The Second Sunday of Advent; Year C (text from The Bible in 90 Days) 12/6/2009

Justified, Saved, Reconciled

Lessons:     Malachi 3:1-4 or Baruch 5:1-9     St. Luke 1:68-79 (78)     Philippians 1:3-11     St. Luke 3:1-6

Prayer of the Day     Stir up our hearts, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son. By his coming give to all the people of the world knowledge of your salvation; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Text from "The Bible in 90 Days"

5:1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. 9 Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. 11 But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.


Romans 5:1-11 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Today our “Bible in 90 Days” readers find themselves in Romans 5 – on the 80th day of this 88-day project (there are actually 2 “grace days” built into the schedule). In some respects, this section of the Apostle Paul’s letter gets to the heart of the matter that has been central to our reading for these past 80 days.

From the very start, the brokenness between God and creation is evident. Adam and Eve reject God’s guidance, and choose for themselves what to eat (Genesis 3). Cain becomes angry that God prefers Abel’s sacrifice, so he lures his brother out into the fields and kills him (Genesis 4). The whole earth (except for Noah) turns from God, and becomes immersed in wickedness (Genesis 6). The citizens of Babel decide to make a name for themselves, rather than rely on God (Genesis 11). It goes on and on: from evil townspeople, to idol worshippers, to unfaithful kings, to hypocritical church officials…

It seems as though humanity is just determined to live at odds with the God who created them, and who calls them to faithfulness. God has a different mind, though. No matter how unfaithful the people and their leaders become, God continues to work through commandments and rituals, prophets and visions, striving to bring them back into a right relationship again. That is what sometimes gets lost when those of us who are familiar with the grace of Jesus Christ read the Hebrew Bible. It all seems so legalistic to us – so cold and lifeless.

The truth is: every command and tradition and custom in Ancient Israel has the same purpose: to catch hold of the people’s hearts, and turn them back towards God. The problem is that these practices have been entrusted to sinful human beings. Even the most transformational faith practices, when we do them in a spirit of grudging obedience, can gradually become hollow rituals that have no affect on us at all. And so when the call to faithfulness falls on deaf ears, God begins to work through judges. When the people reject the judges, God begins to work through kings. When the kings lead the people astray, God begins to speak through prophets. And when the prophetic word is ignored, God loves the world enough to send the “only begotten” son… It is God’s never-ending, ever-changing grace that continues to find new and creative ways to draw us back into a right relationship.

Paul rightly discerns that we are meant to live at peace with God. We are meant to be one with the One who created us, who loves us, and who wants us to experience the sacred joy of living faithfully. Paul has discovered for himself, though, that if it depends on his own behavior, his own sacrifices, or his own ritual observances, he will always come up short.

The only way to true peace with God is to receive it as a gift. The only way to true peace with God is to experience it through faith in Jesus Christ. The only way to true peace with God is to allow it to be grounded in God’s intentions for us. God who loves us, even though we are weak, ungodly, sinful, enemies of the good news… God who is willing to die for us, even though we don’t deserve it. God who takes the initiative, again and again reaching out to us and welcoming us into the arms of grace.

The Bible contains the story of God’s people. The Bible contains the story of God. More importantly, the Bible contains the story of redemption, and God’s relentless pursuit of us; God’s unfathomable love for us; God’s determined efforts to have a right and true relationship with us.

As we turn towards the writings of the Apostle Paul this weekend, we are reminded that peace with God lies at the very heart of the matter throughout the Bible. We are taught that our loving and gracious God desires to have a healthy and living relationship with us. We are assured that even in those times when we turn away – especially in those times when we turn away – it is God’s love and patience and creative grace that reach out to us, embrace us, draw us in, and comfort us with the good news of Jesus Christ.

Thanks be to God for this good news! Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Text:

  1. How does Paul describe humans in Romans 5?
  2. How does Paul describe God in Romans 5?
  3. What difference does God make in the hearts and the lives of those who believe in Jesus Christ?

Connecting with This Week’s Text:

  1. When have I drawn away from God, or been unsuccessful in drawing near to God?
  2. How have I experienced the grace of God, welcoming me back, even when I least deserve it?
  3. How might I be an instrument of God’s grace, welcoming back someone else, just as I myself have been welcomed back?

Scheduled Readings for "The Bible in 90 Days" 9/13/2009 - 12/12/2009

Date

Begin Reading At Sermon Based On
9/13 Genesis 1:1 Genesis 1:1-19
9/20 Leviticus 1:1 Exodus  16:2-15
9/27 Deuteronomy 23:12 Deuteronomy 6:1-9
10/4 1 Samuel 28:20 Joshua 24:1-3, 14-18
10/11 1 Chronicles 1:1 1 Kings 3:5-12
10/18 Nehemiah 13:15 Nehemiah 1:4-11a
10/25 Psalm 89:14 Job 38:1-11
11/1 Isaiah 14:1 Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
11/8 Jeremiah 33:23 Isaiah 25:6-9
11/15 Daniel 9:1 Ezekiel 2:1-5
11/22 Matthew 26:57 Micah 6:1-8
11/29 Acts 6:8 John 20:19-31
12/6 Hebrews 1:1 Romans 5:1-11