March 15, 2019
By Ken Sampson
Psalm 27 (The Message):
1 Light, space, zest—
So, with him on my side I’m fearless,
afraid of no one and nothing. …
13-14 I’m sure now I’ll see God’s goodness
in the exuberant earth.
Stay with God! Take heart. Don’t quit.
I’ll say it again: Stay with God.
Read the full psalm.
On a recent trip to New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, I visited Gallery 901 of the Modern and Contemporary Art section. On the near left wall, seven 11-by-23-inch panels, entitled “The Seven Deadly Sins,” caught my attention.
To me, these paintings by American artist Paul Cadmus seemed surreal, garish, showy. Rather than works to be pondered and admired, they gave rise to a feeling of distaste, even revulsion.
The description adjacent to the paintings told of the artist’s 1945-1949 egg tempera on Masonite renderings of a subject common since the Middle Ages—deadly sins. The account detailed Paul Cadmus’s interpretation, his being prone to excess, vulgarity, and gore. Then the narrative ended: “Of the series, Cadmus explained, ‘I don’t appear as myself, but I am all of the Deadly Sins in a way, as you all are, too.’”
Wow! The frank words confronted and challenged me. Immediately, I seemed faced with my own sinfulness. I thought, gluttony? Don’t tempt me with freshly popped mushroom popcorn, coated with melted butter and salt—I’ll consume it uncontrollably. Greed? It takes all the willpower I can muster to bypass a Costco-sized pack of Cheez-It Grooves (sharp white cheddar), the crunchy snack crackers.
Lent encourages us to deepen our devotion to our triune God. Yes, our hearts can be a “teeming horde of infamies” (John Calvin). A chaos-inducing carnival of sinful, intrusive thoughts and desires can be present within each of us.
As we discipline our minds, bringing “every thought into captivity to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5), explore and celebrate our baptismal vow identity that centers upon union with Jesus and empowerment by his Holy Spirit, and anticipate the Good Friday assurance that God’s grace enables our repentance and renewed status before him, we find that confidence, assurance, and acceptance replaces disappointment, failure, and frustration. We enjoy “Light, space, zest—that’s God!” (v. 1) and go forward enriched and refreshed.