Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Gospel is for Christians Too (Lent 3) Romans 5:1-11

Romans 5:1-11
St. Thomas Memorial Church
Lent III
March 23, 2014

The Gospel is for Christians too... I am not going to preach on this morning’s ‘world’s longest’ gospel lesson. (Yes, it is the longest gospel reading of the year, and you made it through it. It’s all down stream from here.) I have to sometimes remind myself not to preach from the gospels every week so that we’ll all be exposed to the other rich sections of the Scriptures. The gospel lesson is often made up of narrative and so sometimes a bit easier to preach on than the ‘long, complicated’ arguments of Paul.  But we can’t ignore Paul, for as I’ve said before, Paul often times makes explicit what the gospel narratives leave implicit.  In Paul we find the radical gospel--one of his major themes--that Christ is in the business of ‘justifying the ungodly’. Or, to use less churchy parlance, Christ came to rescue suffering sinners like me and you.

This passage from Romans is one of my favorite passages of Scripture--maybe my favorite.  It is this very passage that makes clear that ‘while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.’ This is the announcement of God’s one-way love for rebellious persons like you and me; this is the good news.  

The church that I grew up in used to proclaim something like this message very well to unbelievers.  The church had a thriving biker ministry.  Now if any of you here are bikers don’t think that I lump all of you into one category, but the bikers that came to our church were the bad kind of bikers. The bikers who did cocaine and heroin and who were violent.  Some had wild stories about being at the end of their rope with a needle in their arm.  These people heard about the forgiveness of sins and the offer for a new life at just the right moment, and everything changed. They had a conversion experience.  They found that Christ was interested in failures and burnouts--the ungodly--and they wanted in. The good news really was good for these folks.  

Me, on the other hand, I grew up in the church. My mom was the one who converted from Judaism. I don’t remember ever not being a Christian. I’ve been in church for forever--I could have been birthed there for all I know.  I grew up with regular ‘altar calls', and sermons that seemed to always end with ‘Go, and make disciples of all nations.’ A good and necessary imperative, but after years of the same thing it got old.