Saturday, April 6, 2019

What must I do? Year C, Lent 5, Philippians 3:4b-14

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen
How is your relationship with God, today?
That’s the question.
In the end, that’s actually the only question that matters.
Though we never seem to tire of asking other questions.
One of the most common questions that religious people ask is “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
That was the question of the rich young man who had run up to Jesus.  (Mark 10:17)
Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.  You know the commandments:  'You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother. '"  He said to him, "Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth."
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."
The man left grieving, for he was very rich.

Jesus’ disciples asked  “Who can be saved?”
And Jesus response was "For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible."

The Apostle Paul had his own answer to the question of what must I do to inherit eternal life.
If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

His point?
He was good according to the rule of doing that which the law required. 
And yet it was all for naught.
For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.
“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Christians have long been asking that question.
And many have felt confident, like Paul, in the life they’ve led.
In Romans Paul wrote:
Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.
Trust in the promise, that is all.
Trust in the promise.
You are justified by faith apart from works  prescribed in the law.
But then we ask ourselves “What kind of faith must I have in order to be saved?”
It all becomes a contest about believing the right things.
Only believers, specifically those who believe the truth, are saved.
Think about that.
There is so much we do not and cannot know about God and salvation, that how can we possibly be expected to ‘believe all the right things’.
 'You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’
These things are relatively easy to do, when you think about it.
At least when compared to believing all the right things about God and righteousness and the Gospel.
I refer to this as the “Lutheran Heresy”. 
We are saved based on our believing the right things.

You know what the irony is in all of this?
The answer to the question is contained in the question itself.
“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
I just received my inheritance from my parents.
Two things had to happen in order for me to receive that inheritance.
First, I was born into the family.
And second, they died.
I didn’t do anything to be born into my family.  Nothing at all.
And I’m happy to report that I also did nothing to cause the death of my parents.
But because of those two things, I received the inheritance.
“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Two things.
Be created as a child of God.
And then, God has to die. . .
Still the questions persist.
“Well, what then must I do to become a child of God, so that I might inherit eternal life?”
There is nothing we can do to become someone’s child.
That we became our parent’s children was the result of something they did, not us.
Likewise, that we have become God’s child is all about what God has done, not us.
And the second thing that must happen is God must die in order for us to inherit eternal life.
God must die, on a cross.
Which Christ did.

What does all this mean?
Well one of the things it means is that salvation is not the reward for a life well lived, but rather the birthright of every child of God.  And considering that God created each of us, that’s a pretty broad group of people.
In that lies the freedom of the Gospel.
Because there is nothing you need do to inherit eternal life you are free to live life without threat of punishment, but solely for the sake of the one who claimed you as your own.
It’s not about earning salvation.
It’s about having a relationship with our Lord.
Paul writes: Christ Jesus has made me his own.
He talks of ‘knowing Christ’ and ‘being found in him’.
This is all about the relationship.

The bottom line is this:  You have already been saved.  Already.  How you live your life is simply a response to that. 
And as we live out our lives, it is all about family and love.
 This is where how we live and what we do matters.
And it does matter.
We can love one another, or treat each other like dirt.
If we love one another we will enjoy a wonderful life.
If we treat one another like dirt, we will suffer day after day.
If we let anger and resentment rule the day, we will suffer as a result.
It’s not that God is going to send us to hell for our being consumed with anger or resentment toward another, but our own actions will create a living hell.
And God would spare us that suffering.
Love one another.
Even as I have first loved you, you also should love one another.
Life is just better that way.
One final thing I’ll say about this.

When I was serving in rural communities I became aware of one dimension of life there.
The farmers and ranchers were loath to be in conflict with one another.
Oh, it happened from time to time.
But they tried to avoid it.
What I came to believe is that they were aware of the enduring nature of their relationship with their neighbors and wanted it to be positive.  You see, they and their families had lived side by side since the homesteading days, and they would continue to live side by side for generations to come.
That being the case, they’d rather be friends than enemies.
One of the reasons we should try and get along with one another is that simple.
We are going to spend all eternity with each other.
It’s better to be friends, than enemies.
Amen to that.

No comments:

Post a Comment