Live a New Life

“Live a New Life”

Rom 6-4 nwness of life

Romans 6:1-5 (6:4) – June 21, 2020

I have a friend who should have been on the debate team in high school. On occasion, he loves to discuss and debate points of history, or whether this or that point of politics has merit. He is quite good at expressing himself, and often enjoys a good, rousing discussion.

My friend reminds me of the apostle Paul. Paul talks at great length in his letters about such wonderful doctrines like sin, death, grace, baptism and salvation. He discussed several of them in chapter 5 of his letter to the Romans.

Paul argued and debated a lot with his fellow Christians. We are familiar with that, today, too. Theologians, church leaders and ministers debating back and forth, this way and that.

Different denominations have different “rules and regulations” about living the Christian life. One group tells believers that all true Christian people have to abstain from eating meat on Fridays. Another group tells all believing women that they have to wear skirts and are never permitted to wear pants. A third group says that musical instruments in worship services are evil, and only the human voice is fit to be used to praise the Lord.

Some of these rules and regulations might seem petty, or over the top, but they make sense to the people who follow them. The apostle Paul had to deal with some of these well-meaning but legalistic followers of Christ, too.

Paul used to be one of these super-legalistic followers of the Lord. He says it himself: he was a Hebrew of the Hebrews, as to the law, a Pharisee. A strict follower of God, blameless and righteous according to his observance of the Mosaic Law Code. (according to Philippians 3)

I am sure many believers are familiar with Romans 3:23, and can quote it word for word: “For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.” Yes, that is in the middle of Paul’s discussion about sin. Then, Paul brings the theological concept of grace into the continuing argument, and adds additional layers to the ideas of sin, grace and forgiveness.

But, what does he say here in Romans, in the follow-up to his discussion of sin and grace in Chapter 5? I love the translation of Eugene Peterson, from the Message. This is his version of what Paul said: “So what do we do now? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving us? I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good?”

Oh, Pastor Peterson, you make these complex ideas of sin and grace from the apostle Paul so clear and plain.

Our old house on Transgression Avenue, in the Country of Sin, was a rattletrap of a building. Sin lurked in every part of that house—under the stairs, in the closets, and especially in the bedroom, basement and attic. That was before we met Jesus, and before He became the general contractor on that old sinful house. Jesus didn’t do just a cosmetic paint job. No, He started major work, inside and out. The work on some houses—some people—went more slowly, some more quickly, but sooner or later we moved out of the old neighborhood. That old, sin-filled neighborhood on Transgression Avenue.

Can you see how this analogy of an old house fits in to our new life in Jesus Christ? Sure, our old life—when we were still filled with sin—is like that old sin-filled house. But, after we met Jesus, He became the general contractor. Jesus started to tear down sagging walls, replace the plumbing and electrical systems. Jesus came alongside each of us. Jesus wants us to see that He can help us out with all kinds of components in our spiritual houses—in our lives.

How does Jesus go to work on our sinful selves? With His righteousness, that He freely gives us when we believe in Him. Jesus’ “righteousness, his faithfulness is ours as a gift of divine grace through faith, and this apart from obedience to the law. There is nothing that we can add to what Christ has done for us.[1]

Did you hear? Nothing. We add nothing. It’s all a gift, that Jesus freely gives to us. Some people still think they need to earn brownie-points with God for being good, before they can reach God’s heaven. Some people argued with Paul, saying they opposed his teaching about grace—God’s free gift of grace, because they still wanted to earn brownie-points.

Paul’s comeback? Yes, we have died to sin. Yes, we are buried with Jesus Christ in baptism. And, yes, we have been resurrected with Jesus to new life! Eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Plus, it’s all from Jesus, and nothing from us!

I repeat the wonderful translation of Eugene Peterson, of our Scripture today: If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land!”

Praise God, we have a new life. We—each one of us—is a new creation in Christ Jesus. We no longer live in that tumbledown, sin-filled house on Transgression Avenue, in Sin Country. Even though we get pulled back sometimes, and turned around by temptation, we have moved into a new house for good. Jesus laid the sure foundation! A new life in a new, forgiven, redeemed country: Grace Country!

Remember who you are. Remember who you belong to; we have died to sin and now we live a new life in Jesus Christ. Remember! Alleluia, amen!

[1] http://www.lectionarystudies.com/sunday13ae.html   “Buried and Raised with Christ,” Rev. Bryan Findlayson, Lectionary Bible Studies and Sermons, Pumpkin Cottage Ministry Resources

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my regular blog for 2020: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and my other blog,  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!

But Now I See

John 9:1-41 (9:25) – March 26, 2017

John 9 word cloud

“But Now I See”

In the first century, when Jesus walked the earth, people commonly believed a number of things that have since been proven mistaken, including something mentioned here in our Gospel passage today. When babies were born with a handicap or impediment—like born with a club foot, born with a cleft palate, or born blind—many, many people thought this was a punishment from God.

The parents were at fault. Sin was the reason the child was born that way!

In the encounter we have today in our Gospel lesson from John, Jesus deals with that kind of thinking. Let’s set the scene. “9 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been born blind. His disciples asked him, “Teacher, whose sin caused him to be born blind? Was it his own or his parents’ sin?”

In certain parts of the world today, people still think like that. Sad state of events, but that is the way it is. Some people mistakenly assign the “blame” for a “disability” or “illness.” Let’s see how Jesus responds.

Jesus answered, “His blindness has nothing to do with his sins or his parents’ sins. He is blind so that God’s power might be seen at work in him. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me; night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light for the world.”

Jesus rejects this blaming kind of talk! He “suggests that this man’s blindness offers the opportunity for God’s power to be revealed…. There is, in this case, physical blindness, but it’s not the only kind of blindness.  There are those who can see just fine, but live in spiritual darkness.” [1] More on that, later.

Plus, Jesus goes from talking about blindness, to God’s power, to Jesus being the light for the world. Can you follow Him in the progression of His thought? Actual, physical blindness, leading to God’s power made manifest by our Lord Jesus, who is God’s Light for the world, enlightening everyone. Back to the story.

After he said this, Jesus spat on the ground and made some mud with the spittle; he rubbed the mud on the man’s eyes and told him, “Go and wash your face in the Pool of Siloam.” (This name means “Sent.”) So the man went, washed his face, and came back seeing.

A man, born blind, made to see? This is a miracle, by anyone’s estimation! But, this is not quite a happily-ever-after story. By no means the end of our story.

13 Then they took to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 The day that Jesus made the mud and cured him of his blindness was a Sabbath. 15 The Pharisees, then, asked the man again how he had received his sight. He told them, “He put some mud on my eyes; I washed my face, and now I can see.” Here is a clear statement of facts, as reported by the man who formerly was born blind.

We can tell the Pharisees believed the commonly held theological position of the day: illness and disability were God’s punishment for sin. What is more, people disagreed about whose sin was responsible for this former baby’s (now grown man’s) blindness. Most thought it was the parents. However, some thought that the newborn baby had somehow sinned! (Hard to believe, but true.)

On top of that, the Pharisees had some unkind words for this upstart Rabbi Jesus. Imagine, healing on a Sabbath! Who does He think He is?

16 Some of the Pharisees said, “The man who did this cannot be from God, for he does not obey the Sabbath law.” Others, however, said, “How could a man who is a sinner perform such miracles as these?” And there was a division among them. 17 So the Pharisees asked the man once more, “You say he cured you of your blindness—well, what do you say about him?” “He is a prophet,” the man answered. 18 The Jewish authorities, however, were not willing to believe that he had been blind and could now see, until they called his parents 19 and asked them, “Is this your son? You say that he was born blind; how is it, then, that he can now see?”

The Pharisees could not see past the noses on their faces. All they could see was healing, or work being done on the Sabbath, which was forbidden in their strict interpretation of the Law of Moses. That was huge, in their eyes. Hugely wrong!

Looking for additional people to cast blame on, the Pharisees just did not believe this guy who was formerly blind—so they called his parents!

20 His parents answered, “We know that he is our son, and we know that he was born blind. 21 But we do not know how it is that he is now able to see, nor do we know who cured him of his blindness. Ask him; he is old enough, and he can answer for himself!” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, who had already agreed that anyone who said he believed that Jesus was the Messiah would be expelled from the synagogue. 23 That is why his parents said, “He is old enough; ask him!”

24 A second time they called back the man who had been born blind, and said to him, “Promise before God that you will tell the truth! We know that this man who cured you is a sinner.” 25 “I do not know if he is a sinner or not,” the man replied. “One thing I do know: I was blind, and now I see.”

One of the most familiar and beloved traditional hymns is “Amazing Grace.” This hymn talks about several important things, including salvation. The hymn also talks about blindness, and the change that comes into a person’s life when they receive sight—spiritual sight. “Was blind, but now I see.” What a theological truth. What a profound insight. Jesus wasn’t blinded at all to seeing this man born blind.

It is the Pharisees who have been blind—spiritually blind—and they don’t even know it. “The religious leaders remain spiritually blind, still contending that the work of Jesus is demonic.  In their resistance to [Jesus,] their blindness – their sin – is revealed.” [2]

Is this just some nice bible story, or could it apply to us, today? Similar to the Pharisees, are we so preoccupied with our own holiness and righteousness that we are blinded? I mean, spiritually blinded to seeing signs of God’s work right here in our midst? [3]

“How does Jesus open our eyes to the things of God?  How does he reveal our blind spots so that we can let go of them and give glory to God? The good news is that there is amazing grace available to us.” [4] We can testify, along with this formerly blind man, “One thing I do know: I was blind, and now I see.”

This is something to celebrate! Jesus can open our eyes to those around us. We can be healed of our spiritual blindness and come into the light of God’s presence, and be able to testify to others of God’s light-giving and grace-giving. Praise God! Amen.

[1] http://www.bobcornwall.com/2014/03/who-is-really-blind-lectionary.html

[2] http://www.bobcornwall.com/2014/03/who-is-really-blind-lectionary.html

[3] https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/worship/lectionary-calendar/fourth-sunday-in-lent-one-great-hour-of-sharing#preaching

[4] http://www.bobcornwall.com/2014/03/who-is-really-blind-lectionary.html

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my regular blog for 2017: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and my other blog,  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!)