The Sin Box

Email Devotion Pentecost 23


‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector.  (Luke 18:10)


I was a denizen of Starbucks for most of Friday.  I was down in Wilmington, Delaware officiating at a wedding later that evening, and had checked out of my hotel room a little before noon.  My car was in the parking garage and Starbucks was within walking distance … it had free WiFi, there was that, too.  So I parked … bought enough food and coffee to justify sitting there for a few hours and spent the afternoon fighting with my significant other … my email.

There was a guy sitting near me on his phone.  I guess he thought he was in his office given the volume of his voice as he conducted his business with the party on the other end of his call.  I sighed to myself and tried to concentrate and not listen to his business … and the business on his second call … and the business on what felt like his twentieth call.  I was pretty irritated.  Imagine that.  And I missed my “sin box.”  If you have ever written an email or a letter in anger, knowing full well that you would delete it or tear it up, then, you have the spirit of my sin box.  The idea is not mine.  I think I stole it from Annie LaMott.  She calls it something different, but the idea is the same.  A container in which one can place written testament of sinful thoughts, so as to prevent them from becoming deeds or words better left unspoken.  Everybody needs a “sin box” or something like it, to allow for the kind of confession and absolution that occurs in the process of passionate expression followed by sensible restraint.  Unfortunately, there are probably still one or two scrap pieces that I have yet to repent of.  Unfinished business … another devotion for another day.

Which leads to how I felt in the absence of my sin box.  Do the words, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this ….”  And just substitute for “tax collector” something like … oh, maybe … “moronic, self-absorbed, inconsiderate, doofus.”  Yeah, not a proud moment.  In a biblical world in which I read today’s Gospel Lesson and think to myself, “God I thank you that I am not like this Pharisee,” in the real world I become the Pharisee I judge.  Yikes.

I don’t know what to do with that reality of which I am not proud.  But thanks to God I can flee to the same confession that our tax collector models for us “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”  If there is hope for this sinner from long ago, there is hope for me.  And I am reminded that sin box or not, I can never completely purge myself of my sin, for it rises from the deepest bowels of my fallen being.  Thank goodness Jesus is still hanging around to accomplish in my life, what I cannot accomplish for myself.


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Rev. Craig Ross

Senior Pastor

The vibrancy of life here at St. Peter’s makes my service on our staff a joy and privilege. Visitation, teaching and preaching are the ministries that feed my pastoral identity, as together our staff and lay members share in our missional calling … Building a community of faith by God’s grace.

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