Grace and peace to you, from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Sometimes, reading Paul’s letters leaves me scratching my head. I was struggling with this week’s reading. And when I struggle with a reading, I go back to the previous verses, and see if that helps. This time I'm not sure that was a good idea! These are verses 18 and 19 of chapter 5 in “The Message” translation. Paul is trying to explain how grace works. “Here it is in a nutshell: Just as one person did it wrong and got us in all this trouble with sin and death, another person did it right and got us out of it. But more than just getting us out of trouble, he got us into life! One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong; one man said yes to God and put many in the right.”
Holy moly, Paul! The problem is, that way up in chapter 5, Paul mentions who these two people are. And then he just goes on and on like that, for verse after verse. So, I will tell you what Paul doesn’t make clear. The first man mentioned was Adam, who sinned and was thrown out of the Garden, condemning all creation to death. So, now that we know that, I bet you can guess who the second man is, right? It’s Jesus!
God could not stand being separated from creation, so God sent Jesus, God’s only Son, to redeem all creation through his death and Resurrection. We received grace and forgiveness of sins. All of this was to explain why Paul said that Gentiles did not need to follow the law in order to be made right with God. Jesus took care of that through his life, death, and Resurrection!
Then Paul gets a little sarcastic with his next line, “What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?” Grace is a gift from God, making Gentiles right with God, not a license to keep sinning! So how does work in our lives?
Martin Luther, who struggled to feel worthy of salvation, would repeat, “I am baptized.” Notice he didn’t say, “I was baptized,” but I am baptized! I think when we feel hopeless, or not worthy of God’s love, we need to remember and maybe say out loud as Luther said,“I am baptized!” Knowing this we that we are baptized, we can go out from here and live as Jesus lived - sharing the Good News and caring for others, especially those who our society rejects: the poor, the outcast, people with mental illness, or someone who just needs someone to listen and pray with them.
I am sure that even people we already know need to know that they are loved. So be brave, and remember - you are baptized. And do as Jesus and the disciples did - care for all of God’s beloved children in whatever way you can. Amen.