Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sermon for September 18

Ephesians 1
Zechariah 3

  Quick question – do you know your credit score? If you go to apply for a loan, be it a home loan or a car loan or a loan to get siding on your house, your cost is going to come down to your credit score. Banks boil all the information about you down to a number, and if the number is good enough, then you’ll get a better rate. That credit score is supposed to sum up everything about you that is worth knowing – a summary of your past actions that determines if you are worthy of credit or not. If your history is checkered enough, you won’t get a loan.

  From Monday through Friday, I examine credit. I work in a bank that issues financing for nursing homes and affordable housing developments, and so what happens is that we receive the financials from a facility and then try and figure out what an appropriate loan is. After that, we examine the facility and the people behind it to see if they are worthy of credit. We want to make sure that we are lending to a worthy institution that is likely to pay us back. We don’t want to take any more risk than necessary – if we have a lot of questions, we’ll come up with mitigations or simply not issue the loan, because it’s not worth the risk to issue a loan to bad credit.

  This mindset makes sense. If I’ve made a lot of bad choices in my life and have proved that I’m risky with other people’s money, I’d expect someone to hesitate before offering me a loan. I get it. They’re going to want assurance that they’ll get paid back. The opposite is also true – we think that if we have proved ourselves trustworthy, we should get better rates. People should be more eager to lend us money when we have made good choices.

  So what happens is we translate this mindset to our approach to God. We believe that if we have lived well and made good choices, then God will love us more. We have proved ourselves worthy of God’s love. Where most of us stand, however, is in the other camp – if we’ve made poor choices or have fallen short in some way, we come before God with shame in our hearts, afraid of what God is going to say because we know in our hearts that we do not deserve the love of God.

  What Scripture tells us, however, is a different narrative. When we lose ourselves in the Word of God, we discover that there is a different story than the one the world tells us. Scripture tells a story about grace, freely given, while the world shouts that it all depends on you earning your own way. But it starts with the central truth – none of us are worthy, not even one.

  In Zechariah, we come across Joshua the High Priest. Joshua was the first high priest after the Jews returned from Babylonian captivity. The temple had just been reconstructed, and they needed a high priest, and Joshua was the one chosen for the task. In other words, Joshua was a stand-up guy. If there was a man of integrity walking around, it was Joshua. Yet, in Zechariah 3, verse 3, what do we see? Joshua’s clothes were filthy. Even Joshua was filthy before God, tainted by human sin. The devil knows it, too. He’s standing at Joshua’s side, ready to accuse, ready to remind Joshua of his failures, ready to taunt him for his sin, ready to remind God that even Joshua isn’t worthy.

  And yet the truth of the Gospel is this: Before Satan can say a word, before Joshua can make a case for why God should love him, before anything, God speaks, pointing out that Joshua is rescued like a stick from a fire, he is washed of his sin and dressed in priestly clothes. Before there is a case made about whether or not Joshua is worthy, God is there offering forgiveness. God’s grace is present before Joshua or the devil can speak a word.

  This is the joy we find in Ephesians 1. Before the world was created, Christ was chosen to live with us and introduce us to the grace and love of God. Before the word was spoken that created the world, there was a plan that God’s kindness would lead to our adoption as sons and daughters of God. Before anything, there was the unconditional love of God that offers us forgiveness even before we sin. Ephesians 1:7-8 says ‘Christ sacrificed his life’s blood to set us free, which means that our sins are now forgiven. Christ did this because God was so kind to us.’ Note there isn’t anything in here about whether you are worthy. There isn’t language in here limiting this to people that have been good enough.

   God doesn’t offer his grace to the people that have made good choices. Christ sacrifices his life to forgive our sins, and it’s because of God’s kindness. This isn’t about your credit and it isn’t about what you have or have not done, it’s about what God has done for you – God loves you, and he wants you to accept his love. That’s it – no matter what is in your past, you are loved and chosen by God. That is enough.

  Let us pray

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