Sermon by The Rev. Kathy McAdams
March 8, 2020 - 2nd Sunday in Lent
St John’s Episcopal Church, Franklin, MA
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
If we want God’s love, God’s forgiveness and salvation, we have only to do one thing. We have to “opt in.” We can “opt in” to God’s grace, God’s mercy and protection, simply by choosing it. It’s there for the taking.
No matter what we do, God will never exclude us from His Kingdom. He forgave the men who tortured and killed his son, so he has certainly forgiven anything we could ever do. God will never exclude us from his loving embrace, but we can exclude ourselves by making choices that turn us away from God. We can even exclude ourselves by assuming that God will never accept us, could never love us. We can choose to “opt ourselves out” of God’s grace. Somehow we still want to believe that God’s economy is like ours. We want to believe in Karma - that if we do something good, we get something good; if we do something bad, we get something bad. That’s the way people tend to operate, but that’s not how God works. In God’s economy, if we do something good, we get delight; if we do something bad, we get forgiveness and mercy. In either case, we get love.
Likewise, we cannot earn or buy our way into heaven; that has already been done for us by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. The things we choose to make our Lenten practice – letting go of things or adding something to our discipline – are not to buy a place in the Kingdom, but are simply to help us venture more deeply into Jesus’ experience, to deepen our gratitude, and to strengthen our faith and love for God. They will not earn us more love from God. That is already too great to measure. If we want God’s salvation, it’s there for the taking; it’s our choice to “opt in.” All we have to do is believe that the Kingdom of God is ours, and it is so. All we have to do is say, “yes,” and God’s free gift of grace, mercy, forgiveness, protection, and love is all ours.
And then, once we accept all of that, it makes us want to live differently; not because we have to, but because we are moved to do so. We no longer have to seek God’s approval, or hide from his wrath, or try to make up for what we’ve done wrong. Instead, we are moved by gratitude to love God in return, to love others as God loves, to share the grace, mercy and forgiveness that we’ve received.
All we have to do is accept God’s grace; to believe that God so loved the world that he sent his only son to redeem the world, to redeem us…for free; not because we deserve it, but because that’s how great God is. All we have to do is “opt in.”