2 Tim 1, 8b-10
by The Reverend Dr. Gift M. Makwasha, Grace Anglican Church, Zimbabwe / Australia
FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD
This is the main reading this Sunday.
Readings like John 3.1-17 that are well known and popular are sometimes a dilemma for the preacher. The direction the message should take may be so obvious to most people in the pews.
However, for me, the message for this Sunday must be a sequel to that of last Sunday, which was on temptation, sin and the Fall of humanity, what theologians call the original sin. We concluded the first reading last Sunday with Adam and Eve hiding from God—they were ashamed to have broken God’s trust.
And the punishment pronounced in Genesis was so harsh—including hard labour and toil for the man (Adam), tilling the hard earth (Adamah)for survival; pain for the woman in giving birth; lost opportunity for eternal life in the garden; enmity between humankind and the serpent; the serpent to crawl on its belly—no legs to be given to it; and expulsion of mankind from the Garden of Eden. These myths and legends, if you want to call them, tell us of the consequences of sin, of which St. Paul centuries later would say, the wages of sin is death! (Romans 6.23)
But in this week’s Gospel reading (John 3.1-17), we are being reminded of God’s outrageous love for mankind. Last Sunday we heard about God punishing mankind for its sin. This Sunday we are immediately reminded of God’s endless love for us!
God cannot bear seeing us confined to the eternal deathbed of dust. So, he takes action to sacrifice his only begotten Son, who as we heard last week, was like us tempted in every way, yet he did not sin (Hebrews 4.15). God takes him who did not sin and sacrifices him for us who sinned. While the first were expelled from Eden, through the death of God’s Son, God draws us to live eternally with him in his eternal Paradise.
The Bangolan of Cameroon say that a parent should punish a rebellious child with a rebuking left hand and draw him or her closer with a loving right hand. This is exactly what God did to humans through sacrificing his Son on the Cross. God’s love overcomes his anger. His forgiveness overcomes his justice.
In thinking of this reading, you may find this story interesting:
A story is told about Stan Mooneyham who one day was walking along a trail in East Africa with some friends. He became aware of a delightful odour that filled the air. He looked up in the trees and around at the bushes to discover where it was coming from.
Then his friends told him to look down at the small blue flower growing along the path. Each time they crushed the tiny blossoms under their feet, more of its sweet perfume was released into the air. Then his friends said, “We call it the Forgiveness Flower!”
The forgiveness flower does not wait until we ask forgiveness for crushing it. It does not release its fragrance in measured doses or hold us to reciprocal arrangement. It does not ask for an apology; it merely lives up to its name and forgives — freely, fully, and richly.
The author of that story calls it a touching example of ‘Outrageous forgiveness’!
LENT reminds us about the ‘Outrageous forgiveness of God’! Nothing more, nothing less!
You may choose any one of these themes this Sunday: Forgiveness, Reconciliation; Restoration and so on. Lent is a reminder that God is seeking to forgive and be reconciled with us.
Is an assurance of God’s love for us, and that we should look to him alone for our salvation. He watches over us and will not allow any harm to happen to us. If God has sacrificed his Son for us, surely, we must be so priceless to him. He does not sleep or slumber just to watch over us. Our religion is not a pie in the sky religion, God is concerned about us not just in future life in heaven, but even right here right now! Jesus came so that we may have life in its abundance (John 10.10).
In the context of Australia where we have been heavily affected by the Bush fires, as a result of human irresponsible behaviour, we need to be reminded of God who is seeking to save us. In a world which is in the panic mode because of the Corona virus, which is affecting people across the globe, we need to be reminded of God who is seeking to save us. In a world ravaged by conflicts, wars, violence of different forms, violation of human rights corruption, and all sorts of evil—what an opportunity for the preacher to emphasize God’s love!
Genesis 12 is for me the introduction to God’s salvific act. In Genesis 6.6, God is presented as regretting that he had made mankind that had rebelled and become so wicked. The purpose Abraham’s calling was so that God would bless all people on earth through him. But what could have been a fulfillment of this blessing than the death of God’s only begotten Son on the Cross, death that brought eternal life to all people who would respond to God.
Romans 4.1-5, 13-17
Romans 4 is a praise of Abraham’s obedient response to God’s calling. Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.
Perhaps this reading can very well serve as the conclusion to the sermon, inviting and encouraging people to obediently respond to God’s call to believe in God’s Son as the saviour of the world. That response is our righteousness. Our faith in what God has done through his Son on the Cross is our justification.
by Rev. Dr. G. M. Makwasha, Australia