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Sermon by The Rev. Kathleen A. McAdams 4th Sunday in Lent, year B (RCL) - March 11, 2018 St. John’s Episcopal Church, Franklin, MA

Ephesians 2:1-10

John 3:14-21

Has anyone read this book, The Shack? There was one particular scene that really stuck with me. It’s about judgement. MacKenzie is a man whose young daughter Missy has been murdered. He is angry, especially at God, and believes that God didn’t love Missy. He proclaims the injustice that Missy had to die and her killer continues to live. He wants him to burn in Hell. The Holy Spirit character asks him to sit in a chair and tells him he’s there for judgement. He rants and raves about being judged before he’s even dead. But then she tells him, “No, you will be the judge.”

I think this is one of the most important concepts in the whole Bible - – that God loves and forgives us…all of us, no matter what- and it’s one that most of us have a lot of difficulty with. Because we have such trouble forgiving ourselves, and forgiving each other, it’s even harder for us to believe that God could be so compassionate, loving and forgiving toward us. Jesus, moments before his death on the cross, exclaimed, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” If God can forgive those who killed his son, certainly he can forgive the very worst thing I have ever done, that you have ever done.
After all, the human race has behaved rather badly. God gave us the Garden of Eden to live in harmony with all of Creation, walking and talking with God. But we turned away from God and betrayed His trust. We proceeded to kill and cheat each other, to rape Creation, but God kept pursuing us and calling us back into relationship. Time and time again we returned to God, only to repeatedly pursue our own interests above His. But after the flood in which Noah built his ark, God promised never again to destroy the earth, and instead continued to call us back into relationship.
So great is his love of us, that he became one of us and lived among us. Even after all that we have done, he loved the world so much that he gave us his only Son; he gave up his life for us, that we might ALL be saved, that we might choose to live into his purposes. This was his judgment! The gift of Jesus was his judgment of us - not condemnation, but love!
The Letter to the Ephesians says, “God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ… by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God-- not the result of works. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”
God loves us, not because we deserve it, not because we’ve earned it, but because he made us, because we are his children. It is a free gift. By grace we have been saved; through the mercy of God; not through our own works. This is a gift of freedom. This means that there is nothing required of us. AND, the proper response to such a gift is gratitude. AND, out of our gratitude we are moved to good works.
Because we were dead, and now we’re alive forever with Christ. We were dead! We were bogged down in our own mortality, our own limited ability and vision. But now we’re alive with Christ and have access to the knowledge and love of God. Nothing is impossible with God! Certainly, that’s worth something.
God sent Jesus into the world to save us, and all we have to do is accept this gift. We have to say, “YES,” and accept God’s love. Just think how different the world would be if we ALL…REALLY believed…that God loves us THAT MUCH!!

Saint John’s Episcopal Church

237 Pleasant StreetFranklin, MA 02038508.528.2387stjohns.franklin@verizon.netParish Profile