2011) Without God, Without Sin? (part four of four)

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          (…continued)  Douglas Coupland did not use the word sin, but it was the sin in Scout’s life that led him to admit his need for God.  He described his remorse over his ‘mistakes,’ (or perhaps we could say sins instead of mistakes?); his lack of love, his inability to be kind, and his unwillingness to give anymore. 

            And so yes, we are going to keep talking about sin and guilt in church.  In fact, we begin every worship service by acknowledging that elephant in the room.  In the confession of sins we confess before God the sin in our lives that separate us from Him; and then, we hear God’s word of forgiveness and acceptance; and then, we go on with the service.  Actually, it is just like Peter and Jesus.  Peter makes his confession, “Lord, depart from me, for I am a sinner.”  And Jesus forgives him, saying “Don’t be afraid,” and then invited Peter to follow him.  Confession and forgiveness.  We need it every day, with God, and with each other.

            I don’t watch much TV, but I do like my Netflix.  I hear about a movie, I put it on the list, and when it comes, I watch it.  Sometimes by the time I get a movie I have forgotten where I heard of it or why I ordered it.  That was the case last week when “Julieta” (2016) came in the mail.  It is by some independent Spanish film-maker, so I didn’t recognize anyone in it and I had to read subtitles.  It was slow-moving and nothing special, so you don’t need to rush out to get it.  But at the end, it became interesting to me because it fit in with what I wanted to say today.

            Now, if you want to know what is going on in the world today, a European film is the place to look.  These film makers are the ‘with-it’ people, they are where it is happening today, they know what this world is all about today, and they certainly are not stuck with a two-thousand year old book.  The European art community abandoned its Christian roots centuries ago, and is pleased to be free of that nonsense.  So what does this movie have to say about life today?           

            Well, it starts out with a typical story line—a pretty actress, a handsome actor, a chance meeting, and an illicit romance with all clothing quickly removed; then some more adultery, deception, friends and lovers coming and going—all the sins that make the movies so delightful these days; and, have made modern life so much more wonderful now that society is getting over its hang-ups about sexual sin.  We finally have this sex thing figured out and everyone is free to do what they want and all are doing fine.  So in the movie you have sexual freedom, deceit, adultery, and betrayal.  But who cares, everyone is having a good time, so what could go wrong?  That was the slow moving, boring part that you can see in a lot movies.

            But then the truth comes out, and the movie is honest about what happens then.  Husband and wife have a painful confrontation, best friends are no longer best friends, a daughter is hurt and confused and then disappears, one person throws his life away, another dies in despair, and another ends up fighting for her sanity.  And the ones that are left start to talk to each other about the guilt they feel.  Imagine that, guilt, just what the church is condemned for always bringing up;  and here it comes up in a movie about sexual freedom, fun, and games.  But by the end of the story, there is guilt all over the place.  First there is the sin (though the word is never mentioned), and then there is the guilt. 

            It almost like a Bible story– the story of David and Bathsheba.  Except for this: in the Bible, the sinners have a place to go with their guilt.  David went to the Lord and prayed: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love.  For I have sinned against you and done what is evil in your sight.  In your great compassion, cleanse me from my sin.  Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew in me a right spirit.  Cast me not away from your presence, but restore unto me the joy of your salvation.” (Psalm 51)  God was not pleased with David, David regretted his sin, and there were painful consequences for his family.  But then there was a way forward– by repentance, a changed heart and life, and forgiveness.  …But in the movie, there was no one to go to and no such hope for forgiveness and healing and salvation.

            I close with some more old words from that old book; words that applied to Peter way back then, and apply yet today— to European film artists, to those in Generation X, and to those in every other generation:  1 John 1:8-9:  “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  But if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”


Psalm 51:1-4…7-12…15-17  —  

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge…

Cleanse me, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me…

Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you will not despise…


Forgive me my sins, O Lord; the sins of my present and the sins of my past, the sins of my soul and the sins of my body, the sins which I have done to please myself and the sins which I have done to please others.  Forgive me my casual sins and my deliberate sins, and those which I have tried to hide so that I have even hidden them from myself.  Forgive me them, O Lord, forgive them all.  For Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

–Bishop Thomas Wilson  (1663-1755)