In the audio podcast of this service, the Scripture Reading starts at 20 min 00 secs: Ephesians 2:1-10
The Sermon starts at 22 min 00 secs. “Earned and Deserved? Or, Given and Graced?”
Pastor Todd Buurstra
What do you do when you stand in front of a casket? Some kneel, some comment on smile and hairstyle, some bow in prayer. If its someone I know well, I often touch. When my kids were little I lifted them up so that they could touch to get the feel of death:
Leathery skin, inflexible limbs, rock hard stomach (your abs may be soft now, but…), cold.
So this is my image when I read 2:1, please join me… Now you may say, wait a minute, I don’t think I’ve ever been spiritually dead! Understood. We have no trouble seeing a pedophile priest/pastor as spiritually dead… or a financial guru who swindles his own Jewish people as spiritually dead, but you and me? And you have a theological point. For in baptism we confess that God is already active in a baby’s life. So maybe you haven’t sensed a time when you were spiritually dead, but how about spiritually flat-lined? Beep, beep, beep… as the life seeps out. Or even a spiritual dry spell—ever had one of those? I have them often. How do you come alive spiritually?
Lent is God’s way of reminding us that in sin we are dead. As dead as Jesus was.
Spiritually dead folk share a common worldview. I call it the I earned it I deserve it worldview. They’re entitled. This kills their spirits by subtracting God , the spirit’s O2.
In my family I’ve seen that a couple of ways. First, my Aunt Tressa had a welfare mentality. She hardly ever worked, because she was “sick.” So she wore my Mom’s hand me down dresses. She paid only $20/month rent for living in the family homestead. Never did she bring anything to family potlucks but she’d always say, I’ll just try a little bit of everything. I guess she thought she earned the right because of sick nerves and extreme thrift. I once saw her separate a two-ply napkin. Daily she used one teabag all morning and another all afternoon. My dad’s view was, She thinks the world owes her a living.
That’s the poor side of the I deserve it! worldview. I’ve also seen the richer side. I am a good person who works hard for my money so I deserve special treatment. Whether that be a Cadillac, or a political favor, or the last piece of pie, or the control of TV remote.
The common denominator of the spiritually flatlined worldview is that rich, poor, or middle class, the magic words thank you rarely roll off their lips because they deserve it.
V. 3 tells us that God has feelings about these prideful folk… children of wrath? This is sounding like hellfire and brimstone, right? But really God’s anger isn’t an eagerness to strike with lightning, but an injured love that says, How could you think you deserve everything when I made the sun rise this morning, I gave you the strength to work, NS I blessed you with your talents… and you think you spin the world? How could you?!
While Lent reminds us that we are dead in sin, Easter reminds us that the grateful come alive with Christ! Do you notice the terms: grace, mercy, love?
If the spiritually dead worldview says, It’s all about me; the spiritually alive worldview says, It’s all God’s gift. Normally we think of verse 8 as just talking about the grace of a me and Jesus, fire-escape from Hell, salvation. But the Greek word swzw, saved, is much broader. Swzw means heaven for you, but it also includes heaven for the whole church, and healing for your ingrown toenail, and hope for 401Ks, and help for Antarctican penguins. So this salvation is God gift in all of life because life is a gift.
Think about it. If I said to Natsuko last Wed on our 25th wedding anniversary, Yeah, we never would have made it if I wasn’t so patient. How would that go over? But if I say, You know, we had some hard times, like when we lost our first baby, but God has blessed us with two kids, with good jobs, a great church, and me with you…Which is better? The first one is not only spiritual death, but marital suicide. The second brings life.
And all God wants to help you come alive spiritually is a thank you:
Every morning God’s immeasurable grace makes that spring songbird chirp right outside your window. You can wake up saying, O God, it’s morning, or, O God, it’s morning!
Out of God’s rich mercy he gives you a kid who sings in Joyful Noise, and steals more
Coffee Hour cookies than you tell them to. On the way home you can say, How many
cookies did I tell you… or you can say, Thank you for singing for Jesus today.
Out of great love God provides the materials for the boxed mac and cheese Mom
slaves over for lunch today. You can burp, or you can pause to thank God for the
food, even food out of a box, and add in a thanks, Mom.
Out of immeasurable kindness God gave us Jesus. You may listen to your
pastor/teacher blab on about Jesus and yawn, or this Lent you can say, thank
you, Jesus for loving me so much that you went to the cross to save me.
Want to come alive spiritually? See all of life as God’s gift, and spend the rest of today thanking God and others as often as you can. That will increase your spiritual pulse!
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