THE CHURCH WHITE LIE CAKE
Have you ever told a white lie? Alice was to bake a cake for the Church Ladies' Group, but forgot to do it until the last minute. She remembered it the morning of the bake sale and after rummaging through cabinets, found an angel food cake mix & quickly made it while drying her hair, dressing, and helping her son pack up for Scout camp. When she took the cake from the oven, the center had dropped flat and the cake was horribly disfigured and she exclaimed, "Oh dear, there is not time to bake another cake!" This cake was important to Alice because she did so want to fit in at her new church, and in her new community of friends. So, being inventive, she looked around the house for something to build up the center of The cake. She found it in the bathroom - a roll of toilet paper. She plunked it in and then covered it with icing. Not only did the finished product look beautiful, it looked perfect. And, before she left the house to drop the cake by the church and head for work, Alice woke her daughter and gave her some money and specific instructions to be at the bake sale the moment it opened at 9:30 and to buy the cake and bring it home. When the daughter arrived at the sale, she found the attractive, perfect cake had already been sold. Amanda grabbed her cell phone & called her mom. Alice was horrified-she was beside herself! Everyone would know! What would they think? She would be ostracized, talked about, ridiculed! All night, Alice lay awake in bed thinking about people talking about her behind her back. The next day, Alice promised herself she would try not to think about the cake and would attend the bridal shower at the home of a fellow church member and try to have a good time. She did not really want to attend, but having already RSVP'd , she couldn't think of a believable excuse to stay home. The meal was elegant, and, to Alice 's horror, the cake in question was presented for dessert! Alice felt the blood drain from her body when she saw the cake! She started out of her chair to tell the hostess all about it, but before she could get to her feet, another woman exclaimed, "What a beautiful cake!" Alice, still stunned, sat back in her chair when she heard the hostess (who was a prominent church member) say, "Thank you, I baked it myself.." Alice smiled and thought to herself, "God is good.”
As I prepared for this message, I glanced through a dozen messages online on this passage of scripture, seeing if I could glean a nice outline that made sense to me, or a good story. All of them that I read were coming from the angle of proving that sin is real. Perhaps that’s the most natural reading of this scripture. Many good sermons that have changed lives have been preached from such an approach. The problem I see is that as I look at our congregation, and our community, I think most people are already convinced we are sinners. I’d be telling you that which you already agree. “There is no-one righteous, not even one” the scripture says (Rom. 3:10). You are a sinner. Rom. 3:9: Everyone is “under sin.”
Read through the list of sins that follows, a natural response is to NOT own up to everything on the list…Here is Rom. 3:11-18 from the Good News Bible…
no one who is wise or who worships God.
All have turned away from God; they have all gone wrong;
no one does what is right, not even one.
Their words are full of deadly deceit; wicked lies roll off their tongues,
and dangerous threats, like snake's poison, from their lips;
their speech is filled with bitter curses.
They are quick to hurt and kill; 16 they leave ruin and destruction wherever they go.
They have not known the path of peace, nor have they learned reverence for God.
Nobody escapes the fact of sin. Harsh words to hear. To be a Christian is to be humbled… I am a sinner.
A word of explanation especially for those young in the faith, new to the ideas of Christianity. An important concept that can be so confusing in the Bible – what in the world is the Bible talking about in Rom. 3:19-20. (read). The idea of this is simple. A few months ago I was standing in the RV Park and within the space of about five minutes, at least three cops pulled over three speeders. It was like Christmas time with all the lights. On what basis did those speeders get pulled over: the basis of the law. The speed signs go from 50 to 35 to 25. If there was no law, there would be no such thing as speeding. And some of you would be happy! Speeding laws define the sin of speeding. If there was no law of ownership, there would be no sin of steeling. If there were no drug laws, there would be no way to break the law. By the way, take drugs as an example, there are more than legal laws governing drugs, there are also the laws of nature, you will become addicted if you abuse drugs, it’s a law of nature, if you speed excessively, you will get out of control, it’s a law of nature. We must all live under the speeding laws.
God also has laws, what he asks of us. How to live. This is an excellent reason for reading the Bible and to be a part of a community of faith, small groups, in order to discover what God asks of us and to learn from others how they navigate this old world as a Christian. to seek to live in obedience, to be a loving person, to do that which is right towards your neighbor, to make a positive difference, to live a purposeful life.
Nobody can obey the law perfectly. Legal laws, God’s laws, you cannot do it. You will fall short. “No one is righteous, not even one” (Rom. 3:10). One of the influential people in this world to me was Ruth Glass… back in my Nooksack days, one of the young people became pregnant. I used to meet with the ladies on Thursdays for prayer… As we discussed prayer requests, the news of the pregnancy was common, Ruth, a woman of few words, spoke up bluntly and said of this young girl, “it could have been me.” Ruth was not excusing the girl whatsoever. What she was doing was sitting alongside the girl and saying we are all sinners, I have failed, too. We are in this together. Nobody can perfectly obey God’s requirements. What the law does is make us aware of our sins. Submit to God’s laws, and you will have an awareness of your true sinful nature. This is extremely Good News. 19 Now we know that everything in the Law applies to those who live under the Law, in order to stop all human excuses and bring the whole world under God's judgment.20 For no one is put right in God's sight by doing what the Law requires; what the Law does is to make us know that we have sinned. (GNB).
God’s judgment is good. What’s right about being wrong? What’s right is that when you are aware of your sins, then God can finally do something with you. A counselor cannot help anybody until they recognize their needs. I am honored to get in a lot of homes in this community. I kinda sorta knew one family for several years, then a few months ago I was honored to walk inside the house. The first words out of the mother’s mouth, she did not even look at me, she glanced up, saw it was me and said, “I need money.” That was it, that’s all she wanted from me. The people that can be helped are those who say, “I have hit the bottom, God, now raise me up. I am a sinner, now mold me.” What’s right about being wrong is that finally God can impact you, finally he can put his spirit in you and transform you from the inside out. There is something healthy about recognizing we are all sinners.
The list of sins in Rom. 3:10-18, there are many ways to respond, you can deny you are a sinner…, you can become depressed and hopeless…., or you can read it as an opportunity and invitation for God to do something. The handle came off my tub/shower in my house. I told Sally I can fix this. A.J. called me right in the middle of me trying to fix this stupid faucet – I felt like cursing AJ out, not because it was AJ, but because he was the one that happened to call. I would have wanted to curse out my mother, too, so don’t take it personally. At one point, and this is no joke, I know it’s not normally a plumbers tool, but I even had a hammer out. It took me half an hour to finally admit that I don’t know what I am doing, so now that I’ve gotten through my little stubborn hissy fit, the faucet can finally be fixed right. You can deny, you can be hopeless and depressed, or you can ask for help…
“There is no one who is righteous, not even one…” Work through all the possible responses, work through the stubborn human nature, and then at last you will find freedom when you embrace this truth as an opportunity for God to transform your life, because you cannot do it on your own, you cannot perfectly obey God’s laws, you cannot find peace by digging in your heels and trying harder, the only way to find the peace of God is to humbly submit your life to the Lord Jesus Christ asking him to forgive your sins and commit your life to him.
What’s right about being wrong. We are in this together. The towering truth of this scripture is that a wide net is cast of who is a sinner. “All, all, all,” Paul thunders, “no one who does good, not even one.”
I was given a wonderful gift recently. The small A.A. book, inscribed, “Pastor Carl, I hope you can get some kind of understanding of alcoholism by reading this.” I am an outsider to alcoholism, clearly there are patterns and thoughts unique to alcoholism. But I am no stranger to sin. This book, while being a lifesaver for many struggling with the unique issues of alcoholism, is based on what is common.
What’s right with being wrong? We are brought together with a common need before God. I like the way this book states it: “We are people who would not normally mix.” In the AA book, the point being driven home is that alcoholism effects those who are rich and poor, all races, all ages, people who have been in Sumas a short time, and those forever – something in common. Paul repeatedly stresses all are sinners, we are in this together, there is something healthy and right about finding a common condition. How can I possibly see myself as superior to anybody else because I am a sinner like you. Change the details, and Ruth Glass saw herself as no different from the young pregnant girl. There is something right about being in it together. There is something healing. READ AA pg. 17-18… (Note: Not printed out for website, sorry!)
What’s right about being wrong is that when you finally see yourself as a sinner, that is when God can begin to change and transform you to find peace. What’s right about being wrong is that this truth of the human condition is what binds us together causing us to see ourselves and others in a light of truth. A Church is a community of sinners humbly recognizing our common need and submitting ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ to transform and change us. Amen.