“Genesis 17:1-7, 15, 16: Mark 8:31-38: Romans 4:13-25”
Apartheid in South Africa was a terrible thing and rightfully condemned by the world. Two sets of people in one land separated by the colour of their skin. One child unbeknown to itself born into an earthly life of good fortune, and one child unbeknown to itself born into an earthly life of misfortune.
The “same” children separated by a controlled fence between The United States of America and Mexico. The “same” children separated through royal blood line and those not and the “same” children in our communities separated unbeknown to themselves to be born into a stable home environment or an environment of physical or emotional abuse that may shape their understanding and actions that seem inexcusable to those who have not walked that path.
As a child, many times when someone nationally or in our own community was having their character attacked I remember how my mum used to mention the chorus from an old song that says
“Walk a mile in my shoes, before you abuse, criticize and accuse, walk a mile in my shoes”
It goes on:
“If I could be you, if you could be me for just one hour
If we could find a way to get inside each other’s mind,
If you could see you through my eyes instead of your own
I believe you’d be surprised to see that you’ve been blind.
Now your whole world you see around you is just a reflection
And the law of Karma says you’re gonna reap just what you sow
So unless you’ve lived a life of total perfection
You’d better be careful of every stone that you should throw
And there are people on reservations and out in the ghettos
And brother, there, but for the grace of God, go you and I..”
In sin there bar the grace of God we all went because we all, unbeknown to ourselves were to be born sinful because of things outside ourselves that took place 4,000 years before in the Garden of Eden.
We never asked to be sinners, yet we sin because we were born that way. Born into sin yet ironically, still of the blood line of our very first ancestors born as his created children and of the likeness of himself, God our Father.
God our Father who gave his Son Jesus to walk in our shoes that in Him in the Grace of God we do go.
Saved not in works or merit, but saved in faith in Christ alone. The truth that we know and yet because it is so opposite to our natural thinking we are tempted to limit God to the size of our purposes or to doubt the breadth of God’s generosity or the surprising power of his activity.
It’s a condition in which we were born and that is why we not dwell on our own logic and human wisdom but on that of the Word of God. The same Word of God given to us as that to Abraham who as a hundred year old man and with his wife Sarah beyond child bearing years was to be given a Son that of which would come great nations and kings.
A promise from God to Abraham that against all probability we are told in verse 18 from today’s Romans text that in “faithful” hope he believed against “earthly” hope.
A promise that would see his birth lineage become the Jewish people of God, and a promise that would see the gentiles, us become part of that lineage as the people of God through the birth of Jesus to Joseph and Mary.
In Jesus, we are part of that bloodline and so, to us as to was Abraham the book of Romans through the Apostle Paul sets forth the gospel of justification by faith apart from works of the law and maintains that, since that is so, no one can boast about being able to obtain justification by works of the law, for both Jew and Gentile.
And in today’s particular text itself, Paul takes up the story of Abraham as a proof that justification is by faith, not works. After all, he says, the great patriarch Abraham was justified by faith, not by observing works of the law. He was justified while he was technically still a Gentile, since he was declared justified prior to being circumcised and moreover, as the law of Moses was not given until many centuries after Abraham was declared righteous, he clearly could not have been justified by doing works of the law.
In researching this message I found how the blood lines and associated promises play out as both interesting and comforting. Yet these are not mere words on a piece of paper, these are the Words and promises of God that are alive and working even when we don’t realise it.
The Word of God given to a sinner like me who when at my worst, in a car troubled and anxious in life and with the tell-tale signs of alcohol and tobacco smells and packaging as my passenger, was approached by what we would judge to be a homeless drunk, who peered through my window without judgement nor in a state such as my own, and announce both forcefully and with urgency “that Jesus knows who you are, and you are one of His.”
A few words said to me when I deserved them least, but needed them most that changed if not my life, changed how I viewed it and most importantly, how I was viewed by a loving Lord who has crossed the tracks, and though he did not sin, walked those paths and knows the pain and knows the need.
Jesus Christ knows who you are, and you are one of His and regardless of your current state, He comes to you today.
Today in His Word He comes to you and says you are mine and always will be, and in faith rather than in our self, He asks we take Him on face value. To accept in Holy Communion not just a piece of bread and sip of wine, but the very body and blood that He gave on the cross that you need not doubt, but know as He knows that the fence between sinners and God has been torn down that now here today, be we in soiled clothing and poor in spirit or joyous and abounding in faith-as one we can trust that in Him, God the Father sees not that little baby born to a life of self- hatred and self-abuse, sees not that little baby born of affluence yet still bound to a body of sin. Sees not what has become but still sees that little child who He knew would have to walk regardless of birth circumstance and location through the great tribulation of this fractured world.
The walk that He walked not that we see barriers between poor and rich. Not barriers between black nor white and nor heaven itself. But before God standing as one in faith hearing both collectively and individually-I know who you are and you are one of mine and I forgive you of your sins, and so come what may-I am in you and you in me and forever shall I stand alongside you on this earth, and the one to come. Amen.