A recent trip to the market found me stuck behind a delivery truck blocking my way through the parking lot and on to a coveted space. The clogged mess allowed time to read the expressive signage on the back of the truck: “Jesus is coming!” it exclaimed in small letters with the word “Pronto” in bold colorful lettering beside it. (A Spanish version of the phrase was placed above it). Below that was the exclamation: “Jesus is the only way!” The humor did not escape me. It never does. I think it’s a curse….. or a blessing depending on how you look at it. I thought, “Is Jesus the only way to heaven or the most efficient way to ship?” After all, the word “pronto” was prominently displayed. Is Jesus coming quickly (pronto) to get my stuff? Or is judgment at hand? I chuckled to myself as the truck made its way through the lot. Later, upon returning to my car I began to think more seriously about the message on the truck. I asked myself:
What should my reaction be to the statement: Jesus is coming soon?
Well, I can tell you what my reaction would have been 10 years ago. It would have been summed up in two words: confused fear. I would have been worried about my status with God upon His impending return. Questions like: Had I been obedient enough? Did I have enough faith? Because even though I was told that salvation is a free gift of God and I was saved by grace, I was still told, often in subtle ways, week in and week out, from various pulpits over the years, that I needed to measure up--to what I wasn’t sure. It was always a set of principles to follow --- a formula for success here and a 10-step system for a victorious Christian “walk” there. What if the best I could do was “limp”?!! Was that good enough?
Enter a rediscovery of the Reformation and Lutheran Theology and a real understanding of the gospel. To quote my friends at Issues, Etc. “It’s not about us. It’s about Jesus for us”. The Gospel is outside of us. It is the objective fact that on a specific day 2000 years ago Jesus died for my sins. That is when I was saved. My faith is in that. Not in how I appropriate it in my life. As Jesus stated on the cross: “It is finished!” He is my Savior. End of discussion. (Thanks, Pastor Mark Jasa). I am reminded of it every week through word and sacrament in our Lutheran liturgy. To quote my husband, “The story is retold each week!” I am reminded of my sin, through the liturgy and the sermon and I am reminded that I am forgiven, again through the liturgy and sermon. I know that Jesus not only paid for all my sins – past, present, and future - He also fulfilled all the law’s demands in my stead. The Bible tells me that I have been given the righteousness of Christ ---it His righteousness that makes me worthy of eternal life. That means that when I sin and fail at doing things that are pleasing in His sight, I know that I’m forgiven and not condemned:
“There is now therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus!” Romans 8:1
Condemnation paralyzes us. It keeps us from picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off, and trying again.
In the iTrust studio it continues to be my privilege to serve our youth by retelling them the story as often as possible. We emphasize the importance of understanding Law and Gospel and the appropriate place for each in the Liturgy on Sunday mornings and in our lives as we serve our neighbors wherever God has placed us. So, if Jesus stops at their houses, to pick up their stuff…..they will be confident of this: “That He who began a good work in them (you) will carry iton to completion until the day of Jesus”. Philippians 1:6