My guess is that most Christians instinctively know how to handle the needs of the poor, the down-and-out folks who come our way. Many of these people need help because they have been victims of poor education, dreadful family life, and alcoholism or drug addiction. We know that folks like this need to confess their sins, repent, and believe in Jesus’ name. Revivalists yell at people from behind pulpits in tent meetings reminding people that they are nothing but “sinners in the hands of an angry God.” I know of a church where the preacher each week recounts in sordid detail his misdoings as a former pagan. He smoked pot, beat his wife, and generally was a miserable person—in thought, word, and deed. Then he found Jesus and his life was changed. The problem is that not every person who needs Christ can bring to the altar credential of a miscreant. For people in the sin of despair, Jesus as an answer to life’s problems is pretty convincing. However, what is a so-called normal and well-adjusted person to do? Does Jesus have a word for these?
Saint Augustine speaks to us about these kinds of questions. I remember reading his statement that sin comes in two primary forms: the sin of despair and the sin of pride. The sin of despair asserts that our problems are so bad that not even God Almighty can help us out of the mess we have created for ourselves. The sin of pride, on the other hand, suggests that we on our own are self-sufficient and have no need for the grace and salvation that God offers us in Christ. Either way we sin. Augustine said that all sin comes from one of these two attitudes that people possess.
For this reason Ash Wednesday speaks to our needs—either of despair or pride—before God. Come and confess before Almighty God. Let God’s grace work a miracle in your life. The sermon is titled: “The Mandate.”
Our Ash Wednesday services will be at noon and 7 pm. Invite a friend to attend with you and bring him or her to First United Methodist Church, Arlington, Texas.