The question Paul is asking today in Romans…is really, how do you want to live?
It’s true…God’s gift of eternal life isn’t dependent on how good you are. It’s true…God still loves you even when you hurt others or live selfishly. It’s true…God’s grace is never revoked, never withheld…despite our sin.
So, I suppose.. that means we can do whatever we want in life. There are no “rules” we have to follow. We don’t have to worry about our sin anymore. We can be jerks. We can live without thinking of others. We can look out for number one and not consider our neighbors. We are completely free to live as we desire.
But…Paul asks…is that really freedom? Or isn’t that simply a form of slavery? Are we simply being captives to our own desires…reaching for the next instant gratification?
If we are free…we are free to choose a different path. And knowing Jesus… don’t you want something different from your life? Don’t you want something different than a life that is only about you…about how you feel and what you want and what you think and what you have and what you deserve and what you accomplish? Don’t you want something that fills you up more than temporary satisfaction and gives you a more abundant life? Because that’s what Jesus shows us. God’s love and grace are not dependent upon how we choose to live…but choosing to live in that love and grace can give us abundant life like no others. Choosing to reflect that love and grace in what we do…makes life richer and fuller than we ever imagined. Choosing, let’s say…to eat Twinkies with God.
(watch video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9N8OXkN0Rk)
In our gospel reading today, Jesus tells his disciples that when they go into the world…when people care for and welcome them..It’s like they are welcoming Jesus. And later in Matthew, Jesus will tell his disciples that when they care for and welcome others…the stranger, the sick, the imprisoned, the hungry…they are welcoming Jesus. So, basically, Jesus is saying whenever we are welcomed, or welcome others….God is present in both the one welcomed and the one welcoming. Something holy and beautiful happens, when we open ourselves up to others. When we meet strangers. When we are kind. When we receive kindness. When we choose not to fear…but to love. That’s when we get to eat Twinkies with God…and we find joy and life so much deeper than when we live our lives thinking only of ourselves.
We do that here, don’t we? One of the things I hear so often from new members is how genuinely welcomed they have felt here. That is what Matt and I have felt here. And then, the privilege we have after receiving that welcome…is to share it with others. That’s how this grace thing works. God is present in the welcoming and the welcomed…we receive and we give…and the grace abounds. And it is joyful. It is holy.
So Paul asks the question….Really, how do you want to live? What God hopes is that we don’t choose to live in fear. In fear of doing the wrong thing…in fear of our sin…or in fear of our neighbors. Because, the truth is, God is not interested in how well we follow the rules or how “good” we are or how “right” we are. Jesus came to set us free from our fear. And God hopes we won’t chose to live as a slave to our passions. No, what God desires is for us to live freely and fully….fully engaged. Full of joy. Fully of love. Full of hope. Full of gift. And we are filled up…when we give. We are filled up when we offer simple kindness. When we welcome one another. When we ask each other’s name. When we offer a glass of cool water. When we smile at strangers and share our Twinkies. That is abundant life. And you are invited to live it. Amen.