This is from the sermon I preached to the Christ Conscious Community in Norwich on 24th Nov 2013
It comes straight from my notes - I don't believe in reading every word I preach!
Sin is a controversial, emotive subject; what I say won’t reflect all members’ (or readers') views.
My relationship with sin: I was brought up in a strict evangelical nonconformist church, where despite the love of God and Calvary, we wrestled with guilt and doubt/fear that God could stop loving us and we could push Him too far and send us to hell anyway. There’s a sense of worthlessness in mainstream Christinaity, eg Anglican liturgy’s words “unworthy to gather crumbs, miserable vile offenders, no health in us.” Calvinism teaches ‘total depravity’.
I call it worm theology and I intend to write a book called "The worm shall writhe no more" and invite people to get off the floor and stand - the hymn says, bold I approach the eternal throne (not slither)!
Shock (remember I'm standing in an anglican church saying this): I don’t believe in sin – yes there’s wrong doing, but that's something else. I try to avoid hurting others (the ultimate bottom line for ethics) and if I do, I put it right. It’s that simple!
The burden of sin left me when I read James Alison – he ‘unpicked atonements knots’ and showed another way to understand what Jesus did on the cross. He said that atonement's a theory, not a doctrine [I here explained penal substitution theory, that Jesus took our deserved punishment to oppease an angry father God]. For Alison, sin’s too big a character in the story – it’s bigger than God. In his book, On Being Liked, Alison realises we are not loved in this cold magnanimous dutiful way by God – but liked for who we are. Jesus died to show he is nothing to do with world of violence, revenge, and punishment. He submits, subverts and overcomes it.
1 John 4: There is no fear in perfect love for perfect love drives out all fear – fear is to do with punishment.
I realised I had a deep experiential knowledge of God’s love and acceptance. I was inspired by Neale Donald Walsch who wrote of his Conversations with God, and he put into words something I realised I already knew: God is our best thought, our highest thought, our most loving thought; or in the words of my forthcoming novel: "God is the stage backcloth peeking through the scenery; She is the sun behind the clouds; and what gets in the way is what is said about God, what the church says, how the Bible is interpreted." I’ll be controversial and say that I have come to believe that sometimes the Bible is the dominant human understanding rather than God’s words – we discern this on an experiential level.
And God therefore isn't a God who crushes us, who make us forever guilty and beholden for his act of 'mercy' and wants us to love him in the right way, or still be cast out. God is not full of retribution and ticking off, telling us we’ve missed the mark again, reminding us of our smallness and weakness and badness. He doesn't have list of killjoy off limit activities - something which has been used as social control by religious institutions, and an excuse to judge others over.
God is a God who loves with an infinite, passionate gentleness and acceptance.
He sees us stumbling as we walk out to meet Him on the water and he holds out a hand – he does not say we sink because of the weight of our sin – but reminds us to trust and be held.
The crux of God’s message for me is Jesus’ statement that he has come so that we might live life to the full, or abundantly. There’s much talk of abundance in mind body spirit circles, and the belief that if we access what is within, that this abundance is ours. I know not all might agree with that but I suspect several of us here meditate as a way of allowing that deeper inner knowledge and wisdom to speak. I believe our soul is the part of us that is closest to God and when we remove our blocks to access that regularly and freely, that our lives move more into flow – not that I’m any expert on that yet. I wonder if others might agree that we might call sin is what stops us from doing that, from being all that we can be – for when love and joy of connection and wholeness flows though us, like champagne at a wedding, it pours onto the next glass and the next....
I know we’ll have differences of opinion but I hope we can all agree on this – that though we and the world are not yet perfect, that what we might call sin has been dealt with, it is overcome and it can continue to be overcome. We do not have to live with the fear because of what we’ve done or the blocks any longer. And our service will invite you to experience that.
Remember - you are liked and (as Brian Thorne says) infinitely beloved by God. Rise off the floor and take off your sackcloth and ashes, and bask in her forgiving, sempiternal incandescent light