God’s Easter Gift
(The message was preceeded by "Amazing Grace/Your Grace Is Enough.")
What does Easter mean to you?
(Illus: I have a friend who was not raised in a Christian home. He had a hard time figuring out why they celebrated the holiday.)
For the Apostle Paul, Easter celebrates a gift--God’s gift--a special, life-transforming gift we call grace. Eight times in our text today, Paul used the words "grace" or "gift." (They are similar in meaning.
(Read the text. I read it from "The Message," because it is rather to follow verbally.)
WHAT KIND OF GIFT DOES GOD GIVE US ON EASTER?
1. God’s gift is one we desperately need.
Some people may not know how much this need God’s gift.
Imagine if you lived in a polluted and isolated place somewhere in the third world. They air you breathe is heavy with pollution; you breathe it because you have no other option. The water you drink is brown and full of contaminants; you drink it because it is necessary for survival. You are often sick, and always tired and lethargic. Your children are slow to learn, and die young. There are ancient stories of air that is clear and pure, and water so pure it is colorless--stories of healthy people, bright and energetic children, long life. But this is all you know: colored water, pertetually dirty air, life (and death) as you know it.
But then someone comes to help. They drill a deeper well, close down the smelting plant, clean up the land. You take your first deep drink of clean, pure water. You begin to breathe clean air. Your family is healthy, bright, full of energy. Only after you receive the gift do you know how much you needed it.
Paul begins with an ancient story: Adam and Eve in paradise, and everything RIGHT. They are right with God: They talk with him face to face, soaking in his love and trust. They are right with each other: They have an easy, loving, trusting relationship, totally open and affirming. They are right with their world; Even the animals come to them without fear or danger. They are right at the core of their being: no sickness, no selfishness, no death.
Then they sinned. They rebelled against God, they allowed the pollution of evil to gain a foothold in Paradise. No longer were they right with God: They hid in fear and shame. No longer were they right with each other: They were ashamed of their bodies, and blaming each other for their sin. No longer were they right with the world: There were weeds, toil, killing even of humans. No longer were they right at the core of their being: There was sickness, pain, even death.
Why tell such a story, especially on Easter? Because it is our story--a story of how life ought to be, if we were right with God. It’s a story of how sin and death have polluted every part of us and our world.
The theological words are "original sin." Simple put, each person is born into sin. Sin is in our environment. We can see it in every nation of the world, every social problem, even people and places near us. We can find it in every family. We can even find it in ourselves. (If you don’t believe it, ask your wife or husband!)