Ok.  At this point, I’m pretty clear that I misunderstood what Scott Cairns was saying about sin.

I read “… turning away from sin is, without question, one way to apprehend the call to repentance; but I glimpse, even so, in the desert fathers … a healthier characterization of this necessary turn — specifically, that we turn not so much away as toward.”  And I read this as instead of turning away from our sin, we turn toward it.  What I didn’t fully process came two paragraphs later:  “Our specific hope lies in turning toward.  As a result, the sin we suffered is behind us just the same, but that sin is no longer the power that occassioned our turn.”  He adds later “… we must … cultivate an awareness of how near the Holy One bides, how immediaely he accompanies our every moment, how sweetly he attends our every breath.  When we turn toward him .. that change is not so much precipitated by aversion as by love … [that has] … brought God with us.”

So it’s an awareness of God’s presence in our lives and a turning towards the sweetness of God, rather than turning away from our sin, that is being suggested.  And as I see this, I immediately think about the difference between church styles.  Many churches focus on our sin and our need to repent as our entry into holy living.  What I would term sacramental churches, among which the Episcopal Church is one, focus on the goodness of God as found in the sacraments (special things like the bread and wine of communion and the water and oil of baptism through which we approach our God) and the sacramental (the things of God’s creation, in general, through which we can see and approach God).  There are arguments for both.  And you can argue we’re all seeing the same half full/empty glass.  But I have a strong preference for the sacramental.  It feeds me.

And of course, once I see this, I begin to see it everywhere.  I reread this section just before I said Morning Prayer.  And in the psalm this morning  (Psalm 119 in verses 57 – 59) I read ” … you only are my portion, O God … I entreat you with all my heart … I have … turned my feet toward your decrees.”  And in the canticle from Julian of Norwich (used in the St. Helena Breviary during Advent) I read ” … Christ revealed our frailty and our falling, our trespass and our humiliations … Christ protects us as tenderly and as sweetly when we are in greatest need … we are all  bound to God by nature; we are all bound to God by grace.”  And in the Advent hymn I read ” … the Lamb descends from heaven above to conquer sin with freest love …”  All of these seem to talk about sin and turning towards God.

And this makes sense to me.

I’m not sure if I’ve really thought of it as a response to sin before.  I’ve thought of turning towards the loving grace of God in my sinfulness.  But I’m not sure I’ve ever thought about turning towards the loving grace of God as an immediate response to a particular sin.  I think my immediate response has (at least generally) been to turn away from my sin, rather than towards my God.

I’m thinking turning towards God is a good idea.

Thanks, Scott, and all your teachers.

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