Embrace Geneva's Future: Ash Wednesday, Lent, Holy Week and Making Disciples
Preparing For Living The Calling: a Reflection on Joshua 5:9-12, Psalm 32, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, and Luke 15:1-3, 11b, 11b-32
By responding to God’s love for us and placing our faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, God begins to make us brand new people, from the inside out. 2 Corinthians 5:17 reads, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see everything has become new!” Paul knew this truth of being made a new creation. Before becoming a follower of Jesus, Paul was a persecutor and killer of Christians. William Greenway writes, Paul “carries concrete memories of participating in state-sanctioned murder, of crashing into people’s homes and dragging mothers and fathers off to prison." The gospel, the good news of liberation, freedom, and reconciliation in Jesus, confronts our misunderstanding of Scripture, Christ, and grace. If Christians experience the gospel that the Bible illumines, Christ exposes, and grace captures we would live the calling we have received. That calling is to persist in the work of reconciliation. At its core, reconciliation is the ongoing practice of forgiveness. Listen carefully to the following citation from Robert Farrar Capon’s Between Noon and Three,
You’re worried about permissiveness--about the way the preaching of grace seems to say it’s okay to do all kinds of terrible things as long as you just walk in afterward and take the free gift of God’s forgiveness. .... While you and I may be worried about seeming to give permission, Jesus apparently wasn’t. He wasn’t afraid of giving the prodigal son a kiss instead of a lecture, a party instead of probation; and he proved that by bringing in the elder brother at the end of the story and having him raise pretty much the same objections you do. He’s angry about the party. He complains that his father is lowering standards and ignoring virtue--that music, dancing, and a fattened calf are, in effect, just so many permissions to break the law. And to that, Jesus has the father say only one thing: “Cut that out! We’re not playing good boys and bad boys anymore. Your brother was dead and he’s alive again. The name of the game from now on is resurrection, not bookkeeping.”
The cycle of preparing for and living the calling…. preparing for and living the calling is repetitive and ongoing. This cycle or better yet the ongoing process of conversion takes sin seriously and sin is not exhausted in individual acts. Robert McAfee Brown writes, “Sin is fundamentally a description of our entire situation, one of separation from God, alienation from him, arising out of our own rebellion, our refusal to do his will, our insistence upon following our own wills.” Our misunderstanding of scripture, Christ, and grace is functionally demonstrated by our aversion to live the calling. Yet, God is always saving people and leading us into new experiences of being a new creation.
Think about it. Our existence is not our own. The self-made person is the greatest deception and delusion humankind faces. Our existence is created, redeemed, and sustained by God. Psalm 32 mentions being happy, but it is not a superficial happiness. To the contrary, the psalmist addresses being happy as contentment in knowing that one is reconciled to God and others through forgiveness. In 2 Corinthians 5, we are taught that God reconciled the world to God’s self. God did not reconcile God’s self to the world. We are reconciled to God and others through forgiveness. Joshua 5:9-12 signals Israel’s new era, their ongoing experience of leaning into God’s promise made to Abraham of being a great people, being given a land, and being a blessing to others. The people of Israel leaned into God’s promise to Abraham through reconciliation to God and others through forgiveness. And reconciliation with God and others through forgiveness is the message of Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32. The Father’s love for and forgiveness of the younger son is scandalous.
Let’s be people living the calling and doing the work of reconciliation. The gospel confronts our misunderstanding of scripture, Christ, and grace. Our conscience tells us these things. Peter J. Gomes former Plummer Professor of Christian Morality at Harvard Divinity School writes, “Conscience is that little bit of God implanted in us, that part of ourselves made in the image of God that tells us what we know to be true and good, to which, in our better moments, we aspire.” God’s work is for a new creation in which all are reconciled to God. And that work of reconciliation is entrusted to you and to me.
Be reminded that when you experience the gospel that the Bible illumines, Christ exposes, and grace captures you will live the calling you have received. That calling is to persist in the work of reconciliation. The cycle of preparing for and living the calling is repetitive and ongoing. The ongoing process of conversion reveals the new creation you are. Live the calling and do the work of reconciliation.
William Greenway in Joel B. Green, Thomas G. Long, Luke A. Powery and Cynthia L. Rigby, editors, Connections, Year C, Volume 2 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2018), 85.
Robert Farrar Capon, Between Noon and Three, Christianity Today, Vol. 30, No. 7.
Robert McAfee Brown, in Patterns of Faith in America Today edited by Ernest Johnson (New York City, New York: Jewish Theological Seminary. Institute for Religious and Social Studies, 1957).
Peter J. Gomes, The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus (New York City, New York: HarperCollins, 2007), 134.
I am grateful for the thinking and writing of Patricia A. Tull, David A. Davis, Leigh Campbell-Taylor, William Greenway, Richard F. Ward, D. Cameron Murchison, and Adam J. Copeland in Joel B. Green, Thomas G. Long, Luke A. Powery and Cynthia L. Rigby, editors, Connections, Year C, Volume 2 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2018), 76-78, 78-79, 80-82, 83-85, 85-86, 87-90, and 90-92.