Not Destined for Failure

Today's lectionary text is a wonderful pairing up of texts because it brings us through the whole human saga of humanity's relationship to God in just three simple texts, if that will be possible. But I will maintain that, for today's purposes, it is possible.

We begin in Genesis where God's relationship begins with the people, with Adam and Eve...Adam, in Hebrew, meaning human...Adam and Eve who we all know from The Fall, who cast on to humanity a life of living in sinfulness or disobedience to God, which is then perpetuated, by not adhering to the one simple rule God gave, which was not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. But that Adam and Eve, the first human family, representing the human race at the time, made the disobedient choice to eat of the Tree of Knowledge, that desire to be more like God.

And if we follow the track of that throughout the Hebrew testament in Scripture, we see how that one act of disobedience is played out over and over again in successive texts. The people, in disobedience, fall into suffering and misery and call out to God, and God brings them a prophet who tells the people what God expects, and the people repent, a new covenant is established, and all is good...for at least a generation or two. And the people fall away from God, and the cycle repeats itself, and repeats itself again. So when we, with the eyes of the New Testament, living under Christ, look back at Old Testament history and theology, we see the failure of humanity to be obedient to God. And then we look at the New Testament, the Gospels, and here is Jesus, God's Son come in the flesh, showing humanity...and we must take from this perspective, Jesus also being fully human, the first human to be completely and utterly obedient to God... God in human flesh is obedient in every way and in every word. And the story of Jesus in the wilderness and being tempted for forty days, being famished, being offered food if he would be disobedient, being offered a kingdom of the peoples if he would be disobedient to God, Jesus always chooses obedience.

In the Apostle Paul's Letter to the Romans, he tries to set this up for people to understand. Under the Old Testament and under the old ways, living under Adam and Eve, we were destined for failure because we lived under their disobedience and, in Old Testament theology and thought processes, the sins of the father are visited upon the next generations. And so there's an inheritance of not only the disobedience, but of the sin and the tragedy that comes through disobedience. Paul tells the church in Rome that no, now under the obedience of Christ, who was here in the flesh, showing God's righteousness, making every obedient the whole saga for human history has changed. It has been reversed. No longer is humanity completely subject to disobedience and sin, but now, in Christ, humanity is offered forgiveness and grace and righteousness, and that these are the things that we can attain.

I didn't refer to the Scripture that said, 'Forsake the evil and choose the good.' I did a sermon in the not very distant past on that. But we see that same dynamic here in the story of Jesus in the wilderness. Jesus rejected the evil and chose the good. But for Adam and Eve, the first human family who represent all of human history, they made the tragic choice to choose what we consider the evil, which is the disobedience to God. And Paul is reminding us that all this has now been erased. We no longer live under that tradition that we've inherited. We now have inherited a new tradition, which is in Christ. And that is the basis for our hope, that God has changed all things for all times in the person of Jesus...Jesus, who we declare as fully divine and fully human. And that's a big theological discussion that we probably need a week of bible study to unfold and to debate. But it was important for Jesus to be both, fully human and fully divine. Fully human, being born of a human being, being raised in a human family, walking as a human being, experiencing all that humanity experiences. And he very poignantly experiences that through the texts we use in Lent. Jesus, fully human, changes the course of history of humanity's relationship to God. No more are we subject to the eternity of living in sin, but Jesus has given us grace and a new way of living in God's righteousness. It's what Jesus has accomplished for all humanity from that point forward. That changes the entire saga of humanity's relationship with God. And that is the essence of the entire Scripture summed up in five minutes. God changed the course of human history in the person and spirit of Jesus. No more do we have to live that way.

And so I urge us to consider, in this season of Lent, that we don't have to live in an understanding that we are destined for failure, but that we live in hope and the knowledge of what Jesus has done, that we are destined for righteousness in Christ. Christ, in all of his wisdom, brought people back into relationship with God, showing that every step of the way, being unpopular in his time, declaring to the people who did not necessarily wish to serve as God would have them serve. But Jesus, a divine example and human example of obedience, gives us hope that we too can live that same obedience in what he has taught us, and that though it may be difficult to make those choices sometimes, the payoff for making those choices is a right spirit and knowing that we are in right relationship with God, and knowing that righteousness is welling up in us and in our church and in our community each time we make the obedient choice when we choose the good.

So let us give up for Lent the idea that we are destined for failure, that we are destined to always live under the darkness of sin and understand that, in Christ, we are destined to live in obedience to God, to live in the light of faith, to live in the hope of new and eternal life, and to live a new day each day in that grace that Christ offers. That is the power and essence of our Gospel story. That is what we should proclaim, what we should give to all those who are around us who struggle, those who feel like there is no hope. And as obedient followers of Christ, as we live in that hope, people will see that in us by our example. So let us be the good example during this Lenten season. Let us be the people of hope. Let us be the people who live in God's light and who strive to live under generations of becoming God's righteousness through Christ.

Let us pray.

Almighty and gracious God, through your wisdom the lectionary scholars pulled these particular texts together for us today. And your truth and your might, your love and your grace reign through them. May we be touched in our hearts. May we take these passages home and reflect upon them. May we seek to be your wisdom and your glory, examples of your righteousness in our world, in our community, and in our families. Help us, through Christ and through the Spirit, to be obedient followers, O God, to do our best and to remember, O God, that the safety net of your grace is there for us always and that you will always love us. But let that love be an inspiration to us to higher obedience and higher living in Christ Jesus, our Lord, in whose name we pray.


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