Free and flawed

March 7, 2011

For more commentary on this week's readings, see
the Reflections
on the Lectionary
page, which includes Wells's current Living by
the Word column as well as past magazine and blog content. For full-text access
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Century.

The first Sunday of Lent is the best time of the year to talk about sin.
Many people in the church, especially the mainline church, are stuck when
it comes to the overlap of sin and sensuality. No one really wants to be
the pastor who comes over all judgmental about sex. Everyone is aware that
negative attitudes toward the body lead to a host of ills, including
eating disorders and various kinds of self-rejection. Many laypeople are
aware of the theological turn toward original goodness, and it has become
hopelessly unfashionable to associate the Fall narrative with sexuality in
any way.

But that leaves us with nothing to say about sin in general--and no
positive way of talking about sensuality without turning it into some kind
of blanket affirmation.

In the Century lectionary column for this week, I attempt to address these
cul-de-sacs with compassion, understanding and a fresh theological
perspective. I make a connection between the Fall and adolescence--not to
pillory adolescence, but to a recognition that both involve a loss of
innocence and a change in relationship to one’s own body.

Nakedness is a way of talking about the complexity of the human
condition--free, flawed, but capable of being joyously embraced and
renewed by God. A sermon for the first Sunday of Lent should prepare the
congregation to enter a period of introspection and truth-telling, but in
a way that points to Jesus--especially the cross--and carries with it the
hope and promise of resurrection.