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Year A, Lent 1, 2017 – The Sin That Ate Cincinnati

February 28, 2017 / D2 / Lent

Greetings!!  The season of Lent is upon us. Lent, that penitential season, it starts with “L,” and that rhymes with “Hell,” and that’s where you’re gonna go! Unless you turn back and foreswear your foolish ways! Well, that’s how a lot of us have heard about sin. It’s what you do that you shouldn’t and don’t that you should, and God’s gonna get you for it. Except that really isn’t what we find in our passages this week. Rather, we find these poor humans, made in the Image of God, tricked, trapped, and enslaved by a power, a system that is rebelling against God. No slave revolt will overthrow the system of Sin, but only the battle for supremacy between this awful power and the Christ sent by God! As we say in our segment on the Romans passage, we may think of sin like the raccoon that gets into the garbage, but in reality it’s SIN, the monster knocking down buildings and eating trains in Tokyo (or Cincinnati)!

So in Genesis, the trap is set, and we fall right into it. In Romans, Paul shows how Christ undoes the damage done by Adam’s weakness. And in Matthew, we find Jesus in his own personal battle with the System, and he comes out on top.


This week’s texts are: 

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7 [01:59]

As yet unnamed Adam and Eve appear in the text here, and as we said above, they fall for the trick that gets them trapped. We play with some fields of translation for some of the key words in Word Smart, and that brings some new richness to the old, old story. In Math Smart, we use a mathematical metaphor to show how gullible humans can be. We suggest some instruments and tunes to score the scene in Music Smart. Then in Nature Smart, we invite congregants to meditate on our original call from God to be gardeners and stewards.

  • Smarts – Word [03:35], Math [06:30], Music [07:44], Nature [09:29]
  • Genesis 2 worksheet   
  • Links in Genesis  


Romans 5:12-19 [11:08]

This passage is an epic back-and-forth description of the fate of all humanity. Paul talks about the twin terrors of Sin and Death unleashed on the human world through the failure of Adam, and contrasts that with the hope and victory unleashed by Christ. We suggest a few visual SFX in Eye Smart and reflect them in Body Smart to keep track of the pendulum swing between Life and Death. We also consider how our limited understanding of Sin is like a cinematic trick to bring wide screen to the small screen. In Nature Smart we employ the above-mentioned House Pest Vs. Giant Monster analogy (No city is safe! Cast of millions!). Then in People Smart, working from a quote that insists that salvation in Christ is a communal event for a large cause than your eternal wellbeing, we invite your members to discuss together what the social impact of this salvation might actually look like.

  • Smarts – Eye [13:12], Body [15:45], Nature [16:04], People [17:17]
  • Romans 5 worksheet
  • Links in Romans  
    • Here are some examples of “scan and pan”
    • Beverly Gaventa, “The Cosmic Power of Sin in Paul’s Letter to the Romans: Toward a Widescreen Edition”, Interpretation, 2004
    • Markus Barth“Justification in Christ is thus not an individual miracle happening to this or that person, which each may seek or possess for himself. Rather, justification by grace is a joining together of this person or that person, of the near and the far, of the good and the bad, of the high and the low. It is a social event. No one is joined to Christ except together with a neighbor. According to Paul, for the Jew the primary neighbor is the Gentile; for the Gentile it is the Jew.” –  “Jews and Gentiles: The Social Character of Justification in Paul,” _JES _5 (1968) 259. [“JES” is actually the Journal for Ecumenical Studies. David misidentified it in the show.]


Matthew 4:1-11 [19:12]

Lent always starts with the story of Jesus fasting for 40 days and being tempted. That’s where the whole idea of Lent gets its 40-day shape and many of its traditional practices, including fasting. So no great surprise, here. But with the texts that we hear so often, it can be useful to try coming at them from different angles. That’s why we’re here! This year we noticed the spatial movement in the story and explore that with a few Eye Smart ideas. We explore that movement and also fasting in Body Smart. People Smart includes drama, so we suggest a Readers Theatre for Matthew 4 and also a skit interviewing Jesus. The time-tested spiritual discipline of journaling finds its way into Self Smart, focusing on temptations especially.


Image credit: Copyright: joebakal / 123RF Stock Photo; used by permission.

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