November 2005

On all saints day we give thanks to God for each other for all saints living and dead.  Our evangelical Lutheran focus is as always on the Christ who by his life and death made all of us holy.  It is not a day to wallow in death but to celebrate life in the light of the resurrection which shines equally on all the saints now, then and future.  It was first mentioned in the year 373.

Our second lesson is talking about the creation of a new identity for the people of God.  Characterized by our designation as His Children.  It is a relationship that “the world” cannot recognize because it is unaware of it.  Being children implies a relationship with God and each other.

This new identity is forged by Christ’s life, death and resurrection.  This new identity is not a cleaned up reform of mankind and society it is a transformation to a new and different way of life.

Jesus Christ came to create a new belief, a new way of being, a new faith.  A way characterized by John as Hope.

One of my favorite Bible verses is from Matthew 11:28-30.  Come to me all you who are heaven laden and I will give you rest.  Here this is not referring to vacation rest or sleep, it refers clearly to being unburdened.  Freed from conflict and scandal.  This is very similar to the modern model of therapy.  Where the goal is to discover yourself.  To find your story.  But I think that John is here telling us that it is The Christ who gives us who we are.  Verse 2 I John 3.  says We are God’s children but it is not yet clear what we shall become.  The hope is that we shall be like him.

When someone comes to me with a problem or issue my first impulse is to present them with some logical argument that will manipulate them out of their predicament, burden or scandal.

But what we all need is not modern therapy so that we can clean ourselves up but we need a new self unhooked from our old story.  We don’t make our own story but it is always imparted to us from the outside.

In John 8:44 it says: “You are from your Father the devil, and you chose to do your Father’s desires.  He was a murder from the beginning because there is not truth in him.  When he lies he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the Father of lies.

Jesus came to offer us a new way, truth and hope.  So what holds us back from living in the light and truth of Christ, what keeps us burdened?  This force has been called original sin.  We think of it as a natural force like gravity.  But let’s be careful when we call it natural for we might think of it as something we are born with rather than into.

Our baptismal liturgy says we are born into a sinful world where the forces of sin have their way with us.  Gravity can be a helpful comparison.  Newton discovered that gravity is not something that resides in each object.

An apple is not created with a force that makes it fall.  Gravity, Newton discovered, is a force that acts on the relationship between objects.  On earth an apple always fall because it is in a close relationship with that much larger object, the earth.  In outer space it doesn’t fall, it is weightless.

What does that have to do with original sin? Remember the source story of original sin, the Garden of Eden.

Eve sees that the apple is desirable.  Desire is the source of original sin.  Adam desired the apple because Eve desired it.  Ultimately Eve and Adam came to desire being like God.

One this All Saints Sunday, it is useful to look at ourselves as  Saints and see the truth about ourselves that we are in fact captives of desire.

This desire, sin, is not simply an individual thing.  It is wrong to see sin and desire as a force within us.  Rather it is a force between us. (My personal definition and location of Satan).  That is an important difference.

Our desires don’t simply arise in us.  Desire comes by watching others.  We imitate the desire of others.  This brings us into rivalry with them.  This rivalry builds until the object doesn’t make any difference.  All that matters is the rivalry.  Ultimately it is about being a rival of God, wanting to be our own god.  Thinking that our desires and choices are all our own (the trick of Satan), even though they are not.

1 John 3:1-4 is our lesson, but I am now going to read on to verse 18….

We find the story of Cain and Abel.  Did Eve just really admire the apple more than all the rest of the fruit?  Did the desire arise in her?  No, it happened in relationship.  The serpent convinced her it was desirable, then she convinced her husband.  It led to rivalry with God, thinking they could be like God.  And it led to a terrible rivalry amongst themselves.  Their two sons Cain and Abel, were born into this rivalry and one eventually killed the other.

I think this describes the world as we know it today.  This is good news for us because today’s lesson for All Saints shows us that there is a way other than the world’s.

We don’t have to live under the illusion that our desires are all our own and that we are making free choices.  We won’t be fooled like our neighbors who think their problems would be over if they just won the lottery.  We don’t live under that lie.  All desire just drags us down.

Each of us has been saved from this by Christ.  We are baptized into the spirit of true freedom as God’s children.  On this All Saints Sunday we can even begin to glimpse our true home.  Our home is Christ who feeds us in his Supper and frees us from the deception of desire so that we may serve God and one another.

In the words of today’s lesson “it is not yet clear what we shall become.  But it is clear that we shall not become tools of the rivalry that leads to death.  This is the freedom and truth of living as God’s child.