‘Grace”

Sharing the Good News:  Part II

Romans 5: 6-17

The Reverend Phillip Blackburn

August 28, 2016

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Who would ever take a 6 year old boy to a craft mall?  I mean, really, I cannot be held responsible for what happened that day, I really can’t.  Who, in their right mind, with a 6 year old boy in tow says, “hey, let’s go spend some time at this craft mall?  I bet that will be fun?”  Well, let me tell you, it wasn’t fun.  I may have been 6, I may have been even younger, I don’t know, but my mother and grandmother dragged me to this craft mall. I can still remember it.  It was a long, open plan type building with two floors and lots of little booths.  I don’t really remember much of what they sold but I do remember there was a booth with lots of miniature stuff in it, you know, miniature coke cans and soup cans and that sort of thing.  In short, it was stuff that was not exciting to me.  Well, a kid has to occupy himself somehow, so I thought it would be fun to try to step on my mother and grandmother’s feet.  I would go near them and with a big, exaggerated leg kick, I would stomp down.  At first they didn’t really care, I was slow enough to give them time to move their feet, but I guess what happened next was pretty much inevitable.  I lifted up my foot and drove it to the ground and straight onto my grandmother’s foot.  To this day I can remember the look she gave me.  It wasn’t just physical pain, it was hurt.  I had hurt her heart with that stomp.  Now I was just a little kid and I had been in the process of slowly destroying my mother’s heart pretty much since birth, so I was used to that look from her, but not from my grandmother.  This was the woman whom I adored and who adored me.  She would pour flour out on her kitchen counters so I could pretend my GI Joe guys were in snow wars.  She would take me down to her garden and patiently teach me how to do everything.  She would tuck me in at night when I stayed with her.  She was the best and I had just crushed her foot, not knowing that her heart was in the same place.

We do that stuff, don’t we?  We just make a mess of things.  And we start so young with the hurting other people.  We learn early on the power we have to hurt other people and all of us, all of us, use that power from time to time.  Sometimes we do it just because we are clumsy, but sometimes we do it with full intent.  We raise our legs in the air and we drive it down onto their heart.  We do it all the time.  The truth is we are good at it.  It’s an easy thing to hurt somebody and sometimes it just feels good.  We are angry or scared or frustrated or selfish and so we just bring the hammer down.  We start young and we keep on going.  Why do we do that sort of thing?  Well, Paul has an answer.

We do it because Adam brought sin into the world. That’s why we do it.  We are a hot mess because of the “trespass,” as he calls it.  The one “trespass,” he says, “brought condemnation.”  Boy did it.  We live in a mess of a world.  It’s like everybody is intent these days on just stomping on everybody else.  Doesn’t it feel that way?  If we aren’t actively stomping on somebody, then we are being stomped on by somebody else.  Isn’t that how most of us feel?  It’s how everybody back then felt, you can tell by how Paul writes.  He doesn’t have to work too hard to make the case that sin is a real presence in the world, or that sin has separated us from God and from each other.  It’s a pretty easy case to make in a world where we see images of little children whose homes were barrel bombed or as we spend a week listening to our two presidential candidates call each other bigots.  This place is a mess.

And that is why Jesus died.  His life was a collision, you see.  He came into the world through the power of God, into a world where everyone wanted to control and enslave everybody else, and take all their stuff.  It was 100 times harder than our world is today.  At least. That’s the world he entered and in his life we see that collision.  He comes in preaching love and repentance and hope to a world that doesn’t want to hear it.  To a world living in condemnation, a world which has trespassed, Jesus Christ brings grace, or as Paul calls it, “the free gift.”  And there is a collision so loud and so powerful that it resonates through the world to this day.  We still see it and we still live it; that collision between grace and condemnation.  And guess which one wins?  It isn’t even close.  Paul says, “the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion.”  Abundance of grace.  Dominion of the free gift!  That is some power right there.   Through Christ, in the eyes of God, the sin which held us has been overcome by the power of grace!  Isn’t that awesome?  Isn’t that wonderful?  Can you believe it?

I couldn’t believe it when my grandmother responded to my foot stomp.  She gave me that look, I told you about that, right?  She gave me that look and silently; man, the silence is the worst isn’t it, silently she walked away.  Well I felt about an inch high when that happened.  If there’d been a hole nearby, I would’ve crawled into it.  My mom may have scolded me, I don’t remember, I was too busy submerging myself in self loathing.  Would it ever be the same, I wondered?  Had I just ruined my relationship with my grandmother?  I didn’t know.  Well, I stood there like a puddle for a while and then she came back and handed me something.  It was one of those peg games.  You know the ones, where there’s one more hole than there are pegs, and you have to jump the pegs to clear the board?  Anyway, it was a game. And she gave it to me.  I don’t remember anything after that, and I don’t know what she was thinking at the time, but she lived out this passage.  She met my trespass with a free gift.  I certainly hadn’t earned it, but it taught me something powerful about her love for me and who she was as a human being.  Something I have always remembered.  That, my friends, is grace.

See, here is what we all forget.  We’re not the only ones who have been stomped on or done the stomping this week.  Everybody has.  Everybody out there is scared and anxious and angry.  They all are.  They worry, they don’t sleep well.  Everybody out there lives in a world where the trespass still keeps hold, but when we are together, the Church, when we are together, we are the visible reminder that grace is more abundant than any trespass, and righteousness more powerful than condemnation.  When we think, then, about sharing the good news of the Gospel, that is the Good News.  God is love, and because God is love there is this free gift in the world.  It is the gift of grace through Jesus Christ.  It’s just there.  And this place, this body, should reflect the power of that grace.  We should be the embodiment of that free gift.  When people walk in those doors, remember what they have walked in from.  It’s the same mess you just left behind to come here.

Too often the church meets the world with just more judgment and scorn, but where is the free gift in that?  Where is the power in that?  I don’t see it, and more and more the people around us don’t see it.  No.  If we want to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the world, then it has to be rooted in love and grace.  You know God’s love, and you have received Christ’s grace in your life.  Go give it to somebody else, even if, especially if, they have stomped on your foot.  That’s evangelism.  Amen.