A Lenten Journey: Climbing to the Cross – SECOND Sunday


Romans 4:13-25 – The Message
That famous promise God gave Abraham—that he and his children would possess the earth—was not given because of something Abraham did or would do. It was based on God’s decision to put everything together for him, which Abraham then entered when he believed. If those who get what God gives them only get it by doing everything they are told to do and filling out all the right forms properly signed, that eliminates personal trust completely and turns the promise into an ironclad contract! That’s not a holy promise; that’s a business deal. A contract drawn up by a hard-nosed lawyer and with plenty of fine print only makes sure that you will never be able to collect. But if there is no contract in the first place, simply a promise—and God’s promise at that—you can’t break it.
 
This is why the fulfillment of God’s promise depends entirely on trusting God and his way, and then simply embracing him and what he does. God’s promise arrives as pure gift. That’s the only way everyone can be sure to get in on it, those who keep the religious traditions and those who have never heard of them. For Abraham is father of us all. He is not our racial father—that’s reading the story backward. He is our faith father.
 
We call Abraham “father” not because he got God’s attention by living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody. Isn’t that what we’ve always read in Scripture, God saying to Abraham, “I set you up as father of many peoples”? Abraham was first named “father” and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, “You’re going to have a big family, Abraham!”
 
Abraham didn’t focus on his own impotence and say, “It’s hopeless. This hundred-year-old body could never father a child.” Nor did he survey Sarah’s decades of infertility and give up. He didn’t tiptoe around God’s promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, sure that God would make good on what he had said. That’s why it is said, “Abraham was declared fit before God by trusting God to set him right.” But it’s not just Abraham; it’s also us! The same thing gets said about us when we embrace and believe the One who brought Jesus to life when the conditions were equally hopeless. The sacrificed Jesus made us fit for God, set us right with God.
_______ 

If you have made it through this LONG stretch of Romans, I salute you. If you haven’t, I urge you to go back, spend an extra 3-4 minutes and read it All.The.Way.Down.

It is great stuff. 
I love what Peterson has done with these 15 verses, even though he used a whole lot more words than any other translation I checked! 
He has taken some dense theology, in which Paul is working through a foundational Old Testament text, and he has made it comprehensible and current. 
Nice work. Really nice.
So I took a little bit of artistic license and decided to try and do the same thing with today’s photo-for-reflection. See if you can follow my convoluted choice.
Look specifically at that last paragraph, the one with these words:
“He didn’t tiptoe around God’s promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, sure that God would make good on what he had said. That’s why it is said, “Abraham was declared fit before God by trusting God to set him right.” But it’s not just Abraham; it’s also us! The same thing gets said about us when we embrace and believe the One who brought Jesus to life when the conditions were equally hopeless. The sacrificed Jesus made us fit for God, set us right with God.

With this paragraph, Peterson re-states the story of Abraham and Sarah, and that unbelievable promise made to them by God – that they would father/mother many nations, even though they were old – and as the words starkly remind us – ‘impotent and infertile.’ 

Every other Bible you can find will choose to use a big word like ‘righteousness’ or ‘justification’ where Peterson has chosen the small word, ‘fit.’ 

And it is a perfect word. Absolutely perfect. 
Because of the promises of God, 
and the work of Jesus on the cross and out the tomb,  
we are made fit to be with God. 
Because of our Elder Brother, 
we are welcomed into the heavenly places, from the get-go.

And like Abraham, we are encouraged not to simply be onlookers to this promise of fitness. No. 
     We are encouraged   
          to ‘plunge into the promise,’ 
          to ‘come up strong,’  
          to ‘trust that God will make us right.’

The fitness comes to us as a gift of grace; 
it becomes fully ours when we step into it and own it.

The picture I chose for today is of two brothers – a little brother and an elder one. The littler one wanted to play superheroes; the bigger brother bent down and joined him in the game – and they had a grand time on that Hawaiian beach four summers ago.

And here’s where you have to bear with me just a bit, 
for a slightly stretched analogy…
Our Elder Brother has joined us in the game of life.
And even though we’ll never be the Superhero he is, 
we are invited to apprentice, 
     to learn, 
     to trust,
and ultimately, 
     to put on that cape and FLY. 
Wanna join in?
_______

O Jesus, I know this is WAY over-simplified, but somehow it helps me to see this beautiful truth of ours put into this everyday language. And remembering the sweetness of that big brother that day in 2008 helps me to picture the sweetness of your love for us. It’s not a game – this much I’ve learned the hard way – but it is an adventure. I thank you for making me fit enough to join you in it.

Click here for day one of this series and an explanation of what it’s all about.



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Comments

  1. I can’t get over the picture of just plunging into the promise. And the sense of lightness and freedom that comes with that thought–like running into Lake Michigan or the ocean and letting the water carry me. I think of what I miss when I just sit on shore. I always think of Abraham when on sit on the beach sifting that sand. 

  2. pastordt says:

    Yeah, I like that, too. Need more plunging in my life and a lot less deliberating. :>)