Sermon in a nutshell: Forgiveness is given (Leviticus 16:29-34)
Everybody needs forgiveness
Last Sunday, we celebrated our Independence Day and remembered the sacrifices of our ancestors. However, this Sunday, we want to repent the sins that our ancestors and we have committed. We are all sinners and we need to repent our sins to have a healthy relationship with God and with neighbors.
During our Annual Conference Session this year we had time for repentance. One Native American pastor came up and shared the suffering his tribe has had. His experiences demonstrated all the sufferings that Native Americans had during the beginning of our national history. Our bishop, Warner Brown Jr., asked us to take a time of silence, repenting our corporate sin that we committed against the brothers and sisters of the Native American tribes. Our bishop was actually following the example of the General Conference in 2012 where all the delegates repented our sins that we committed against Native American brothers and sisters.
Behind the great achievements of our ancestors, there are sorrows and sufferings of the Native American Indians. The Bible always reminds us of the sinful nature of our human life. It makes us humble. Even when we enjoy our freedom and celebrate great success, the Bible helps us to remember those who are marginalized and helpless. That is why the Bible keeps the Day of Atonement at the center of Leviticus.
We tend to forget our sinfulness and boast our successes.
Without these regular reminders, we humans tend to forget our sinfulness and instead boast of our successes. We tend to take everything that we enjoy for granted. However, while we are exercising at the gym to burn extra calories, we must remember that there are people who do not have food to sustain their lives. While we are using water for our lawns, we know there are people who do not even have proper drinking water. This is our human condition. With all the best efforts, we cannot live a day without committing sins.
What shall we do in this dilemma?
In this human situation, we can do two things. First, we can keep our humble attitudes. Secondly, we can do our best to live together.
First, we can keep our humble attitudes.
We need to come to church every week and remind ourselves that we are sinners. We can easily forget that fact and start boasting about our successes. Even when we help others with our money and talents, this humble attitude helps us to stay connected to our human reality. The Bible has a system: Once a week, there is a Sabbath; once a month, there is a new moon; once a year, there is a Day of Atonement. We read about these regular sacrifice times a lot in the book of Leviticus. These regular times of reflection helps us to stay humble. We can accept other sinners when we accept our sinfulness. We can agree to disagree. We can tolerate the flaws of others with much empathy.
Secondly, we can do our best to live together.
Even though we cannot save all the people in the world, we can make a difference for one life. Today, our youth members went to UMC of Redwoods in Klamath (Native American church). I blessed them this morning just before our 8 AM worship service. When we repent our sins against the Native American Indians, we do not just say sorry but we need to do something for their well being. That is what our eight youth members and three adult volunteers are doing this week.
We did our VBS to raise our next generation of Christians, the kingdom workers. We want to share the same materials and resources with the next generation of Native American Christians. In that way, our descendants will live together even though our ancestors fought against each other.
We break the bread every month to remember the price of our sins.
In Leviticus, the Bible says, “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.” However, we do not observe the Day of Atonement any more. Why? Because when Jesus died on the Cross, the curtain between the Holy of the Holies (The Most Holy Place in the Temple) and the Holy Place was torn down. The Bible says that when the body of Jesus was pierced, the curtain was torn apart to show that the road to forgiveness was now wide open. Only the High Priest could go into the Holy of the Holies. Now everybody can confess his or her sins directly to God and receive forgiveness by God. However, Jesus had to pay the price for our freedom.
The Holy Communion that we receive every month is a reminder of that fact. While we receive the Holy Communion, therefore, we reflect on these points:
- Jesus shared his life with us and we want to share our lives with others.
- When we share our lives, we want to share our time, talents, and money.
- When we share our lives, we still do not want to boast about ourselves.
- When we keep our humble attitude, we accept others as valuable children of God.
- In this way, we want to build a community of love where everybody can live together.
Questions for small group discussion:
- What would you do to build up a relationship with Native American Indians?
- What are the means of Grace that you use to maintain your humble attitude?