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A LENTEN DEVOTIONAL - Bishop John Guernsey


By The Rt. Rev. John A. M. Guernsey
March 6, 2014

A church I know has a school for young children as part of its ministry. One day, the pastor dropped by the school library to visit with the children. He sat down next to a little girl, who was looking at a book for pre-readers, one of those with a picture and a single word on each page. "That's a truck," she said to him proudly. "That's a drum, that's a top, that's a ball." When she came to a picture of a hatchet, she said, "That's a hammer." Then she turned the page, and there was a picture of a hammer. She looked back at the hatchet, then at the hammer, then at the hatchet. Then she closed the book and smiling sweetly, said, "This is the library. We really shouldn't be talking in here."

How early we learn to try to cover up our sin, to make excuses, to justify ourselves, to minimize what we did. In this Lenten season, we seek the Lord and invite Him to convict us of sin. In Psalm 51, David says, "I know my transgressions," "my offenses," "my wickedness," "my sin."

He doesn't equivocate, he doesn't make excuses, he doesn't rationalize, as in: "it wasn't really wrong to cheat on my taxes since I pay too much anyway;" or, "everyone does it so it's OK;" or, "it was no big deal since it wasn't all that much money anyway."

We come before God in silence to listen to the Holy Spirit, and we invite Him to show us our sin, taking whatever time may be needed to see and deal with what He reveals. I think of dealing with sin as being like housecleaning. I can clean my house in five minutes.

(A 5-minute house cleaning means straightening a few things, shoving some things in a drawer, closing off a few rooms, kicking a dust bunny or two under the furniture.) Or I can clean my house in an hour. Or I can take all day to clean the house. I once spent nearly all of vacation going through the entire house, cleaning every surface, every closet, every drawer.

If the only self-examination of sin we make is in the 15 seconds on Sunday morning between "Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor" and the start of the prayer, then that's the spiritual equivalent of a 5-minute house cleaning.

In a 5-minute house cleaning, everything looks pretty good. But if you're doing a deeper cleaning, you get down on your knees and look closely at the gunk that's built up in the corner. You didn't notice it before, but does that mean the dirt wasn't there? No. It just took time to see it.

The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 4:4: "My conscience is clear but that does not make me innocent." In other words, just because I'm not bothered by something, doesn't mean it's not sin that I don't have to deal with. But sometimes I don't stop long enough to notice my sin. I don't acknowledge it.

Lent is a time to slow down and let the Lord do His revealing work, allowing Him to show us more and more our sinful thoughts and motives, our ungodly words and habits.

This Lent, let's allow the Lord to take us deeper and deeper as we spend time before Him, and when He shows us the hard truth about ourselves, let's confess it, turn away from it and receive the forgiveness and freedom that are ours in Jesus Christ, for "there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).

The Rt. Rev. John A. M. Guernsey is bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic (ACNA)

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