Genesis 9:8-17 Psalm 25:1-9
1 Peter 3:18-22 Mark 1:9-15
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We are in Lent. Since Ash Wednesday we have embarked on the journey to Easter which will take us through Good Friday and the Cross. Peter tells us that Jesus died on the Cross for all, sinner and saint alike, so we are included somewhere in there. He also tells us that even those who had heard the Good News but rejected it are saved, if they choose. As we affirm in the Apostle’s Creed our belief that Jesus descended to the dead and redeemed those who accepted Him. It should not surprise you that although He died for all there is the matter of acceptance of that sacrifice. I fear that many of other faiths will stick to their guns and remain away from the closer presence of God. So if I were you I would not go flirting with other religions.
Dialogue with those of other faiths is ok as long as we don’t accept that their gods are real gods. The major faiths agree that there is just one god but not ours. We accept that those gods have believers and adherents and we must love those believers and respect that they are committed to their gods, but Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). I hope you believe that too. But not all those of other faiths will be lost because Jesus added “I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:15a-16). Jesus is saying they have a chance if they listen to Him, that is, believe in Him – even after death. We should pray that they do. God does not want to lose even one being from His Creation. He loves all humanity as His own, which we truly are.
Easter was God’s big declaration that He wants us to be saved, to repent, to believe in Him. The Cross is a brutal way to do that but here’s why it was the only way.
The sports physician who sexually assaulted hundreds of girls and women has just been sentenced to one hundred and seventy years in prison. The Justice judged that to be the amount of time, the amount of his life, he should give up to make amends to society. He will never make amends, he will not live long enough. Even if He did the scars on his victims, like Christ’s wounds from the Cross, will still be visible.
And the killer at the Florida school he murdered seventeen people, and wounded fourteen others, even if he were given the death penalty, that is was deprived of his life, he only has one life to lose, the Scales of Justice still has sixteen others in the balance. He cannot die seventeen times, losing his life for others. And the hurt that remains in the family and friends of the victims and in the wounded can never be erased. There is no way these two villains can ever make amends by themselves.
None of us is an abuser, or a killer or a thief. We don’t fit into the same category as those two. We belong to those who say ‘when did we see you hungry, or thirsty or naked [and didn’t help you] ?’ (Matthew 25:44). Our sins are ones of omission rather than commission, although I suspect there are the skeletons of Pride, Avarice and Deceit lurking in more than one closet. I know of at least one, because I’ve looked into it, it is mine. I can never make amends on my own.
Because we are human we have failings. God recognised that the second He knew we ate that delicious Eden Apple. From that time on we have been behind, on the wrong side of the ledger, out of balance with God. We were given freedom to roam the world as long as we honoured God. When we broke that trust with God our freedom turned into the labour we needed to survive in a world that we had turned upside down.
Because we are coming from behind, a position of weakness, it is impossible for us to balance the ledger for ourselves or for any other. We as the sinners, as human beings, should do it but we can’t. The only one who can do it is God. Jesus entered our Life to do exactly that. As a human He surrendered His life on the Cross, as God He reclaimed it in the Resurrection. The important thing is He righted what was wrong.
But why the gruesome Cross ? Why not something, say like Socrates, taking an easy poison that would allow Him to drift away quietly, painlessly ? Plain and simple the Sins both committed and yet to be committed were and are and will be so great that nothing other than the Cross would suffice. Every sin we commit causes pain to God, the pain of lost Love. That pain has to be matched by human suffering, Jesus as a man did that, He suffered on the Cross, instead of us. You know the word ‘excruciating’ it comes from the Latin word, which means ‘from the Cross’ that is the plain sense of it, terrible pain – the pain of lost love.
Jesus took away the Sin of the World. That doesn’t mean we are free to Sin because Jesus has erased it all, by no means. We still need to try and lead a sinless life. We will still sin but when we do, if we confess it, those sins are dumped onto the huge pile of sins that Christ already bore for our sake. It is said that a father used to drive a nail into a board to vent his anger, whenever his son did wrong but being a fair man he pulled one out every time the boy did something good. After a while there were no nails in the board. But the holes remained. Lent is the time when we are to look at the holes we have caused, confess them, ask for forgiveness and give thanks for our own Redemption through Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God. Amen.