This past Church season we have been singing songs that remind us of the grace given to us through the sacrifice of Christ. Foremost among these is the hymn Rock of Ages, written by Augustus Toplady in 1776. Amusingly, it was originally published in Gospel Magazine along with an article about the national economy. There Toplady argued that Great Britain's national debt had grown so large that Parliament could never hope to pay it back; likewise our debt of sin is so great that we have no hope of being free from it by our own actions. It is only through the sacrifice of Christ that we can be saved from our sins. Even as we fasted during Lent, we sang this song and are reminded that our fasting, prayers, and offerings have no power to redeem us; we sing to Christ, "Thou must save and Thou alone!" We now rejoice in this Easter season because we experience Christ’s salvation and resurrection.
The season of Lent is one of reflection and repentance. As we have journeyed to the cross we see Jesus preaching teaching and performing miracles. He goes on as He has done since the start of His ministry pointing all to the Kingdom of God. The life and ministry of Christ is not a set up to the cross, but the continual expression of its mission. Christ’s sacrifice is only worthwhile because of the life He lived. In Christ’s life we see the possibility that humanity and divinity can exist together, that to be perfectly human is not to ere, but to be in right relatedness with YHWH. This way of life can easily be dismissed as impossible; Christ did it because He was also fully God. However, Paul does not let the Roman church (or us) off so quickly. If we are followers of Christ, then we must journey with him through His life death and resurrection. And if we have experienced His life, then we can live like Christ because we have experienced His death. Death can no longer reign in our lives because we have been raised to new life in His resurrection. We can no longer live as we once did. The impossible becomes possible, not because we have done enough, but because of the faithfulness of God exemplified in the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of our Savior. The call of repentance is to look at God, and then look at our selves. Where there is a difference we proclaim it, turn from it, and ask to be transformed more into God’s image.
Acts 9 & 10
Saul was going on his way. Doing what he usually did, persecuting. Then BAM out of nowhere light burst from the sky and a voice calls to him. Peter was sitting there waiting. Doing what he usually did, praying. Then BAM out of nowhere a sheet descends from the sky and a voice calls out to him. Saul and Peter up to this point seem so different. Saul was a well educated man in a highly esteemed position. Peter was a fisherman with no real formal education. Saul was working within the religious elite to establish order and structure to their faith. Peter was outside of the organized system spreading these weird stories about a man named Jesus. Saul was calculated, Peter was rambunctious. Saul knew for sure that he knew what it meant to be a disciple of God. Peter was convinced of the same. So maybe not so different? Saul’s zeal led him to hating these Christians, Peter’s zeal led him to ignoring the commision. They thought they knew that they had it figured out, but it took a encounter with the true God to make them see differently. They were falling into a very easy sin for the religious. Often we feel that we have to defend God, our theology, and doctrines. And don’t misunderstand me we need to know and speak clearly about those things and there are times to say no that is not what we believe, but the sin is thinking that we in our intellect or knowledge or purity of faith can decide what is right (life giving) and what is wrong (life taking). Saul thought these followers were blasphemers, Peter thought these foreigners were outside of grace. And both encounter a God who continually says this is what goodness rightness righteousness means: to love me entirely and to love others unfailingly. God is faithful to use his people and He is faithful to remind and reprimand them when they fail to be that which they were called to be.