Sunday’s sermon: Losing Keys: Flawed but Still Following

lost keys

Text used – 1 John 1:5-2:6


  • So this summer, we’ve been working out way through Tish Harrison Warren’s Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices for Everyday Life[1], and as we get set to tackle chap. 4 this morning – “Losing Keys: Confession and the Truth About Ourselves.” So to kick this chapter off, I want to read you a list that Warren lays out at the beginning of this chapter. It’s called “Stages of Searching for Lost Objects.” Let’s just see if any of this sounds familiar, shall we?
    • [READ “Stages of Searching for Lost Objects”[2]]
    • Well, does that sound like something you’ve ever experienced? Maybe it’s not your keys. Maybe it’s your glasses. Maybe it’s your wallet or your checkbook. Maybe it’s some essential paperwork for your job or your kids’ school. Or you watch. Or a piece of jewelry. Or, God forbid, your cell phone! Our list of Potential Lost Things could go on and on.
      • Warren calls this frantic cycle of searching “the apocalypse” in the most exact and authentic sense of the word: Apocalypse literally means an unveiling or uncovering. In my anger, grumbling, self-berating, cursing, doubt, and despair, I glimpsed, for a few minutes, how tightly I cling to control and how little control I actually have. And in the absence of control, feeling stuck and stressed, those parts of me that I prefer to keep hidden were momentarily unveiled.[3] → It is in these apocalypse moments of our days – these moments that, for better or worse, truly unveil who we are at our most frazzled, most frustrated, and most vulnerable – that we are reminded of our less-than-perfect nature as human beings. It is in these moments that we are reminded that, no matter how much comfort we find in the delusion, we are, in fact, not in control. We are, in fact, not It is in these moments that we are reminded exactly why and how and how often we are in need of God’s benevolence: God’s forgiveness, God’s mercy, and God’s grace.
  • As both the books title – Liturgy of the Ordinary – and the chapter title – “Losing Keys: Confession and the Truth About Ourselves” – suggests, Warren comes at this recognition of our imperfections and our need for forgiveness from a liturgical standpoint: confession. → 3 facets of confession … all of which we also find in our Scripture reading for this morning from 1 John
    • Brief context for our Scripture reading this morning[4]
      • 1, 2, 3 John all authored by anonymous author → “the elder” (named in the openings of 2 and 3 John)
        • Unlikely that this John is at all related to the apostle John
        • Some scholars believe writer of these letters could have been the same person that wrote the gospel of John → no consensus on this
      • Uncertain dating
      • Uncertain community to which these letters were written
      • Nevertheless, the importance of 1, 2, and 3 John to our understanding of our faith is undeniable. These letters address essential topics like the nature of God, the personhood and divinity of Jesus Christ, and what it means to be a part of the Christian community.
    • Back to our theme for this morning – (Warren) 1st facet of confession = purpose for confession → our brokenness
      • Warren lays it out pretty starkly: When the day is lovely and sunny and everything is going according to plan, I can look like a pretty good person. But little things gone wrong and interrupted plans reveal who I really am; my cracks show and I see that I am profoundly in need of grace. But here’s the thing: pretty good people do not need Jesus. He came for the lost. He came for the broken. In his love for us he came to usher us into fondness and wholeness.[5]
      • Hear this echoed in our Scripture reading for this morning: This is the message that we have heard from him and announce to you: “God is light and there is no darkness in him at all.” If we claim, “We have fellowship with him,” and live in the darkness, we are lying and do not act truthfully. … If we claim, “We don’t have any sin,” we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. … If we claim, “We have never sinned,” we make him a liar and his word is not in us. … The one who claims, “I know him,” while not keeping his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in this person.[6] → With these words, the writer of John – the elder – makes it clear that there are times when we make mistakes. There are times when we don’t think we need God. There are times when we proclaim God with our lips but neglect to do so with our hands and our hearts.
        • Sometimes it’s something we’re intentionally trying to keep from God – something that we know is wrong, some sin that we think is too entwined with our days and our lives to feel like something we can give up
        • Sometimes it’s the small things, the things we think won’t matter – Warren points out that nothing is too small or too unnoticeable for God: When suffering is sharp and profound, I expect and believe that God will meet me in its midst. But in the struggles of my average day I somehow feel I have a right to be annoyed. The indignations and irritations of the modern world feel authentic and understandable. → Oh, how we like to feel justified in our frustrations and brokenness, righteous in our anger and irritation. But Scripture makes it clear that proclaiming God with our lips must line up with proclaiming God with our actions and our hearts as well … and when that doesn’t happen, we find ourselves broken and in need of confession.
    • Leads us to 2nd facet of confession = attitude of confession → repentance
      • Ps 51 (passage that we read during our Ash Wednesday service which ushers us into the season of Lent every year) = ancient Hebrew hymn of repentance: Because I know my wrongdoings, my sin is always right in front of me. I’ve sinned against you – you alone. I’ve committed evil in your sight. That’s why you are justified when you render your verdict, completely correct when you issue your judgment. … A broken spirit is my sacrifice, God. You won’t despite a heart, God that is broken and crushed.[7]
      • This morning’s NT Scripture passage – the 2nd half of each of the phrases we just read about confession: If we claim, “We do not have fellowship with him,” and live in the darkness, we are lying and do not act truthfully. But if we live in the light in the same way as he is in the light, we have fellowship with each other … If we claim, “We don’t have any sin,” we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just … The one who claims to remain in him out to live in the same way as he lived.[8]
      • Warren connects this attitude of repentance with the rhythms of our day-to-day: It’s not enough to merely want to be more content or to tell myself to cheer up. I need to cultivate the practice of meeting Christ in these small moments of grief, frustration, and anger, of encountering Christ’s death and resurrection – the big story of brokenness and redemption – in a small, gray, stir-crazy Tuesday morning. … Repentance and faith are the constant, daily rhythms of the Christian life, our breathing out and breathing in. … Repentance is not usually a moment wrought in high drama. It is the steady drumbeat of life in Christ and, therefore, a day in Christ.[9] → If we cannot come before Christ not only recognizing our broken places but seeking to change what broke those places in the first place – our pride, our aggression, our attitude, our judgment, our temper, our sin – then we are not coming to be changed but just to perform lip service. We are not coming with a contrite heart but a perfunctory one. We are not coming seeking true forgiveness but only a whitewashing of our sins so we can turn around and do them all over again.
        • Sort of like when you’re trying to get kids to apologize to each other when they don’t want to: “Say you’re sorry.” *heavy sign … eye roll … sarcastic tone* “Sor-ry.
    • Attitude of true repentance ushers in 3rd facet of confession = fruition of confession → forgiveness/God’s grace
      • Scripture for this morning: If we claim, “We have fellowship with him,” and live in the darkness, we are lying and do not act truthfully. But if we live in the light in the same way as he is in the light, we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from every sin. If we claim, “We don’t have any sin,” we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from everything we’ve done wrong. … My little children, I’m writing these things to you so that you don’t sin. But if you do sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is God’s way of dealing with our sins, not only ours but the sins of the whole world. … The love of God is truly perfected in whoever keeps his word. This is how we know we are in him.[10]
      • Warren: In these small moments that reveal my lostness and brokenness, I need to develop the habit of admitting the truth of who I am – not running to justify myself or minimize my sin. And yet, in my brokenness and lostness, I also need to form the habit of letting God love me, trusting again in [God’s] mercy, and receiving again [God’s] words of forgiveness and absolution over me. … Our failures or successes in the Christian life are not what define us or determine our worth before God our God’s people. Instead, we are defined by Christ’s life and work on our behalf.[11] → In those moments of brokenness – the big ones that shatter us completely and the small ones that just chip away at our edges bit by bit – we are confronted with our need for forgiveness. And we can either fly off the handle and let that need define us – running around frantically and angrily searching in vain – or we can turn to God through Christ, confess our brokenness, repent, and let the life and love and grace of God in Jesus Christ define us. So what will you choose? Amen.

[1] Tish Harrison Warren. Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press), 2016.

[2] Warren, 51-52.

[3] Warren, 52.

[4] C. Clifton Black. “The First, Second, and Third Letters of John: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections” in The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary series, vol. 12. (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1998), 365-378.

[5] Warren, 54.

[6] 1 John 1:5-6, 8, 10; 2:4.

[7] Ps 51:3-4, 17.

[8] 1 John 1:6-7, 8-9; 2:6 (emphasis added).

[9] Warren, 56, 57.

[10] 1 John 1:6-9; 2:1-2, 5.

[11] Warren, 56, 57.

3 responses to “Sunday’s sermon: Losing Keys: Flawed but Still Following

  1. Pingback: Sunday’s sermon: Fighting with My Husband: Pent-Up to Peace-Filled | Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

  2. Pingback: Sunday’s sermon: Sitting in Traffic: Unexpected, Unhurried, Unavoidable God | Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

  3. Pingback: Sunday’s sermon: Sleeping: Holiness in Rest | Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

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