7/30/2017 Eighth Sunday after Pentecost The text is Romans 8:26-39.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The second lesson for today is familiar to most of us as part of it is often read at funerals. No, it does directly speak of the resurrection. Instead, it points to justification and salvation through Christ Jesus. For, if it is God who justifies, who is to condemn? Christ Jesus, the one who died for us and intercedes for us? Certainly, if Christ was sent into the world to save sinners, then surely he’s not out there condemning us.
And yet, what is justification? Is it not a fact or circumstance that shows an action to be reasonable or necessary? Or is it an explanation or excuse from some action or belief? Or perhaps it is the act of defending or explaining or making excuses in order to avoid criticism or censure? Justification, by definition, can be all these things. So that means that involves justice and judgment.
Now, we know that right is right and wrong is wrong. And no amount of excuses or reasons will make something that is wrong, right, or something that is right, wrong.
We are sinners, and no amount of excuses or reasons can erase what we have done and left undone. And yet, we are told that we are called and justified and will be glorified. This makes no sense. For, how can we be made right with God even though we sin and the punishment for sin, no matter how minor we may think the sin to be, is always eternal death?
The key to unlock the mystery is found in the love of God through Jesus Christ. The key to justification is not found in human nature and the many excuses and reasons we can come up with for breaking God’s law. The key to justification, that is being made right with God, is found in the nature of God.
In July of 2002, Pastor Tim Zingale confronted the questions posed by Paul’s letter. In order to help his congregation understand the depth of God’s love for us and the type of treatment we receive because of it, he wrote a sermon. Pastor Zingale wrote, “I would like you to picture yourself standing before the throne of God, in his law court. God is the judge, Satan is the prosecutor, and you are the defendant waiting to be tried for the things you did or did not do in this life. Satan then calls witness after witness against you and your head sinks low in shame as you remember some of the things you have done, and some of the things you should have done but didn’t do. Satan calls before you all those people you gossiped about, those people you thought were different than you, so you couldn’t accept them. Satan calls before you the hungry boy who needed food, but you were too busy to pay attention, too busy with you own needs, your own interests, your own little world.
Then comes a lonely widow that you were too busy to visit. The parade of witnesses goes on and on. Finally, all of your sins of omission and commission have been vividly exposed before the court and you are wishing you could crawl into a hole somewhere, and hide.
God asks you if you have anything to say on your own behalf. For a brief moment, you think of all of the excuses you might be able to give on your behavior, but then you realize how futile that would be before God.
You swallow hard and begin shaking your head, “No God I don’t have anything to say on my behalf.”
Just then the counsel for the defense, Jesus Christ, stands up and approaches the bench. He makes this one simple statement: “This one trusted in me. I have paid the penalty for his sins.”
Without further comment the judge announces your acquittal and you walk out of the court into God’s everlasting kingdom.”
Is this justice? Maybe not in our sense of the word. Instead of what we see played out in the court system day after day, this is a justice in which someone else pays the price for our wrongdoing. It’s a justice in which the one who pays the price stands up for us when there is nothing we can do other than admit our guilt.
This is God’s way…to see us through the cross of Christ. We are justified, not by what we have done or said, but by faith in Jesus, the one who laid down his life for us. Unlike our world, in God’s kingdom the judge accepts payment from someone other than the one who commits the crime. Jesus’ death is enough. No one else needs to die.
Of course, this doesn’t happen in our world. If we break the law then we pay the consequences. No one else pays our debt to society. Yet, in the kingdom of God, God’s judgment is based in the love shown to us in Christ Jesus. God accepts the word of his Son over and above those who bear witness to our sin. God accepts the death of his Son as full payment for each of us who are condemned to death for breaking God’s law. Jesus paid the price for our sins. Jesus went to the cross for our sins, those sins that we committed and those things we should have done, but didn’t.
And so we are justified. We are made right with God not by what we have done or said, but by what Jesus did for us. We are no longer chained to our sin. We are free to be the ones who are called and justified, who live by God’s grace and forgiveness, who testify to the love we have received and the salvation we hope for in our Savior, Jesus Christ.
So, let us go out and live in the shadow of the cross and may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.