Sunday, April 19

Sermon for the Third Sunday of Easter


As I read these texts and prepared for our worship this evening, I was struck that after the resurrection we are presented with a new reality, but one that doesn't displace the old reality.   One can live in the light of the reality of the Resurrection or not.  But the resurrection only has meaning if we in reality are already raised with Christ, that is the Resurrection only has meaning if our humanity is now one with God through Jesus Christ and that really (whether we believe it or not) has changed our humanity. Yet, we can’t fully appropriate this other reality of our humanity if we don’t recognize it for what it is.  Faith is that appropriation of the new reality of the incarnation completed in the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus of Nazareth, the incarnation of God the Word/Son.
In Lent we were called to contemplate the mystery of Christ’s passion and resurrection through self-reflection and spiritual disciplines.  In the joy and awe of Christ’s Resurrection we continue in this contemplation in joy and celebration.
John invites us into the ecstatic contemplation of the meaning that we are called Children (or Sons) of God.  This naming is tied to our union with God the Son, Jesus Christ.
This union is in part due to our acceptance and seeking to be united to what God has done in Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.  Yet the union is also simply the case.  And we lose some of this aspect of John’s proclamation in the Epistle with the translation of “Sons” as children.  God the Son or the Child, becomes human and becomes rejected, suffers death and injustice, becomes sin, in that sense.  Through this God is united with the depths of the human condition, even descending to the dead.  The incarnation passion and death is God’s complete union with humanity.  This provides hope, because you can’t keep the Lord of Life dead, or if you could, death and not life would have the last word on what it means to be human.
Now in the light of the resurrection we can come to see our humanity as best defined as Son or Child of God, that is, God the Son is human.  Our humanity in Jesus Christ is united with God, and as such is perfected and purified.
A way to talk about this is to talk about our divination or theosis.  Saint Athanasius is said to have summed this up by saying “ God became human that we may become divine.”  The truth of our humanity is summed up in the union of God and human through the incarnation of God in Jesus of Nazareth.
In the light of this reality we can come to see sin and righteousness not as violation and conformity to a law external to us, but as separation and union .what we now find in our very being because God is united to us and we are united to God in Jesus Christ, is that to be one with Christ is to not sin because of Jesus’ righteousness and to live apart from Christ is to be in sin separated not only from God but our own selves.
Thus we can come to identity things like what Paul calls the flesh, those desires which hide or divinity from ourselves.  If we live according to these desires we fall into a reality in which we aren't one with God in our humanity.  The Christian tradition of contemplation and meditation is to open ourselves up to seeing and knowing this dual reality in our bodies and selves.  Contemplation and meditation can then keep us open to our union with God in the human Jesus of Nazareth.
We don’t need to work at being righteous nor work at avoiding sin.  As Paul says it isn't by works but by grace through faith that we are saved.  The grace is that what we are called to be, is already in us.    Faith is our being open and accepting what God has done in Jesus of Nazareth.  Seeing and accepting that “The Kingdom of God is in you.”
We may though, mistake this claim.  The kingdom of God isn't in us as humanity and creature separate from God, rather this truth is only found in the union of God in Jesus Christ.  Because God became human, we are united to God, divinized in our humanity united to God in Jesus of Nazareth.
And so we are Sons, Children, of God because of the Child, The Son, of God incarnated in Jesus of Nazareth, who because of this union is the Messiah the Christ.
Salvation is union and reconciliation.  Liberation comes in recognizing this reality.
This is a reality that requires new sight.  It requires seeing everything and ourselves through the lens of Jesus of Nazareth.  Or it is to accept this amazing gift that God accomplished for us what God desires for us, to be Like God.  If we accept this we will find that we are already who we are called to be.
Yet, there is still sin, and we deceive ourselves if we say we do not sin, and we deceive ourselves that one who is righteous does what is righteous.  This may remain a puzzling set of exhortations. This is an exhortation to remember that this isn't a distinction between reality and what isn't real, but that there are two realities that we continue to live in and need to distinguish from each other.  We sin, we are part of a reality that is separate from God and avoids union with God, each other and creation, and thus we aren't righteous. But we are also part of the reality of God come in human flesh, Jesus Christ the Son of God.  In this reality we are freed from the need to overcome sin to do works to make us righteous rather we can live in the knowledge that we are united with the one who does righteousness and thus is righteous.
This is the best way to understand Martin Luther’s simultaneously sinner and saint, but contrary to Luther this isn't merely as a legal pronouncement by God that though we are guilty that guilt is no longer imputed to us.  Rather such a statement should mean that we in fact live in two worlds, one that is separated from God and dominated by sin and death and one in which we are (all humanity and Creation) united with God through the incarnation: the life, passion, death, Resurrection, and ascension of Jesus of Nazareth the Christ, God the Son.  Our struggle then is to live with the consciousness of Christ, rather than our former selves.  One of these is only more real in the sense that God is victorious over the reality of the world dominated by sin death and the devil.  Christ descends to the dead and raises up Adam and Eve our humanity that separated itself from the knowledge and love of God. 

Then while works don’t save us, what we do matters. We betray our Baptism when we live as if Christ isn't resurrected as if we aren't being transformed, as if we aren't the son of God Jesus Christ.  We are all God’s son, God’s child.  All of us.  Through Baptism we are initiated into this sonship, we are made one with Christ.  This is the awe of the Resurrection, we are now all God’s Child, God’s Son.  That is without any effort we are righteous by God’s action.  Yet, and this is the paradox and mystery, we must choose and act according to that choice, because this is an alternate reality as real as the reality to which it is an alternative.  The truth is that in the end one way or another we will act as if one or the other reality is true and the other false.  We must then do the truth, we must act as though we are in this new reality of truly being the child of God, the Son of God, God the Son.  Our awe at all of this should propel us away from sin and death into life and righteousness of God the Son, in which we are already, and is the reality in which we have been initiated into through Baptism.