Sunday, April 02, 2017

Arguing for Salvation

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday in Lent

How do you win an argument? By being the one with the last word? By having the loudest voice? By belittling your opponent? Or by convincing your opponent that they are wrong?

We live in a culture in which we debate everything. Universities and schools regularly hold debate competitions. Online forums are filled with debates, and often things get ugly and personal because everyone online has a cloak of anonymity. It seems that once a position is established by the popular vote, we are not allowed to disagree with it. To go against the position of Society is not politically correct. Even things that make common sense are debated. What happens if Fred wins a debating competition and convinces everyone that black is white. Does that mean that black really is now white?


There are things that are simply not open to debate, and yet people still try and, worst still, succeed in convincing others that the opposite is true. Black can become white in today’s culture. Why? It is because people want complete control over how they want to see the world. They want everything to be true to their point of view. When they are questioned, they will say, “your truth is not the same as my truth” and end the debate there.


Our Lord finds His words debated by the Scribes and Pharisees. He has just forgiven the woman caught in adultery and issued those wonderful words, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Then the Scribes and Pharisees come and try to find fault with His teaching and His saying about Who He is. They hold fast to their position as Abraham’s children and reject Jesus’ teaching loudly.

Jesus asks them either to show where He is wrong, or accept that He is telling the truth. If the Scribes and Pharisees claim to be followers of God, then they should recognise the voice of God when it speaks. Others have. Multitudes of the people have heard God speak to them.

Yet Jesus is not God just because people have been convinced by Him. People have been convinced by Him because they have recognised that He is God.

As far as the Authorities go, Jesus is a devil. They argue that black is white. They argue that the Man who has healed the sick, fed multitudes, forgiven sins, walked on water, preached love and righteousness from the very Old Testament that they believe in, this Man is evil.

Black is white, in their eyes.


So what will convince them? Will Our Lord’s Passion and Death show them that He is telling the truth? What of His Resurrection?


So, Jesus leaves them. He hides from them. They will not see Him anymore.


Many people make big claims about Jesus that they can’t substantiate. They say that He is a social revolutionary come to overthrow the old order of injustice, intolerance, and inequality. Others say that He is a good teacher, come to tell people that being good puts you in God’s good books. They say that He has come to show that people who follow outdated traditions are wrong, and that following your heart is right.

They are wrong.

Jesus is not about Revolution. He is about Revelation and Salvation.

He doesn’t overthrow the old order but reveals the Kingdom of God. He doesn’t tell people that being good earns your way into Heaven, He reveals the way to Heaven through the Cross. He does not reject tradition, He reveals Himself through the very tradition that the Pharisees hold so dear, makes it clear in the Divine Light of His being, and then bids us carry the same tradition throughout the Millennia.


If we are truly Christian, then what God teaches us Himself is simply not up for question except to ask, “what does this mean for the Church? How can we respond to God’s Love in the light of this?” We cannot question whether Jesus is right to choose only male disciples – He does so, and that’s an end of it. We cannot question whether God says that fornication is a sin – He does so, and that’s an end of it. If we truly believe that Jesus is God, then we must act like it and trust Him even if the society around us votes against Him.

In the end, the debates about who Jesus is will cease to be. Those who believe Him, trust Him, love Him will walk through His Cross into Eternity.

Will we?

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