Passages: Acts 23:12-35; 1 John 5:13-21; John 12:12-23
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
What is the earliest lesson that we learn in life? That our actions and decisions have consequences. Whether it is the people we spend time with, the diets we attempt to do, the schools we go to, our jobs, social lives, and our day to day will shape who we are and how we live. As we grow older, we look back upon some of our decisions and we think about how we wish we could have changed some of those choices. Studied a bit harder, listened to others a bit more
closely. Spent less time with certain people and more time with others. However, we know that we cannot go back in time and there are some actions we can never change. As the proverbial teaching states, “In life there are 4 things you can’t get back: The stone after it is thrown. The word after it is said. The occasion after it is missed. The time after it’s gone.
As Christian’s we know that a life of sin works in the same way. We think about our trespasses and sins and wish we could change what we have done. At times, many of us feel that there are some sin’s that we cannot take back or make amends, whether these are sins we have committed ourselves or sins committed against us. Yet, Scripture teaches us that through genuine and heartfelt repentance God will forgive all our sins. This is done through confession and repentance, where we learn to heal and receive the body and blood of Christ to be freed from our sins. We do this because without repentance, without Christ, sin and its consequence of death maintains hold of us. For the wage of sin is death, which Christ Jesus took upon himself to die on the Cross for us, as we read in Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Sin bringing death began from the very beginning, as we read from the book of Genesis, that God commanded Adam and Eve to not eat from the tree of knowledge or else they would die. Yet, Adam and Eve did eat and sin and death entered this world. So sin brings death, Christ brings healing from that death.
Yet, today’s reading of 1 John, we are told of sins which leads to death vs. sins that does not lead to death. Is not all sin the same? What is the difference? Each Sunday when we attend Holy Badarak, we read the general confession, where we emphasize 7 deadly sins – pride, envy, anger, laziness, covetousness, gluttony and lust. Perhaps these are the sins which lead to death, as their name implies. However, the title of “deadly sins” is a later development by the Roman Catholic Church and theses sins are rather, both in Catholic and Orthodox theology, not grave sins but rather they can potentially lead to worse sins therefore, deadly. So than how do we understand a grave sin or one which, as St. John writes, leads to death? If we think back my dears, to our past decisions, decisions that were not wise, or fruitful, choices that perhaps left scars rather than blessings, what is our initial thought? We regret and/or wish we had done better. We wish we could go back and change the past. Things such as wishing we had not eaten that one last slice of cake when we are on a diet; wishing we had not taken that one last drink before driving; we wish we had not said that one last word or perhaps we wish we did not post that one comment or picture on social media; perhaps we wish we had not runaway and shut the door or burned bridges; or maybe we wish we had left the situation we were in. We all have things in our past we wish we could go back and change.
After these feelings and thoughts, what is our next step? We acknowledged and if possible, we look to try and reverse, mend and heal the wounds and scars left behind from those choices. We stop drinking, we start dieting, we watch our mouths and pay closer attention to our surroundings. We say sorry in words and also in actions. I know that as I think back at my dumb decisions and the people I hurt as a hot-headed teenager, I have tried to reach back out to those people and acknowledge my wrongs and ask for forgiveness. Why? Not because my childhood mistakes or a comment, or momentary bad choice will necessarily bring me to the gates of hell. But rather, each of us in taking the step to mend a brokenness or fault, we are, in theological terms, seeking life and renewal. Yes, sometimes sorry just is not enough when we feel too deeply hurt. Yet, when we do not seek life, when we do not seek to right the wrongs in our lives, we in fact pursue death and we deny God and His act of love!
My dears, sin is not like a stone we’ve thrown away, a missed opportunity, or mistake we can’t take back; sin is much more, and its scars run much deeper. Sin is a breaking of communion with God and each other. Therefore, a sin which leads to death, as St. John writes, is a brokenness that we choose not to recognize and a sin we do not repent of. A sin that leads to death is a sin we refuse to apologize for regardless, of if we can mend what was broken or not. That is why my dear brothers and sisters, we are taught to come and confess our sins to the priest – regardless of how serious or menial we may think our sin is. By confessing privately, we are acknowledging our brokenness and God sees that we are seeking a way to be renewed – to take back the stone that was thrown, the word that was said and the wound that was created and is festering in our lives.
Yes, my dears in life we learn very quickly that our words and actions have consequences. Yes, when we have been hurt it is difficult to see a real change in the person who has hurt us. At times, when we hurt others and want to acknowledge it, it is difficult to see a possibility of healing even from God. In life we make choices sometimes we wish we could take back. Yet, in order for sin to not fester, become infected and lead to death, we must recognize and seek God’s healing power. As for the rest of us, we must pray for each other’s healing. We must pray especially for the healing and forgiveness for the ones who hurt us, lest we fall into sin as well which leads to our own death. Christ Jesus, God the Son called from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” We pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive…”
Yes, my dears, we sin, we throw stones, we say words, and we miss opportunities. Let us not miss the opportunity to pray for one another and to recognize our own hurt for which true healing comes from God alone. For when our time to repent is gone, then will we truly be at the doorsteps of hell, broken from the communion of God and out of time. Then will we truly not be able to turn back and change what was said and done. May we turn to God our Heavenly Father, who through God the Son, Christ Jesus will heal us and by God the Holy Spirit will illuminate our minds to seek life, renewal and peace, Amen!