With Holy Week right around the corner, we checked in with one of our study groups to see what has been fruitful and challenging in their discussions this Lent. Our Candler interns, Kristen Wright and Connor Bell, offer this reflection on their group:
For the past four weeks, we have co-led a Lenten Bible study based on the book "Speaking of Sin" by Barbara Brown Taylor. The book guides you to consider why the language of sin is necessary to understand and appreciate salvation. Lent has been a great time to reflect on what is means to be sinful and in need of a Savior. Often times it is easier to put aside the language of sin and talk only about grace that God so freely gives. However, our conversations have led us to believe there is a deep need for a healthy understanding of sin as well as salvation.
During our first week of discussion, we talked about the ways in which we understood sin as children and youth. Images of debt, dirty laundry, and distance resonated with many in the room, and many laughed as we talked about how much their understanding of sin had grown since we were younger. Most topics from the book resonated deeply with those in the study, who found parallels in Taylor’s two “extreme” explanations of sin (“sin as crime” and “sin as sickness”) and our sometimes-polarized religious climate. Overall, the group found that Taylor gives voice to a lot of religious tensions that don’t often get voiced directly in church discourse, although this discussion is vital for a proper understanding of sin and repentance.
One of the largest takeaways from the study is that sin is highly contextual. It doesn’t seem like there is or ever will be one definition that works fully for all people because we all experience God and the world differently. The definition that Taylor offers in the book is a ruptured relationship with God and others. We came to understand repentance as the gate of salvation (Thanks John Wesley!) and the first step in moving towards salvation.
During the season of Lent, the church encourages its members to repent, which is a process that involves (in the words of Rev. Brent Huckaby) (re)turning toward God. God’s salvific power is on the forefront of congregants’ minds as we approach Easter Sunday, but to understand the full power of salvation, we must once again remind ourselves what we are being saved from. To this end, "Speaking of Sin" has sparked wonderful discussion surrounding our human shortcomings, the deep nature of sinful power in our lives and social structures, and the striking transformation that God invites us to take part in as an answer to both.