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"What is Evil?" Third Sunday in Lent - March 3, 2024

Good morning,

Today is the third Sunday in Lent. During Lent we clergy finally get to preach on the real stuff. The stuff we are chomping at the bit to teach you about all year. We are off the leash. I am so excited! I’m talking of course about brimstone, hellfire, and damnation. The judgement that awaits us if we don’t repent. I’m talking about denying yourself now to store up treasures in heaven. I’m talking about confessing all your most deeply hidden sins, saying mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa, that kinda stuff. Lenten Stuff. Everyone’s favorite stuff, right? 

 Father Jared preached on that uncomfortable word sin, and he already is tough act to follow, so I will not preach on sin. I picked another Lenten favorite for us: let’s talk about evil!

First, let’s really ease into this, I have a new favorite discovery about the word evil. If you pay attention to our lovely ASL interpreters behind me, the sign for evil is ____.

Isn’t that just cute? It reminds me of when my children were little, and pretended they were fearful monsters! ____

Now they are teenagers which is pretty much the same …

What is evil? 

That is quite the question. What is evil?

The monsters my children imagined themselves to be, certainly are not real or evil. The monsters in their room, under their bed or in their closet, may have been, but with a little imagination, a bowl of water and some food dye, we captured those monsters and sent them packing. 

But there are certain circumstances, certain elements in our world that I call evil. War and genocide, racism and dehumanization, poverty and hunger. You know I could go on. With words even more uncomfortable. We are talking about evil after all. But here is the thing, you and I personally can do preciously little about these systemic evil parts of our society. Yes, we can give to charities, protest wars and genocide, we can vote for people we hope will effect change in our poor neighborhoods and schools. But thankfully, day to day, most of us here do not encounter a lot of evil. 

Or do we? 

What is evil?

The Collect today prays to defend us. To defend us not only from all adversities that may happen to the body, but also from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul. Evil thoughts are a whole different animal than systemic inequities and violence. 

Ok, so, what are evil thoughts? It’s not like people wake up in the morning and think to themselves: Today is a good day to be evil. No one thinks of themselves as evil. Nor should we. Those are not the thoughts this Collect tries to protect us from. It talks about the evil thoughts which may assault and hurt our soul. Assault and hurt the soul. 

The only thoughts I know, that have the power to assault and hurt our soul, are the ones that tell us stories of our shame. Intrusive stories of not being good enough. Not being worthy. Not being lovable. Stories that have us think that our actions are so big, so unique, and so evil, that we are beyond God’s reach. Thoughts that separate us from God are evil. These thoughts? They lie to us. They do not even belong to us.