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       Sermons | Passionate worship

      This sermon was preached by Pastor Keith Cardwell at Swift Presbyterian Church.

      March 17, 2019 | Second Sunday in Lent

      Dirty Laundry
      James 5:13–16

       J AMES WRITES in practical, down-to-earth terms. This is not in-depth truths and doctrines of the Christian faith. This letter is more nuts and bolts of how to live as a Christian. Wisdom and guidance for our day-to-day lives.

      James instructs about care for people who are part of the faith community, a letter to us right here in the piney woods.

      ■ James reminds us that the church is to be a healing community. We are to care for the sick and the suffering within our congregation. We are to pray for them. We are to anoint them with oil.

      ■ James also says that we are to pray for forgiveness within people’s hearts and between people so that there will be healing within hearts and between people.

      ■ James says that if certain people wander away from Christ, we are to bring them back to this community of compassion and healing.

       † † † 

      THESE ARE SIMPLE and primary issues that we face every day of our lives: sickness and suffering; sin and separation.

      But this is not an operations manual for the pastor/church staff. This is the nitty-gritty work of the people of God within the community of God. James writes to each of us.

      Each of these very basic issues could be our focus today. But on this Sunday in Lent, we look at what James says about sin.

      “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”

       † † † 

      FIRST OF ALL, this reminds us that we are sinners. Our tendency is to come to worship on Sunday and pretend to be something that we’re not. We act like our lives are together. All is going well. Life is grand. We are at peace with ourselves, with others and with God. We pretend to be happy at the expense of honesty.

      Theologian Walter Brueggemann writes:

      “Churches should be the most honest place in town, not the happiest place in town.”

      The book Searching for Sunday confronts us with the reality that often the holiest hour of the week is not on Sunday morning but on Tuesday night at the AA meeting. There in the fellowship hall a mixed group of people engage in the sacred act of telling one another the truth. They admit their powerlessness and dependency. They confess to God, to themselves, and to one another the exact nature of their wrongs. They ask for help. They summon the courage to expose their darkness to the light: “My name is Jeremy, and I’m an alcoholic.”

       † † † 

      WHY IS THIS? Why our reluctance to share our dirty laundry, to be honest? to fake it?

      For one, we believe it when Carrie Underwood proclaims, “All the Ajax in the world ain’t gonna clean your dirty laundry.”

      Something about our sin is different. Our sin is too much, too different, too unforgiving, too embarrassing — even for the One who came to rescue us from the power of sin. So we bear it in silence.

      Also, we well know the painful reality that some people’s greatest sin is gossip. And if we share our weaknesses they whisper our sins all over town tomorrow — no, this afternoon.

      Another: We fear people will use it against us. As Don Henley sang:

      We love to cut you down to size
      We love dirty laundry

       † † † 

      AND THAT’S UNFORTUNATE. But there are people we can trust. People with whom we can share our brokenness. People who will love us in our pain and suffering. People who will care for us and walk with us through confession, forgiveness and recovery. But it requires honestly.

      Dietrich Bonhoeffer knew well the condition of the church.

      “The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal sin from himself and from the fellowship. We dare not be sinners …. So we remain alone in our sin, living lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we ARE sinners.”

      But you know our tendency. We want to drop a few pounds before we join Planet Fitness. We clean the bathroom before the house-cleaning service arrives. We have to get our act together before we come to church. Because church is for people who have their act together. A place for “spiritually healthy” people. So, we fake it. We show up at church and pretend we don’t need help. We pretend we don’t need forgiveness. We pretend we aren’t afraid. “Hi, I’m Keith and I totally have my act together.”

       † † † 

      TODAY, HERE, IN THIS PLACE are people with their materialism. Their pride. Their petty grievances. Today, here, in this place, are people who fear death, who are desperate to be loved. Come with troubled marriages and persistent doubts, and concern about status and image.

      Today, here in this place are people with addictions — to substances, to work, to affirmation, to control, to food. And we don’t know because we are afraid to be honest with ourselves, others and with God.

      The truth is people bond more deeply over shared brokenness than they do over shared beliefs.

       † † † 

      IMAGINE SWIFT BEING a place where everyone is safe. A community where no one is uncomfortable. Imagine this being a place where we tell the truth about ourselves. Imagine broken people wanting to be part of this community because we welcome, struggle, and seek forgiveness just like they do.

      Imagine Swift Presbyterian Church as a place where we shed our masks; we air our dirty laundry before God and everybody because we when we do it together we don’t have to be afraid.

      “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”

      — Keith Cardwell   

      «Today, here in this place are people with addictions — to substances, to work, to affirmation, to control, to food. And we don’t know because we are afraid to be honest with ourselves, others and with God.»


      James 5:13–16
      Holy Bible, New International Version

      The Prayer of Faith
      13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

      — The Word of God for the people of God.
      — Thanks be to God.

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      23208 Swift Church Road
      Foley, AL 36535
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