We’re each both, at all times.
Music: Don Henley, “The Heart of the Matter”
It’s The William Tell Show. I call myself William Tell;
you can call me Bill. Thank you for including me
in your world. It’s wonderful to be included.
Christmas is coming, and the question becomes
how to think about thinking about Christmas.
Reindeer play no role in my thoughts about Christmas.
It’s all about the baby Jesus. Why did he come?
In the end, it’s not about Christmas, but Easter.
Without Easter, there’d be no point in Christmas.
Easter is when the adult Jesus finally overcame sin, death and the grave, and obtained for us
the forgiveness of our sins.
So, it’s really all about forgiveness.
Christmas, that is.
About how God forgives us,
and how we can forgive one another.
However, in the way I see the world today,
it’s mainly about how humans forgive each other,
and also how we can forgive ourselves.
The word “sin” doesn’t mean exactly the same thing in the Old Testament as in the New.
In Hebrew, three different words to refer to wrongdoing, whereas in the Greek New Testament there’s only one.
In the Hebrew Bible, the English word “sin” normally translates the Hebrew word chet. This normally refers to a mere mistake, an unintended wrongdoing.
The English word “iniquity” normally translates the Hebrew word avon. This is an occasion when one gets carried away by one’s emotions, and does wrong.
The third Hebrew word is pesha; this is normally translated as “transgression,” and is the most serious kind of offense. This refers to a willful disobedience against God. One knows that one’s plan is wrong, but one goes ahead and does the wrong thing anyway.
In the New Testament, only one word, hamartion,
refers to any kind of wrongdoing,
and is normally translated “sin.”
The Old Testament and New Testament also set forth different models of forgiveness.
In the New Testament, it is said that
if one believes in Jesus,
then Jesus’ death on the cross
becomes the basis for God’s forgiveness of one’s sins;
that Jesus paid the price for our sins, in our place.
The Jewish view is far simpler and more direct,
and in my own mind is to be preferred.
According to Judaism, if one only repents of one’s sins, God will forgive. And that’s enough.
Let’s take a break.
The Apostle Paul seems to paint a portrait of spiritual growth as a matter of becoming more and more a saint and less and less a sinner. There is an implied worldview in the New Testament, of the world being divided into two groups: the righteous on the one hand, and “sinners” on the other. That’s pretty much what I myself believed, as a child.
Martin Luther had the insight that that just isn’t so.
He said every child of God is both a saint and a sinner, at the same time, and all the time. No matter how righteous one may be, one is sure to fall into sin of one sort or another almost every day. So, the righteous child of God has the task of engaging in self-examination daily, repenting of one’s sin and accepting God’s forgiveness. The person who does this, he said, is “born again” — again — every day.
There is a need daily to forgive others for the sins they have committed against us, as well as accept God’s forgiveness for our own sins.
The feelings of resentment, the anger, the grudges I may hold against other people — these must be purged.
My own feelings of remorse and guilt and shame
must be purged also.
The Life Force that is present in each one of us
can be like a fire on the altar of one’s heart.
In prayer or meditation, one can take all of these
ugly feelings, and lay them on the altar of one’s heart,
and let that fire burn them,
until they are completely gone.
The music for today is Don Henley’s “The Heart of the Matter.”