A Reflection Of Grace

This morning’s sermon!  I also sang and danced to “Father Abraham” during the children’s sermon (kind of hoping videos DON’T end up on Facebook!).  A WONDERFUL Sunday – so much life and vibrancy and vitality.  Amazing!

Genesis 12:1-4
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

A Reflection of Grace

I have a confession to make.

For most of my life, my family has made fun of me because nine times out of ten, I cannot pass a mirror without looking at myself in it.

Actually, a few years ago my parents bought a new house with a big picture window in the kitchen that overlooks the backyard. At night, it is so dark outside that you can see a crystal clear reflection of the kitchen in the window.

You can also see a crystal clear reflection of yourself.

I now tend to be a fairly distracted dinner companion.

I swear to you, it is not that I a vain person who cannot stop looking at themselves – I am just fascinated by reflections in general. It is an opportunity to see what the world sees when they look at you; to see how you move, how you interact with others and how blend your into your surroundings. And as a matter of fact, I think I tend to fixate on reflections because very rarely does the reflection of who I am and what I am doing actually look like what I thought it was going to look like.

Reflections have a lot to teach us. I was reading up on this passage from Genesis this week, the story of God’s promise to Abram that he would be the father of a great nation and I came across a comparison between the call of Abram and the function of a mirror.

Rev. James McTyre, pastor of Lake Hills Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, wrote:

Abram is called by God to serve as a mirror. Instead of images, Abram will reflect blessings and curses on the land where he will sojourn. As the world blesses Abram, so will Abram reflect those blessings back to the world. As the world curses Abram, so will the world’s curses be returned. {Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 2, Page 51}

If you think about it, this actually makes living in the world very easy. There is a black and white understanding of good and evil, blessings and curses. If you do good things, you will be blessed and if you do evil things, you will be cursed.

This was part of the security of Jewish laws and traditions. There were clear boundaries and a definitive understanding of right and wrong.

But, like so many things, this theory works so much better on paper than it does in the real world. Because – as we all know – sometimes in the world, bad things happen to good people. Sometimes evil prevails. When we look in a mirror, rarely is the reflection that we see ever as simple as, “Do good things and good things will happen to you; and do bad things and bad things will happen to you.” Unfortunately, it is just not that simple; it is not that easy.

Paul talked about Abram in the letter that he wrote to the church in Rome. But – hundreds of years later – he saw a much wider reflection; Paul knew more of how the story would unfold. He knew that Abram and Sarai would eventually be Abraham and Sarah, blessed with a son, but still very much so challenged in their lives and in their faith.

God gave Abram a very black and white call; “I will make of you a great nation … I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.”

But Abram did not live his life in black and white; he lived his life in color. And while that colorful reflection did show great blessings, it also showed great difficulties at time. It showed his wife who struggled to conceive, a child born out of wedlock, that child and his mother sent away and a command to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Abram lived his life and abided by the laws that were set before him, but he faced many, many challenges.

And yet, Abram – Abraham – was faithful; and God’s promise to him that he would be the father to a great nation was fulfilled.

But – Paul points out that it was not the law that gave Abraham the world.

It was faith.

“For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham … through the law,” Paul said, “but through the righteousness of faith.”

And, Paul also pointed out, it is faith that fulfills that promise that WE will inherit the earth as well. “For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith,” the scripture reads in its entirety.

In other words – we have to have faith.

Here is what I think. I think that – as human beings – we often put rules and rituals and traditions in place because they stabilize us and we feel protected by them. We want to look at our reflection and see black and white because it is simpler and there is less to process and to understand.

But our world is in color. And when we look at our reflection, we see color. We see things that are difficult to process and to understand. We see chaos. We see raw emotions. We see highs and lows. We see tragedy and joy. We see instability and fear. We see questions without answers. We see dreams and visions. We see hatred and love.

If the world really did exist in black and white then I think that laws and rituals and traditions would be enough to hold it all together. But it doesn’t. It exists and color and we need something stronger and so much more powerful to hold it all together.

We need faith to hold it all together.

When we look in the mirror and see our reflection – a reflection of who we are, of the lives that we lead, of the chaos that ensues, of the people that surround us, of the difficult times that we face and of the joy that brings us hope – we have to believe that faith is what holds it all together.

I cannot believe that God is some far away divine being, watching us from a distance. I believe that God exists within our own reflections; God is alive and at work in this world full of color and he is with us and within us.

Always.

This is the second week of Lent, the 40-day journey to Easter. Lent is a season of penitence; a time when we all think about the ways that we have fallen short and not lived up to the sacrifices Jesus made for us. But part of what the Lenten journey is also about is looking at your reflection and intentionally looking for that crystal clear reflection of God shining back at you.

Sometimes we get caught up in the throes of life and we forget that we are not in this alone. Paul reminds us that Abraham did not inherit the world through the law, but through faith. Abraham did not overcome the tragedies and struggles that he faced through the law, but through faith.

And the Easter story – the one that, together, we are journeying to – teaches us that Jesus was not resurrected through the law, but through faith.

God is present in the midst of the chaos that we call life and so very often faith is what holds it – faith is what holds us – together.

So even though it may distract you during dinner, do not be afraid to look at yourself in the mirror. It might not always be easy, but you will be able to see your life in its truest form.

And for better or for worse, God will always be at work within that reflection.

So let your faith guide you, strengthen you and make you whole.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

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