June 10, 2018: 2nd Sunday after Trinity

Let us pray: Lord, today teach us both the Source and meaning of our Christian faith. Focus our attention on Your loving sacrifice on the cross whereby all of our guilt and shame were paid for by You and also upon Your resurrection which confirmed our status before the Father as: an eternally innocent co-heir with You of eternal glory. Yes, teach us to always honor Your everlasting commitment to us by honoring You with our trust and allegiance. Amen
TEXT: Romans 4: 18-25
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
Every family has one. Every human is held up and measured against the standard of the: the golden child. Parents love all their children. Yet, if you have at least one sibling, you know what I mean. Often the golden child is the firstborn. We know that genetically they tend to be stronger than their siblings because Mom’s body hasn’t been worn down yet by childbirth. They are more resilient emotionally because they have had their parent’s sole attention during formative years. And usually they are more doted upon because of all this. So, the rest of the kids are compared to the golden child in school, in sports, and when it comes to jobs and careers later in life. First-borns and last-borns often share many similar traits. Middle children often struggle to find their place in the family dynamic. Psychologists have done many studies on this fact.
That being said, families have golden boys or girls in their extended tree by which all the future generations gauge themselves and try to measure up against. It’s really not a good thing as it breeds resentment, worthlessness or even downright anger because of failure. But it is part of our human condition. I know one person who had a U. S. Senator as grandfather. They idolize that man. And yet, in their own life that person struggles with never seeming to measure up to that ideal standard passed down to them when growing up. We all do this. We all live with this kind of emotional baggage.
The Jews at Christ’s time and later during St. Paul’s time also had their “golden boy” against whom they all measured their faith and ultimately their status with God. And of course, that golden boy was Abraham, the father of their ethnic heritage.
But, what made Abraham so special when it came to his faith? Paul lays out the answer in our lesson while also cutting down the stylized image of him in the Jewish mind. First, did Abraham consider himself, on his own merits, as “special” to God worthy on the basis of his own abilities and gifts as being considered the forefather of a whole nation? What made Abraham special? What caused his faith in God to stand firm and strong? Paul addresses these questions. “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.’”
Here Paul takes us back to Genesis and God’s promise to Abraham that the future Messiah, God’s Son, would be born from his genetic line. The problem was: Abraham was about 100 and Sarah his wife was around 90—long past the human ability to have a child. Yet, the Holy Spirit here says that Abraham didn’t give up on or doubt God’s promise. We’re told he didn’t waver or weaken in his faith. In fact, with circumstances seemingly more and more against his fatherhood, Abraham’s faith became even stronger! Truly he was an amazing man and worth emulating, wasn’t he?
Then Paul quotes from God in Genesis and says that Abraham’s faith “was credited to him as righteousness.” Abraham was made right with God on account of his faith. God put future blessings into Abraham’s heavenly account (we’d call it: interest plus!) all because he stayed stalwart when it came to God’s promise. No wonder the average Jew looked at their forebear’s faith with awe, admiration, and longing.
So, Abraham’s faith saved him. But where did Abraham’s faith come from? What was the source of such strength? Was he simply a “golden child” who was born with more intestinal fortitude than anyone else? That’s what the average Jew thought. They held him up as their ideal in all things religious. However, Abraham didn’t. He knew his sins. He knew his mistakes. He knew he wasn’t perfect. And by God’s grace alone, he also knew that through his first child, Isaac, God would eventually send Someone from heaven, Jesus Christ, Who would be all of that and more! Abraham’s faith, just like yours and mine, was born of the Holy Spirit. Its causation was: grace, or God’s undeserved love. Abraham clung to grace and it alone sustained his faith. It alone held on to that undying promise of God’s forgiveness for all sins and thus Christ alone was his strength, his shield, and the object of the Almighty’s love for him! Grace is what caused Abraham to be one of God’s elect, to take the Gospel promise to heart, to believe it, to actively live it, and eventually to die in it and be saved. All this is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Now comes the clincher: “The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”
All children, parents and family trees apply and use the “golden child” principle as a standard by which to judge themselves and to see how they fit into this grand mosaic of life. In short, we all play the “comparison game” and then employ it as an emotional crutch. This is what the Jews did at Paul’s time. But Abraham never did this when it came to Godly faith and neither should we. In fact, Abraham didn’t have to, and neither do we! For everyone who humbly trusts God’s promise of salvation in Jesus Christ and clings to it no matter how impossible it might seem—has the same saving faith that Abraham did. There is no qualitative difference. The object of our faith is all the same: Jesus Christ. Jesus Who proved His undying faithfulness toward each of us by dying to pay for our sins and rising to life to insure our absence of any guilt before God on judgement day.
So, no matter your birth order, your innate abilities, or your attempts at a pious and exemplary life—Christ and His gift of faith to you—that’s what makes you special to God and that’s what makes you forever right with Him! Yes, Christ’s love toward us is what makes life worth living—always…..Amen