4 Lent C—3/6/16
Joshua 5:9-12; Psalm 32; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3,11b-32
Pr. Scott Kramer
Our bank statement came in the mail a few days ago. This month, just like every other month, we need to check to see if the bank’s figures and our checkbook figures agree. You do this, too. We call it reconciling the checkbook.
The word “reconcile” shows up in some form no fewer than five times in today’s short reading from 2 Corinthians.
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
Now, the way St. Paul uses the word reconcile doesn’t seem to have anything to do with balancing a checkbook, does it? Paul is talking about relationships. Reconciling a checkbook is about business. It’s about money!
But if you think about it, God does send us a statement every month. Every week, or even every day—however often we allow God’s Word to speak to us—we receive not a bank statement but a statement nevertheless. It’s a statement of who God is and who we are. It’s a simple accounting statement: God is love, your sins are forgiven, and you are God’s beloved—or, as we say around here, “God loves you…no matter what!”
If God kept accounts like we do, I would be in so much trouble! The record of our lives never matches God’s requirements. Just as we compare our household check register against the bank statement, so also we compare our personal life against the life and the teachings of Jesus Christ. Do they reconcile? No, they do not!
But according to Paul, God is in the reconciling business, and God’s accounting system strikes us as odd: like the Father in today’s story, canceling debts right and left—nothing fair about it! So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ. Reconciliation is not only God’s work. It’s God’s specialty!
And it doesn’t stop there! God has given us the ministry of reconciliation, Paul says. That is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ!
Think of that. God has taken on the job of humble accountant, and not a very good one, either! But we have been given the title “Ambassador.” Ambassadors do important work. They represent an entire people, they cross borders, they risk putting down roots in unfamiliar places. Ambassadors at their best work with and learn from local people.
We, the people of Lakeridge Lutheran Church, have committed to be a Reconciling-in-Christ congregation. As ambassadors of Christ, we welcome the participation of people of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, gender identities, educational backgrounds, and economic conditions—all who want to join in community to honor God and be of service to people.
But because our lives can never completely be reconciled to God’s infinite love and unlimited welcome, our relationship to any one of these unfamiliar groups could trip us up in our work as ambassadors. Sometimes being a judge sounds more appealing to us than being an ambassador!
On the other hand, sometimes the hardest work of Christ’s ambassadors doesn’t involve crossing these kinds of borders. Maybe for you crossing into different worlds of race or sexuality or religious affiliation isn’t all that difficult or threatening. Sometimes the hardest work is closer to home. Isn’t our reading from Luke, after all, a story about conflict within a household?
It’s a ridiculous name, really—the “Prodigal Son.” The story is not really about the younger son’s folly! Both sons are foolish: the younger one—the wild one—is selfish. But the older one is, too. He may be loyal and hard-working, but so what? He is also angry, resentful—more interested in what he can get for himself than he is interested in learning from and practicing the Father’s love. Neither son is much of an ambassador. Neither represents a spirit of reconciliation.
And we recognize this situation. For ambassadors of reconciliation who are called to the grand work of saving the world, sometimes the hardest work is the work of reconciliation inside our own households and circle of friends.
But whatever the work you are called to, dear friends, you have what you need. You have the Father’s example of grace, love, mercy and forgiveness that empower you to do this good work. We begin our work as ambassadors this week by hearing again the assurance of God’s unconditional love. We begin again by sharing in a meal of brokenness…and reconciliation. We are equipped and prepared to be ambassadors of Christ, for the sake of the world!