Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Too Many Sinners

Dear Friend,

I want you to know that this week’s AMEN Corner is very different from the ones that you may have read before. I’ve seen something in our church that I want to talk with you about and I need to keep this just between you and me. I’ve been feeling like I needed to talk with someone about this and you are the only one I know that I can trust to keep this confidential. Okay, I know what you’re thinking! But I wrote two AMEN Corners this week. Everyone else got some sappy sentimental thing I wrote about loving each other on Valentine’s Day (that’s the AMEN corner with the cute heart graphic). You are the only one getting this special AMEN Corner because it’s all those other people in our church that I wanted to talk with you about.

What I’ve been noticing lately is that our little church is filled with sinners. A few months back, a visitor brought the youngest sinner we’ve had. I know it looked innocent enough in its mother’s arms. They are all cute and cuddly at that age but they are the most selfish and self-centered people in our congregation. That little sinner woke up and cried out for attention without any concern for the rest of us who were engaging in an important religious activity. For awhile we had some sinners who were a few years older. Do you remember the children who had the impudence to be running around the fellowship hall, having fun and laughing while us adults were trying to enjoy our lunch?

I’ve noticed some sinners come into our church looking penitent and reflective on Sunday morning. Who knows what they’ve been doing during the past week. What movies or television shows they watched. What they said that hurt a loved one. What their thoughts were that they would be ashamed to admit to anyone else. They know they have sinned in thought, word and deed – and that was just in the car on the way to church!

You’re pretty observant like me so you probably noticed like I do that some of the sinners who attend our church come in happy and lighthearted without a care in the world as if sin was the furthest thing from their minds. They look very respectable and proper – even a bit saintly. Yeah. Sure! They don’t fool you or me for a moment! Some of the sinners at NHFC come in early so that they can get the good pews in the back and some come in late and have to sit up front. Some are older and some are younger. Some women and some men. Some who have money and some who scrape by on pennies. Short, tall, heavy and thin. What unites them is that they are all sinners.

And the most amazing thing of all – and I know you’re going to agree with me about this – is that the guy in our church that they call “pastor”?  He’s really the “chief sinner” of them all! That’s what the Apostle Paul called himself, but let me tell you that Paul was an angel compared with our pastor!

But I guess one thing I’m glad about is that our church is not like some others I’ve attended. I went to one church where everyone had to be a saint. The pastor was the chief saint and he expected us to be like him. I remember talking to a man who had to leave the church because he smoked. Then there was the guy who was asked to leave after he told the pastor he was gay. There was the family who was kicked out after their unmarried daughter became pregnant. Sinners were not allowed in that church and since I was in ministry leadership I had to pretend to be a saint like everyone else did.

If the truth be told, I really fit best in a church with other sinners who are seeking God’s forgiveness. No matter what I’ve done or have failed to do, when the prayer of confession is said before receiving Communion, and I can say “amen,” I feel the burden lift and I know that God has forgiven me. I know that Jesus came into the world to save sinners like me. (1 Tim 1:15) I know that Jesus called disciples like Peter, Matthew, John and the others who were sinners just like me. Jesus even got Himself into trouble for eating and drinking with sinners just like me. (Matthew 9:11-13). And then Jesus gave His own life for sinners like me...

Thank you for letting me ramble on and please remember to keep this all confidential. This has been very helpful for me. I like our church better now that I’ve been able to talk with you about this today. It helps when I realize that I can go to our church and I don’t have to pretend to be a saint when God knows that I’m a sinner saved by grace.