- During the last century, there was a Methodist pastor in New
York named Ralph Sockman. From 1928 to
1962, he appeared regularly on a radio show called, National Radio Pulpit. He also wrote several best-selling books on
the Christian life, and in 1961 Time magazine called him, “The best Protestant
preacher in the U.S."
In one of his articles, Pastor Sockman recounted an experience he had one day while he and his family were visiting Niagara Falls. It was a clear, cold March day, and while the river had begun to thaw, there were still chunks of ice on the river and parts of the Falls were frozen.
Pastor Sockman and his family watched as some birds swooped down and snatch a drink from the water rushing over the edge of the falls. And while he was watching this, a man standing next to them told Pastor Sockman how he’d seen birds drown doing this maneuver.
It seemed that each time the birds would dip down for a drink, tiny droplets of ice would form on their wings, and if they kept coming back too many times all these droplets would accumulate until finally the ice would weigh down their bodies and they could no longer rise back up above the water.
The man told Pastor Sockman that when that happened, the birds would flap their wings furiously but it was too late. There was nothing they could do. They’d gone back to the water one too many times and now they were trapped in the water; doomed to go down with the falls. Today in the Word, October, 1990, p. 14
Well, when Pastor Sockman heard this, he immediately realized this was a perfect metaphor for our sins.
Very often our sins seem to start innocently enough. We go in for a little sip. And we think, “Well, that wasn’t so bad.” And so we go in again, and again, and again.
But each time we go back, the sin clings to us a little bit more and begins to weigh us down. Until finally, we’re trapped and can’t escape.
King David’s story is a good example of someone whose sin started innocently enough. But before he knew it his sin had him trapped.
One day King David was up on his roof surveying his kingdom, when he happened to notice a woman on her roof taking a bath. Sure, it was inappropriate for him to watch, but he wasn’t really hurting anyone. And so he watched. He went in for that first sip. And the droplets of sin began to accumulate.
Well, finally he got tired of watching from a distance, so he sent some of his servants to go bring the woman to his house. And they did. And David went in for another sip. And this time the sin clung a bit more.
And when the woman, Bathsheba, was brought to him, he liked what he saw. In fact, he lusted after her. And so he took another sip by committing adultery with her. And the sin clung more and more.
Then Bathsheba got pregnant, and David didn’t want her husband, Uriah, to find out. So at first he brought Uriah back from the war where he was fighting and tried to get him to go be with Bathsheba so that Uriah would think the baby was his.
But Uriah was an honorable man. He told David that it wasn’t right for him to enjoy the comforts of home while his comrades were fighting on the front. And so Uriah didn’t go home to see Bathsheba. Instead he camped out in front of David’s house and waited for his King to send him back to the war.
So David thought he had no choice but to go back in for one more sip. He sent Uriah back to the war, but at the same time he told his generals to make sure Uriah got killed in battle. The final sip.
David’s sin now had him. And so God sent the prophet Nathan to confront David about his sin. And it was then that David realized he was trapped and that he couldn’t escape –
He so he penned the psalm hat we read together at the beginning of our service here tonight, “Have mercy on me, O God. Deliver me from my bloodshed. I’ve been a sinner since from before I was born”
It’s David’s mea culpa. His declaration that he’s doomed to go down with the falls unless God rescued him.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit.”
My friends, you and I are no different from David. Each one of us from sin just like he did. And the accumulation of that sin is upon us. Which is why we’re here tonight. To confess our sins before God the way David did. And to ask God to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Often times, Lent is mischaracterized as a time to for Christians to be depressed and to wallow in our failures. But that’s not what Lent is really for.
Yes, we confess our sins and admit that they’ve got us trapped. But when we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
And so that means Lent is also a time for us to enjoy our salvation. “Restore to me the joy of your salvation,” David prayed.
Lent is a time for us to enjoy the freedom Christ came to give us. Freedom from sin, death, and the power of the grave.
And so Lent is about more than just admitting our sin. It’s about actively struggling against temptation, and removing the sin from our lives.
And that’s what our Lenten disciplines are about. Whether it’s fasting or prayer, our Lenten disciplines are intended to help us break free from the weight of sin. Their aim is to help us stop going back in for one more sip of sin.