We began this pilgrimage on Ash Wednesday, and we are almost at the end of the road. Slowly, step by step, we have been plumbing the depths of human guilt and despair, forcing ourselves to stand face to face with the reality of life in this fallen universe. We are not done. We have heard the scriptures, describing the fate of the suffering servant who is crushed for our iniquities, and narrating in detail the torture and death of God. But after this sermon is over we will pray the Solemn Intercession and then venerate the Cross, which will bring us even more deeply into a reckoning with our own sinfulness. It can be a lot, this communal acknowledging and processing of guilt. I have every respect for those of you who show up, year after year; there would be nothing easier, after all, than simply staying home and avoiding the whole thing.
But if we are to do it, if we are to do justice to the extraordinary, cosmos-rending event which we commemorate and reenact today, it behooves us to understand as fully as possible what we are doing. Which is why I want to examine what we actually mean by “sin” and “sinfulness.”