the First Sunday in Lent

Romans 5. 12-19
What god does, god does for everyone and everything!

As you can tell from the powerPoint, I’m not quite sure how to start the sermon, this morning. Not quite sure where to begins. Not that I’m at a loss for words. I know what I want to say. Part of it, I guess you could say, is that I’m at loss for an image. I’m not, exactly, sure what this sermon looks like. How to picture it. But another part is this sermon, in particular. You see, I’ve preached a lot of sermons over the years. But it feels like this is THE sermon. All the others merely rehearsals. And it’s because of the secondReading. Romans five. Verses twelve through nineteen. We’ve read it before. Once, every three years, for decades, generations. But I can’t remember preaching on it, before. But as soon as I saw it, as soon as I read it, I realized these eight verses are who I am! Who I am as a called and ordained minister of the church of Christ! Who I am as a baptized child of god! These two hundred forty-one words are my burning bush, my holy ground!

Rather than re-reading the entire passage, I’ll just highlight the heart and soul. Verses eighteen and nineteen! Follow along with the insert, if you’d like …

Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all,
so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.
For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners,
so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

The gospel of the Lord! Praise to you, O Christ. This is goodNews! THE goodNews! Without anything to distract or confuse! There’s nothing about heaven or hell! There’s nothing about believing or not! Nothing about saying prayers or reading bibles or singing songs. There’s only grace! There’s only charity! There’s only love! It’s all as simple as that!

As the story goes, somehow, someway, Adam screwed up. He sinned. Did the one thing – the only thing – god told him not to. He ate the apple, metaphorically speaking. That’s the “one man’s trespass,” “the one man’s disobedience that made many sinners.” And because of that – whether innate or learned – that trespass, that disobedience became a part of us. A part of all of us. So, just about every Sunday morning we get together, the first thing we do is confess that we are captive, in bondage, to sin. We believe – by our own understanding and strength – we do not and cannot and will not. It’s called “originalSin” and it infects us all. Sin came into the world through one man. Death came into the world through sin. And we all “caught” it. We all die because of it. That’s what “life” looks like apart from Christ. It’s not weeping or teeth gnashing. Not fire or brimstone, halos or horns. It’s darkness. Death. It’s existance without promise. Without hope. Without love. Not because all that’s been taken away by way of punishment. But because that’s what sin does. It smothers us. It crushes us. It undoes everything god did … in the beginning.

And the treatment? The remedy? The cure? Paul writes, “Jesus Christ!” Not to change god’s mind! Not to “get” god to love us, again! (Since god’s never NOT loved us!) But to make it all over, again. The first creation began with Adam, the second with Christ! “Just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all!” In Adam, paradise was lost; in Christ, it’s regained! What was lost was found; what was broken was salvaged; what was dead is raised! There are no choices we need to make. No decisions. And it’s all god who did it – does it – not for just a few or some. Not for many or, even, most. God does it for all! For each and every!

It’s a cosmic remaking of the universe! All of creation is transformed, once again, by the one who created it, in the beginning! Not one atom, not one cell, left out! Each heartbeat included! Every breath accounted for! It’s an amazing, an astonishing vision of redemption! And it’s all anchored, it’s all rooted, in god’s amazing grace! So, how do you sum it up in a piece of clipart? It’s, just, not comic book material! Bold outline. Watercolor. No shadows. No depth. No pearly gates. No streets of gold. No lake of fire. No eternal anything! Reward! Punishment! The only thing everlasting is the love! And it’s all right here! In black and white! Chapter! Verse! All a gift! Unearned! Undeserved! From start to finish! From beginning to end!

This is the stuff reformations are made of! The stuff out of which revolutions are born! Not clichés! Not platitudes! This is gospel! THE gospel! The goodNews of Jesus Christ! Just as one man’s trespass, so one man’s righteous act! Just as one man’s sin, so one man’s obedience! And the world turns inside-out! Creation flips upside-down! And we do nothing! God does it all! “The free gift,” Paul calls it! “The free gift in the grace of the one man!” The second Adam! And the whole world becomes a brand new creation! Born again! Created and, then, recreated by the grace of god in Christ!

Think about it! No one’s left out! Everyone necessary! Everyone essential! Everyone indispensable! Everyone part of the vision! Everyone part of the dream! No one left behind! No one pushed aside! No one thrown away forever! It’s just like we learned as children … He’s got the whole world in his hands! Just like we learned as children, each and every person really is precious in his sight!

So, I guess I do know what this passage looks like. It’s an image we’ve before. It’s Christ and Christ crucified! The moment when everything changed! The moment everything and everyone became new! When the kingdom came! When god’s will was done! Or, as Paul says … The one man’s act of righteousness! The one man’s obedience! That – this – is what makes all the difference! Not us. Not our choices. Not our believing. But Christ and him crucified! So, listen, one more time, to the words. Let them sink deeply into your soul …

Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all,
so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.
For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners,
so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

My friends, this is the gospel of our Lord! This is the word of god! The word of life!

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