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\\ "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer."
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"For the Love Of God is Forgiving"
(Luke 7:36-50)
            The headlines,  news reports and newspaper stories all make it very clear that there is something out of kilter in our world.
Whether you agree with its content or not, the crime bill is the biggest of its kind.
It's because dealing with crime is on everyone's mind.
Who'll be the next victim of a drive by shooting or a drug problem.
Who'll be the next victim of gang violence or a drunk driver.
While the Peace Talks are going on in the Middle East between Israel and Jordan and the Palestinians, the fighting, bombings and killings continue.
Even though the IRA has called a cease fire causing Irish Protestant and Catholic relations to take a giant step forward, another explosion injured people on a passenger train.
A homeless man was beaten to death by five members of a gang in what the police are calling a "thrill kill".
Infidelity, theft on the job, back stabbing, lying, cheating, guns on the freeway and the general attitude of society that preaches, /"Don't get mad, get even."/
and /"Do unto others before they do unto you."/
We've been taught that people are basically good, that we are created in God's Image and we should love our neighbors as ourselves.
But it is awful hard to remember that when you're driving in rush hour traffic and you keep getting cut off.
It is hot, your car is hot, you are hot, both physically and under the collar.
You don't want to love your neighbors, you want to blow the idiots away.
Or you come out of the Mall and find a dent in your car and a note on the windshield that reads: /"I've just smashed into your car.
The people who saw the accident are watching me.
They think I am writing down my name and address.
They're wrong."
/And that's the end of the note.
No signature, nothing.
It doesn't take too many minutes of watching CNN or the evening news or just living out in the world to realize that there is something wrong somewhere.
What is it?
What would cause someone to scratch: /"Your God is dead and no one cares"/ on the door of the Church?
What is the cause of all the violence, greed, corruption and abuse?
What's the root problem and cause of it all?
The Biblical answer is simple.
But it's an answer we don't like.
We don't like it one bit.
The Biblical answer to the root cause of our problems is that little, three lettered word that sticks in our craw, "SIN."
*            *We don't like that word.
It's ugly and it pushes all the wrong buttons.
It makes us feel guilty and we don't like to feel guilty.
It smacks of judgement, and we don't want anyone sitting in judgement of us.
It points out our imperfections, faults and frailties; and we don't want to know about our imperfections, faults and frailties.
We don't want to admit that we can be wrong or make mistakes.
We don't like the word but the Biblical witness is that /"there is no distinction, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."/ (Romans 3:22-23)  Jesus himself said, )/"Those who are well have no need of a physician, only those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners."/
(Mark 2:17)
            In the first letter to his protege, Timothy, the Apostle Paul writes: /"The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the foremost."/
(1 Tim.
            We don't like it but the Biblical witness is that we are sinners.
So what does that mean.
It simply means that we've broken the relationship with God.
We were created in God's Image and yet we've broken that image; broken relationships with others; and broken ourselves.
We are the broken people, the walking wounded.
There's another way that I like to talk about sin.
Some years ago, during a visit to Yellowstone Park, one writer observed that the only animal that the grizzly bear would share his food with was a skunk.
It wasn't that the grizzly bear wanted to share his food with the skunk but rather that the grizzly bear chose to share his food.
With one swing of his powerful paw the grizzly could have crushed the skunk.
So why does the grizzly allow the skunk to eat with him?
Because the grizzly bear knew the high cost of slapping the skunk.
            Early in  life, we all learned what it means to break the rules.
We learned that disobedience has its consequences.
And yet everyone of us has wound up breaking the rules.
We've all done what we knew was wrong.
We've all been selfish and done what we wanted and not what God wanted.
We've all slapped the skunk.
We knew what the consequences would be and yet we did it anyway.
And now we're stuck with the stink.
We're stuck with it and we don't like it.
Those around us don't like it any more than we like theirs.
For me slapping the skunk is a parable of sin.
Slapping the skunk is disobedience.
Slapping the skunk  is breaking our relationship with God and with each other.
Living life apart from God stinks.
When everyone is self-centered and selfish, life stinks.
You can't live life like a skunk without someone getting wind of it.
*            A.
WE RUN FROM IT:     *Now, we try to deny  it.
We get busy with our schedules and agendas so we don't have to think about it.
Or we get busy thinking that we can fix it ourselves.
Sometimes we can fix a broken relationship but most of the time we're only fooling ourselves and our busy-ness is a diversion.
We're actually running form the truth that we've slapped the skunk.
Nobody I know likes the smell of a skunk.
One night I was returning home from visiting some prospective members and I was driving down a blacktopped country road, a road without the benefit of street lights.
All of a sudden I saw something in the middle of the road.
At first I didn't know what it was.
It waddled and walked like a skunk but I could tell by the light of my headlights that it didn't have that telltale stripe down its back.
By the time I saw the faint glimmering of the very thin stripe, it was too late.
I swerved to the right and then to the left, trying to avoid this odiferous friend.
However, my efforts were in vain.
I held my breath and ran over the skunk.
I literally ran right over the top of it.
Somehow in all the maneuvering, I had missed actually hitting the skunk and went right over the top of it.
I could see it running off, tail in the air, in the rear view mirror.
I sighed a big sigh of relief.
And then I did what we all would have done.
I flexed my nostrils and carefully took a tentative sniff to find out the extent of the damages.
I was surprised and relieved when I couldn't smell a thing.
Ten minutes later I was home and getting out of the car.
That's when the smell hit me.
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