Lent 4-C, 3/18/07

“All Right with God”
2 Corinthians 5: 17-20

17… if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

he Good News is that God is on our side and that he wants us to choose to be on his side.

Whenever I think about “choosing sides” I think about the elementary school playground and how the bigger boys would choose two teams. The initial step in the process of determining which “junior chieftain” would select “firsties.” The ensuing tense period of intimidation and name calling would sometimes take the remainder of the Play Period. Those who did not get chosen would sometimes sit down in the dirt and cry.

Fortunately God did not make it so difficult to become one of His chosen. The Good News is that we are all chosen on the first team for playground rolliebat.

Not too much has changed since those playground days.

Choosing sides goes on every day in big business board rooms, or around water coolers.  Choosing and getting chosen is a part of our lives. All of these choices, some beyond our control, determine our destiny more than anything else, except God.

The Good News is that God has made it simple… He has already chosen all of us. And furthermore, God has a bright and happy plan for each of our lives. Our part is finding God’s best road for us and staying on it as best we can. Sometimes our road can get hard, other times we feel lost as driving on a rainy night in Georgia. But when we are lost God turns on his search lights and rescues us. He seems to always help us get back on course.

Our epistle reading on the fourth Sunday in Lent explains the rescuing process in a plain and simple way. By responding to Christ we are spiritually re-tuned to be a “new creation.” 

This spiritual remodeling is freely given, it is not a loan.  It is meant to be a permanent gift that can never be foreclosed upon. But as creatures of free will we can shake our fists in his face and yell, NO! He seeks all people but all people will not open their hearts.

Rightly received, this is the greatest gift ever. Whenever we speak of how God seeks us we usually refer to Him with the name Holy Spirit. But by whatever name we call Him, God woos us, and calls us; but it’s ultimately our choice to respond. It is a profound life changing upon which we can rebuild our lives. It determines all other choices in life, and even beyond life we even have another life after this life.

Many of us became friends of God when as children we were drawn to the beautiful and compelling stories in the Bible. We thought of the Christian faith as a story that our parents and teachers seemed to really believed in. They encouraged us to believe it too. Since they were our trustworthy role models we just softly and tenderly felt in our souls a tugging toward being a better child and loving Jesus. It has remained with us with varying levels of intensity. We are completely sure of God’s commitment to us. If we are broken down or out of gas on a lonely road in a rainstorm, our friend God will some how send some nice person to rescue us.

If this resembles your faith pilgrimage and you feel good with it, then this talk about conversion may seem somewhat far out.  I have known many good persons who are in this category. They are comfortable and do not feel any need to be rescued. But every now and then there is an issue.

A young seminary student asked the very old retired Bishop Nolan B. Harmon; how a person can know for sure that they have a good enough faith experience. The old bishop answered, “It’s like a ship that sails from the cold waters of the Arctic to the hot waters of the equator, you simply let down a bucket and feel the temperature of the water.”

As John Wesley might have said, “If your heart is warm and secure that you feel ‘Right with God’ then give me your hand.”  Mr. Wesley, a high church Anglican Priest, who was supposed to not speak to Roman Catholics, visited Ireland and after getting to know some Roman Priests, he warmly received them by saying, “If your heart is right (with God)  as my heart is right, then give me your hand.” That pretty well says it.

As it often happens, many great and grave issues that can divide folks can best be resolved by going back to our memories of the playground. We all know how it feels to be among the un-chosen, and how exuberant we felt when the captain of the playground team chose us. And we know so still.  I too know that left out and empty feeling of aloneness, and I know how God reached down His hand to me. I hope you feel “All Right with God.” If not, then give me your hand.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
Lent 4-C, 3/18/07