The John reading this week has John the Baptist looking out over the crowd and seeing Jesus. "Look there," he says, "there is the Lamb of God who will take away the sins of the world."
For those who favour the idea that Jesus is the sacrificial lamb whose blood sponges away the blot of our sin, there isn't much more to say. We sin. Jesus dies. We're forgiven. Repeat as necessary. I don't mean to make light of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, but there has to be more to it than that.
It seems to me that the sins of the world are not retreating in the face of the cross. In fact, all too often, people's attachment to the cross just adds to the burden. The more we claim exclusive rights to heaven, where finally only the good people like us will be allowed in, the more damage we do to the Dominion of God here on earth. Our sin is that we would rather wait until we die and go to be with God to be reconciled to our brothers and sisters. In doing so we waste our living.
Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He forgave people on the spot. There was no quiz to find out if they were truly repentant. Sometimes he didn't even ask; he just forgave them. His harshest words were reserved for the people who insisted that the world continue to be divided into sinner and non sinner. One of the many reasons for Jesus' death was that he challenged the understood categories that separated people.
Sin is what separates us. Sin isn't the stuff we do, it is why we do the stuff we do. Taking away the sin will take away the things that divide us. The funny thing is that Jesus left us here to continue his work. We are to be Jesus in the world. Somehow we got it turned around and began separating the people into good and bad, our kind of people and the other kind, us and them.
We need to be taking away the sin of the world. We need to be forgiving people, even before they ask, even before they know they need it.
We need to start with ourselves.