“If We Say We Are Without Sin …” was a sermon preached by Pastor John Valentine in conjunction with our worship service on June 6, 2021 — the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost. The text upon which it is based is 1 John 1:1-10.
“If We Say We Are Without Sin …”
Pentecost 2 (NL3) John B. Valentine
1 John 1:1-10 June 6, 2021
“If We Say We Are Without Sin ...”
It’s summer ... folks!
Well .... maybe not quite yet on the official solar calendar and all ... but still ... IT’S SUMMER ... or at least it feels like it is!
Anyhow ... I suspect you can’t help but notice that summer has brought with it:
• A change in local traffic patterns ... because there’s no school traffic for the next couple of months ...
• And a change in local weather patterns ... because the summer marine layer has begun building just off the coast over there ...
• And a change in our preaching patterns ... because every year about this time we pause from our regular rhythms and take a deep dive into one of the books of the Bible.
And so ... it comes to pass that the book we’re going to be looking at for the next couple of months is a book ... a letter actually ... which is known to us as “First John.”
But rather than starting with a bit of background information about who John was and where he lived and that sort of thing ... I want to start out today with a mystery ... the mystery of our latest vacuum cleaner.
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You see ... it must have been a couple of years ago now that my beloved decided that she’d like a new vacuum cleaner.
And not just any ol’ vacuum cleaner ... one of those new ... rechargeable ... cordless ... lightweight ones.
Anyhow ... the FIRST thing that happened was that I tried to reason her out of it ... because that’s what I do ...
Explaining that we already have a fancy ‘whole house vac’ that is perfectly good ...
But she trumped that by reminding me of what a hassle it was to trek out to the garage and haul in this thirty-foot-long vacuum hose even if she just wanted to do a quick little ready-up.
Then I tried the ‘effectiveness’ argument ...
Citing a recent article in Consumers’ Report that questioned just how well those new cordless vacuum wands work ...
But she trumped that by saying that she could live with a ‘less than perfect’ vacuum if it meant things got vacuumed more often.
Then ... before I could martial any more excuses ... she offered me the opportunity to take on the primary vacuuming responsibilities myself ...
And I had to cry “Uncle” at that one.
The long-and-short-of-which was that ... a week or so later ... we purchased on of those new-fangled vacuums over at Costco ... and ... I have to confess ... it has worked pretty darned well!
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But there’s something about that new vacuum that has really ... REALLY ... surprised me.
• Betwixt the old commercial upright that we had in our house for the first two decades years of our marriage ...
• And the whole house vacuuming system that came already installed when we bought our home in Moraga ...
You never really saw the dirt that the vacuum had picked up.
You simply had to change or empty the bag every once in a very long while.
But this new cordless vac has a clear plastic chamber right up near the handle that let’s you see al the stuff which you’ve swept up off the floor ...
And when it fills up ... you go and knock that dirt and dust directly into the trash can.
But the shock ... at least to me ... has been HOW MUCH DIRT AND DUST that vacuum picks up ... which is really just a larger reminder of ‘how much dirt and dust’ that just IS in our homes and our lives and all!
And every time you’ve got to take the vacuum out to empty it ... you’re confronted by the reality that there is far more dirt and dust in our lives than I am able to see ... and FAR more dirt and dust in our lives than I am eager to admit!!
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You see ... the first chapter of First John is focused on dealing with dirt.
NOT the household kind that our new cordless vacuum is designed to deal with ... but the interior ... internal ... kind of dirt that is at the heart of “the human condition”
“Sin” ... the Bible calls it.
Truth be told ... we don’t much like to talk about sin these days.
• Some in our society would like to sanitize the problem and call ‘sin’ by another name.
“Mistakes were made” ... we say. “Misjudgment” .... “Creative accounting” .... “Good intentions gone awry” .... “Well-meaning people just making errors in judgment” ... stuff like that!
• Others just want to blame it all on ‘mental illness’ ....
As if somehow cleaning up everyone’s ‘mental health’ would magically solve all of the violence and abuse issues which plague our nation these days.
• Still others would on the blame squarely on individual and/or corporate greed ...
Insisting that if Wall Street and Madison Avenue and the Silicon Valley were just a bit more socially-minded ... we wouldn’t face all these issues which seem
We forget that “sin” is what Martin Luther called “incurvatus en se” ... “turned in upon oneself”edness”.
That basic human desire to do anything and everything to the benefit of “me, myself and I”.
There are lots of folks who would like us to say that “sin doesn’t exist anymore”.
In the name of tolerance ... they’ve closed their eyes to all the suffering caused by humans to each other.
• Perhaps they can’t see the broken-hearted.
• Perhaps they can’t see the broken-souls.
• Perhaps they can’t see the broken bodies which come from human hands.
And they write it all off as an alternative world-view of which we need to be respectful.
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But truth is .... sin is as common as the dirt and dust in our homes.
Sin is as ubiquitous as dirt tracked onto the just-cleaned kitchen floor by that clumping ignoramus who forgot to remove his shoes after doing yard work ....... again.
Sin is the ultimate three-letter four-letter word ... that speaks volumes about what we don’t want to hear:
• about us ....
• about our treatment of one another ...
• about our attitudes toward God.
Problem is ... the Creator of Heaven and Earth takes a more serious view of sin than do we.
That that yawning gap between divine selflessness and human selfishness is something God just won’t leave be.
That while sin may well be common to the human condition ... God doesn’t want to leave it at that!
While some in our society would tell us to collective shrug our shoulders and say “It is what it is” ... the Creator of Heaven and Earth says “No way.”
In fact ... the very problem that the second and third parts of the Apostles’ Creed hopes to solve is the goodness created in the first part of that creed is undone by human selfishness.
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How is it that 1 John 1 puts it?
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you: that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.
If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Point being ... even though we might not want to take sin very seriously ... God does.
So seriously ... in fact ... that God sent Jesus to do our soul-cleaning for us ... precisely because we can’t do it for ourselves.
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I had someone ask me the other day if I actually still “believe in sin”.
And I was feeling snarky enough to actually say “No ... I don’t.”
You see ... I don’t need to “believe” in sin ... because it is something I can SEE in myself every day of my life. I KNOW that sin exists!
• I’m a sin-filled human being.
• I’ve got my priorities mixed up.
• I’d much rather trust myself than God.
I don’t need to “believe” in sin ... quite frankly ... because I know that I sin.
On the other hand:
• I believe in God’s forgiveness.
• I believe in a God who’s there to pick us up when we fall.
• I believe in a God who’s willing to love us precisely when we’re most unlovable.
• I believe in a God who refuses to let our self-centered attitudes and actions stand in the way of our relationships with God.
• I believe in a God who says, “You belong to me.”
And to that, I hope you’ll say “AMEN!”