitful sorrow, — this living sense of sin. Let this fail, and moral progress is at an end. Come to look upon your shortcomings as misfortunes, cease to deplore and strive against them as sins, and you have ceased to live, or at least have fallen asleep; and if there is to be no change you will sleep on forever, and might as well die to-day as any time. Life is not mere continuance,— it is progress; it is the receiving of larger and larger measures of truth and love; it is movement upward and onward. It is not well for us to be content with ourselves so long as we know any good which we are not doing, trying with all our might and with all the help we can get from God to do. It is a blessed unrest which moves us to toil and prayer; we can do without it no more than the sick man can do without the pain, or even agony, which sends him to the physician, and engages him in self-control and the struggle for health and life.
It is one of the crowning excellences of Christianity that it awakens and strengthens and keeps alive this consciousness of sin by its appeals for an exceeding righteousness and its display of a grand example of holy living, while at the same time it directs and tempers the feeling by its revelation of inexhaustible love and help."

A crowning excellence indeed. Blessings

1 comment:

Robin Edgar said...

"And yet the loss of a personal sense of sin has its negative side as well."

To say nothing of the all too U*U loss of a *healthy* personal sense of guilt and/or shame. . .

Everything in moderation I say.