Romans 5: 1-21

So, we are put right
Out of divine faithfulness –
not by our belief:
‘pistis christou’

Our response to challenges changes us –
Character-building –
That’s a more traditional Christian ethic,
Connected to virtue ethics,
or honour/shame culture,
rather than our own situational calculus

we are reconciled and saved
by the faithful act of Jesus,
undeserved gift
despite, not because of, who we are

if we were hostile to God,
ungrateful and unreconciled,
now we accept the gift,
boasting of God, not us.


Today takes us into the equally unfamiliar:
metaphysics,
signaled by capitalized nouns:
Death, Sin, Torah, Christ

How would you distinguish Sin and sins?
How about Death and deaths?
Torah and laws?
Christ and incarnations,
(Or Catherine Keller’s new term, ‘intercarnations’
or other specific human embodiments of the divine)?

Modern empirical worldviews ‘disenchanted’ the universe,
And Gadamer and others invited us to ‘re-enchant’ it.

Most of us can easily suspend our critical faculty –
in the context of visual culture,
movies and cartoons –

Ivan Illich claimed this is a leap from text to icon –
From written to visual culture….
After the medieval moves of 1000 years ago,
and the modern Renaissance of 500 years ago.

The powerful language of myth,
Fantasy and science fiction,
J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowling,
can work equally
to help us appreciate, 
and adopt or use, 
Paul’s mythical worldview

Where is your loyalty, obedience,
or resisting hierarchy and dualisms,
your identification and solidarity?

How did and does Sin-and-Death rule us,
How did Adam, Moses, and Jesus mark crucial changes
And how did the original blessing of freedom and labour,
 and in turn the gift of covenant and Torah,
and now Christ and Spirit,
overcome that rule in or over us?

Do these critical moments,
These lives of Adam, Moses, and Jesus,
Reveal or constitute these spiritual states,
The context of our lives,
Measuring and judging us
with law and judgment,
grace and mercy?

For religious folks,
this jargon and slogans are familiar –
but how often do we ‘unpack’ them,
to reconsider what they mean.
they also stand as boundary markers
between faith groups.

For outsiders,
it’s hard to separate the common diction
from the theological terms of art,
 or to resist caricatures of magical superstition
for anthropological amusement,
or sociological study.

What is ‘Sin’, or a state of ‘Sin’?
Is it only moral evil?
How about ignorance, blind or deaf?
How is it like ‘alienation’ or ‘dis-integration’?
How is it like ‘slavery’ or ‘bondage’, conflict or war?
How do your read mid-century modern ‘existential angst’?

What are the ‘sins’ that reveal or contribute to those senses of ‘Sin’?
What relieves or changes the condition?
What contributes to ‘right relations’
among and within humans, creation, and the divine?

If you can deconstruct or unpack the old packages,
If you can extend the semantic fields of some of these words,
Or restrict and balance dominant meanings or readings,
You might prepare to reconsider ‘at-one-ment’ as I often call it –
What needs to be put right?

Can we get beyond Anselm’s commercial metaphor,
and the obsessive mantra of blood atonement,
‘Jesus died for your sin’?  
We must try.
 

1 By entering through faith into
what God has always wanted to do for us
-    set us right with him, make us fit for him – 
we have it all together with God
because of our Master Jesus.

2 And that's not all: 
We throw open our doors to God
and discover at the same moment
that he has already thrown open his door to us. 

We find ourselves standing
where we always hoped we might stand – 
out in the wide open spaces of God's grace and glory,
 standing tall and shouting our praise.

3 There's more to come: 
We continue to shout our praise
even when we're hemmed in with troubles, 
because we know how troubles
can develop passionate patience in us,

4and how that patience in turn
forges the tempered steel of virtue, 
keeping us alert for whatever God will do next.

5 In alert expectancy such as this, 
we're never left feeling shortchanged.

 Quite the contrary – 
we can't round up enough containers
to hold everything God generously pours into our lives
 through the Holy Spirit!

6 Christ arrives right on time
to make this happen.

 He didn't, and doesn't, 
wait for us to get ready.

 He presented himself for this sacrificial death
when we were far too weak and rebellious
to do anything to get ourselves ready. 

And even if we hadn't been so weak, 
we wouldn't have known what to do anyway.

7 We can understand someone
dying for a person worth dying for, 
and we can understand how someone good and noble
could inspire us to selfless sacrifice.

8 But God put his love on the line for us
by offering his Son in sacrificial death
while we were of no use whatever to him.

9 Now that we are set right with God
by means of this sacrificial death, 
the consummate blood sacrifice, 
there is no longer a question
of being at odds with God in any way.


10 If, when we were at our worst, 
we were put on friendly terms with God
by the sacrificial death of his Son, 
now that we're at our best, 
just think of how our lives will expand and deepen
by means of his resurrection life!

11 Now that we have actually received
this amazing friendship with God,
 we are no longer content
to simply say it in plodding prose. 

We sing and shout
our praises to God
through Jesus, the Messiah!

12 You know the story
of how Adam landed us in the dilemma we're in
-    first sin, then death, 
-    and no one exempt
-    from either sin or death.
-    
13 That sin disturbed relations with God
 in everything and everyone,
 but the extent of the disturbance was not clear
until God spelled it out in detail to Moses. 

So death, this huge abyss separating us from God,
 dominated the landscape from Adam to Moses.

14 Even those who didn't sin precisely as Adam did
by disobeying a specific command of God
 still had to experience this termination of life, 
this separation from God. 

But Adam, who got us into this, 
also points ahead
to the One who will get us out of it.

15 Yet the rescuing gift
is not exactly parallel to the death-dealing sin. 

If one man's sin
put crowds of people at the dead-end abyss
of separation from God,
 just think what God's gift
poured through one man, 
Jesus Christ, will do!

16 There's no comparison
between that death-dealing sin
and this generous, life-giving gift.

 The verdict on that one sin
was the death sentence;
 the verdict on the many sins that followed
was this wonderful life sentence.

17 If death got the upper hand
through one man's wrongdoing, 
can you imagine
the breathtaking recovery life makes, 
sovereign life,
 in those who grasp with both hands
this wildly extravagant life-gift, 
this grand setting-everything-right, 
that the one man Jesus Christ provides?

18 Here it is in a nutshell:
 Just as one person did it wrong
and got us in all this trouble with sin and death,
 another person did it right
and got us out of it. 

But more than just getting us out of trouble, 
he got us into life!

19 One man said no to God
and put many people in the wrong; 
one man said yes to God
and put many in the right.

20 All that passing laws against sin did
was produce more lawbreakers. 
But sin didn't, and doesn't, have a chance
in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. 

When it's sin versus grace, 
grace wins hands down.

21 All sin can do is threaten us with death, 
and that's the end of it. 
Grace, 
because God is putting everything together again
through the Messiah, invites us into life – 
a life that goes on and on and on, 
world without end.
 

1Since, then, 
we have been justified
out of [his] faithfulness,
 we have peace with God
through our Lord Jesus Christ, 

2through whom also
we have obtained access
to that grace
in which we stand, 
and we boast
in the hope
of the glory of God. 

 3Not only that, 
but we also boast
in tribulations, 

knowing that
tribulation produces endurance, 
and 4endurance tested character, 
and tested character hope. 
 
5This hope does not put us to shame, 
because God’s love [for us] 
has been poured out
in our hearts
through the Holy Spirit
which has been given
to us. 

 6For while we were still weak, 
Christ died already then
for the godless.  

7For scarcely will anyone
die for a righteous person; 

for on behalf of a good person
perhaps someone might dare to die.  

8God demonstrates his love for us
in that
 while we were still sinners
Christ died for us.  

9Since, then, 
we have now been justified
by his blood, 
how much more
shall we be saved
by him
from the Wrath.  

10For if, 
being hostile, 
we were reconciled to God
through the death of his Son, 

how much more, 
being reconciled, 
shall we be saved
by his life.  

11Not only that, 
but also boasting in God
through our Lord Jesus Christ, 
through whom
we have now received
reconciliation.

12Now then,
 as through one human being
Sin came
into the world, 
and Death
through Sin, 

and so Death spread
to all human beings – 
from which it follows
that all sinned.  

13For Sin
was in the world
before
the Torah [of Moses] came.  

But, sin is not charged
when there is no law, 
is it?  

14Yes, but Death reigned
from Adam to Moses
[and therefore there was law], 
also over those
who did not sin
in the form
of the rebellion
of Adam.

He [Adam] is a type
of the one to come, 

15but it is not a matter of: 
like the fault
so also the work of grace.  

For if through the fault
of the one [Adam] 
the many died, 

how much more
did the grace of God, 
i.e. the gift of grace
of the one human being
Jesus Christ, 
abound
for the many. 

16And it is not a matter of: 
through the one who sinned
[came] the gift. 

For the judgment
in the context of one [fault] 
[led] to condemnation, 
but the work of grace
in the context of many faults
[leads] to [God’s] decree.  

17For if in the one fault
Death began to reign
through the one [Adam], 

how much more
shall those who receive
the abundance of [God’s] grace
and righteousness
reign in life, 
through the one [human being] 
Jesus Christ.  

18Therefore, 
as through one fault
[there resulted] justification of life
for all human beings.  

19For as through the disobedience
of the one human being
the many were appointed sinners, 

so also through the obedience
of the one
the many will be appointed righteous. 

 20Law came unto the picture
in order that [Adam’s] fault
might abound.  

But where Sin abounded
grace super-abounded,
 21in order that, 
as Sin reigned in death, 
thus also grace might reign
through [God’s] righteousness, 
leading to
the life of the age to come
through Jesus Christ our Lord.