University Congregational Church
March 27, 2016
“Faith After Certainty – An Ethic of Amazing Grace”
II Cor. 1:20-22
This week, those who are motivated by fear, by anger, by deep anguish within their own souls made the choice to take the lives of dozens of other people and throw a nation, and indeed, the world, into a state of peril. These innocent people were unjustly murdered, and it strikes fear in our hearts. In Brussels, Begium as in Paris, France, as in New York City, and too many other places to name.
This week, we remember and retell the story from so many years ago about those who were motivated by fear, by anger, by deep anguish within their own souls to take the lives of a man of peace. The crucifixion of Jesus was an act of terror. Jesus was unjustly murdered. They beat, mocked, and degraded Jesus in front of the eyes of hundreds of onlookers. They paraded him through the streets of Jerusalem, carrying the very means of his own death on his shoulders.
Just as Jesus’ life slipped away, he uttered some of the most powerful words in all of human history. These words undermined the entire agenda of power and fear spread by Rome. “Father,” he uttered, “forgive them.” In an instant, Jesus overturned the system of terror and the despair fear with unconditional love.
This singular act of forgiveness and grace has forever transformed the world. The earth shattering subversive path of love, grace, and forgiveness that Jesus demonstrated is the path of salvation for humanity. This is our hope. That Jesus’ way becomes our way, and that this way of love, grace, and forgiveness is the way to life itself.
This is what the Apostle Paul called “God’s ‘yes’” to the world. Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God’s Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident. God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us. By his Spirit he has stamped us with his eternal pledge—a sure beginning of what he is destined to complete. II Cor. 1:20-22
Do you remember the old toy called a magic 8 ball? You could ask it a yes-or-no question and shake it up to get the answer. There was never anything spooky or supernatural about it – it was just a silly toy. In fact, President Eisenhower kept one on his desk in the Oval Office as a joke! Inside a magic eight ball is a 20-sided shape with a different answer printed. It’s a lot of fun to ask questions of the magic 8 ball and get just the answer you hoped for! Let’s try a couple:
Magic 8 ball: Will the weather forecasters in Kansas get one accurate weather forecast this week? Answer: Outlook not so good.
Magic 8 ball: Now that the Kansas teams are out, is it worth watching basketball this week? Answer: My sources say no.
Magic 8 ball: Will we get out of church on time this morning? Answer: Cannot predict now.
One of the most beautiful words in the human language is the word “yes.” When you apply for a job, you want to hear, “yes, you’re hired.” When you apply for a home mortgage, you want to hear, “yes, you’ve been approved.” I can remember as a kid in school passing notes back and forth with a message like this: “Dear Brian, I like you, do you like me? Check yes or no.” It was always a huge relief when the note came back with the “yes” box marked!
Easter is the time to remind us that fear, hopelessness, defeat, betrayal, grief, and even death do not have the last word. Today begins anew. This is a wild holy moment where the world is turned on its end. What is needed in our lives and in our universe is available! Love, attention, humor, joy, laughter, forgiveness… just look about you. This is God’s big YES to us.
Pay attention and breathe. Look at the flowers in bloom, the trees and weeds and grass. Look at and listen for the wet birds. They sing in the rain. Sap is coming out of cuts in the trees – it is resin for wound dressings, made from the wound of a tree.
What is needed in us as individuals and our world has arrived.
* The magnolias and sap,
* the laughter of children and the laps of the elderly,
* the assistance and selflessness of strangers,
* the beauty of life,
* buzz of the bees,
It is all here to remind us that hate and fear do not get to triumph for long. Our “no’s” to life and love are overcome by God’s “yes!”
Grace is God’s “yes!” and it is alive, moving, and groaning with creation. God’s grace shines in the darkest nooks and crannies of our lives, in a way that heals and forgives and gets us unstuck with ourselves.
Paul makes it very clear that we are not the yes. We do not know how to say yes in this utterly grace-filled way. But we can say something else. We can say, “Amen.” With our “amen” we have permission to be a part of God’s work of love, forgiveness, and new life in our world. We have permission to be generous, to be forgiving, and to change the world with our very lives. This is the promise of Easter!
Stenberg, Mark. “51% Christian; Finding Faith After Certainty”. Fortress Press, 2015.
Lamott, Anne. “Here is the Art of the Deal”. Blog, 3-12-2016.
Robertson, Brandan. “What Good Friday Teaches Us About Responding to Terrorists”. Patheos.com 3-22-2016.