1st Sunday in Lent

February 14, 2016

Summary

It is so revolutionary

“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:8b-13 ESV)

The revolutionary message of Christianity is that we are saved by faith. Not a generic faith, a general believing in God – that he exists – but a definite faith in a specific God with a specific name who did specific things and who in turn expects his people to do specific things (which is one of the best ways of seeing whether there is faith). This revolutionary message of salvation through faith – of trusting a particular God – of banking on one God in the supermarket of religion – flies in the face of how this world expects people to ‘do’ religion. From the world’s perspective a religious person seeks God’s righteousness or help or whatever benefit the god is offering by doing what the god says. This makes sense – work hard and you’ll get a reward – be slack and don’t complain then if you don’t get what you want. This system is foolproof – ‘God’ always ‘wins’ and gets off the hook when things go wrong because it can be said that people haven’t done their part properly.

The revolutionary message of Christianity seems to be cheating to the world because you seem to get the righteousness – forgiveness – salvation – new life as a gift and you receive it, use it by trusting God that he has done it.

However this revolutionary message of Christianity also creates a problem because it doesn’t seem to generate any substantial benefit for Christians are not noticeably healthier, wealthier, happier than non Christians and above all they still suffer. The world mocks Christians because of suffering and at times Christians themselves can wonder whether their God can be trusted after all.

So if we look around the world today in the 21st century we will see a portion of people who say that there are no gods and live in and for this world only but all the rest live in some relationship with the supernatural, with God or gods. We can see this in some people going to places of worship, in the objects – figurines or statues – they have in their homes or sayings on their walls that speak religious messages, in the language people use at time – especially when they call out to their god or even when they swear, in the clothes they wear, in the places they visit maybe at the equinoxes and solstices of the calendar or weekly, in the food and lifestyle choices they make, in the websites they visit and the messages they learn about all sorts of things (one’s emotions, one’s diet, one’s ‘energy’, one’s death, one’s fulfilment) and I could go on … humanity hasn’t changed much I suspect in relation to religion. You pick your god and hope for the best.

That is why Christianity is so revolutionary for it is grounded in Jesus of Nazareth, a carpenter and itinerant preacher, whose miracles were astounding, whose messages were challenging, and who found himself on the wrong side of the usual way people did religion and related to God. You don’t make yourself equal with God and you don’t claim that trusting in you is the way religion should work! Only mad or dangerous people do that. That’s why Jesus was crucified. But on the third day of his death Jesus did the extraordinary – he was pretty unique before that – but this confirms that Jesus must be reckoned with – for he rose from the dead and is still alive today! The revolutionary message of Christianity is that we are all saved by Jesus alone and by trusting him alone – that he has done it and there’s nothing we can do to even help. That is good news! The best news one could ever have in a religion – where God makes it possible for people to be with him and doesn’t leave them unsure or uncertain because of their religious performance.

We live in a time that has now had about 2,000 years of hearing this revolutionary message and it has changed this planet and possibly the biggest change is that all the gods in the supermarket of religion have become ‘nicer’. People with no close ties to Christianity often think that God – all gods – are loving and kind because he is / they are ‘supposed to be’. Many people today confuse knowledge with faith and think that knowing that Jesus existed is faith but they wouldn’t dream of trusting him and following him.

When Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome he knew he was up against the old work-your-way-to-get-in-the-god’s-good-books attitude because that is what he saw his previous religion – Judaism – doing and what he saw the religions of Rome and Greece doing. His message then is needed still now but I think it is harder now because many people know about Jesus but they don’t know him. He is a history lesson. He is a news item. But he is separate from them.

The revolutionary message of Christianity is that Jesus lived in the past, did everything he did to be the Lamb of god who takes away the sin of the world’ and he is alive again and still speaking and he is saying that it is all ‘for you’. Those two words change history into proclamation, news into personal encounters where we find we have no place to hide and just as we are with our shame, sins, and sorrows – with our hopes and fears – Jesus confronts us with his Word – in Baptism – and at the altar in Holy Communion and gives himself to us – it is all ‘for you’. And when this message hits our hearts and minds and tongues – when this message hits home to us that Jesus is talking ‘to me’, then life is never the same again for with the confidence and certainty that Jesus gives that salvation – our future – is secure – and it is not tied to wealth or health or happiness, we find we can live today in a new way – under the cross. And that’s why Christianity is so revolutionary.

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Bible References

  • Romans 10:8b - 13
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