4th Sunday After Pentecost
Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace and peace to you
from the one who brought us from death to life. Amen
You have been brought from death to life,
This is what Christ does for us
when we are joined to him at our baptisms,
he brings us from death to life.
In our reading from Romans
we join Paul as he tries to unpack what it means
to say that we have died to sin and risen to Christ
both on the cosmic scale and in our day to day lives.
On the cosmic scale
Paul paints with broad brush strokes
and absolute statements.
“Sin will have no dominion over you since you are not under the law but under grace.”
“You..have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching which you were entrusted”
“You have been freed from sin”
And we say alleluia
because this is good news,
to be freed from sin, that’s amazing!
And to be freed from sin
means to be freed from death
And yet even as we shout alleluias,
we witness death in our daily lives,
whether it is death with a capital D,
of loved ones or innocent ones
or whether it is death with a lower case d,
the ending of a relationship,
a time of sickness,
a transition from one way of being to another way of being,
all times when it seems like sin and death still reign
and we wonder what difference does the cosmic make
if all this suffering still exists.
It makes all the difference in the world.
because just as God brought us from death to life on a cosmic scale
God brings us from death to life daily.
When someone goes from isolation to being a member of a community
they are brought from death to life.
When you hear “I love you” after you thought you’d never hear those words again
you are brought from death to life.
When we go from fearing the future to being at peace with what life will bring
we are brought from death to life.
To belong to Christ
means that life always has the last say,
even though death has been defeated it hasn’t given up.
but no matter how many times death tries to enter in life will be the result.
As Christians we confess that we are in the middle,
the already and not yet,
Already Jesus has defeated death
and not yet has this come to full fruition throughout the world.
And as those who have been brought from death to life,
God calls us to serve life,
to resist the powerful temptation of sin and death
and to bring life with us wherever we go
moving the world a little closer to perfection as we do so
Paul, writing to a first century audience
puts our service in the stark terms of slavery,
even as he realizes that the imagery is a little ridiculous
Paul knows that his audience lives in a reality
where all relationships are understood in terms of power over or power under
and that perhaps with the exception of the emperor
everyone was under the power of someone else.
In Paul’s terms,
before Christ we had no choice in who we served,
we were under the power of sin,
after Christ, because of Christ
we are under the power of God
and have a choice whether or not to serve sin or God
and why Paul wonders would you serve sin
when the wages of sin is death,
but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
You have been brought from death to life,
Jesus in the gospel puts it a little more simply,
The way to serve life, God, is through welcome
“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me”
This teaching comes
right after Jesus has explained to his disciples
the cost of discipleship,
saying “those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
putting yourself before God
is serving sin and leads to death
while putting God before yourself leads to life
God is served through welcome
all kinds of welcome,
it could be as simple as giving someone a cold cup of water
or a wandering disciple a place to stay for the night,
in the first century middle-east
where there were no hotel chains or fast food restaurants
especially travelers like the disciples
who Jesus instructed to travel light
welcome was a matter of life or death
Welcome is still a matter of life and death
though we tend not to see it that way,
in our own lives
we are seduced into thinking
that we can care for ourselves
and that since we can others should be able to as well,
but frankly all of us at some time
will not be able to care for ourselves
and this has nothing to do with our own abilities
and everything to do with what it means to be human
in a world where sin and death are still a reality
and when those times come
the matter of welcome
is still a matter of life and death
For babies, children,
welcome, how they are cared for
is a matter of life and death
for refugees fleeing violence
whether they are welcomed is a matter of life and death,
for lqbtq people especially teens
whose suicide rate is astronomically higher than the rest of the population
welcome is a matter of life and death,
for those seeking treatment and help with addiction and mental illness
welcome is a matter of life and death.
You have been brought from death to life
now it is our turn to share the gift of life
with all we encounter
in ways large or small
for the wages of sin is death
but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Alleluia, Amen
Pastor Emily Johnson preaches weekly at Christ Lutheran. These are manuscripts of her sermons given at Christ Lutheran. Feel free to engage with them in the comments section of the blog.