In Acts, Peter stands before the Pentecost crowd and explains the basics of the Gospel. Jesus died for our sins, God raised Him from the dead in acceptance of His Holy sacrifice, and we have received the promise of eternal life. In response, Peter calls us to repent, turn from our life of sin, and towards a life in Christ. In our baptism, the symbolic gesture that we choose to follow Christ, we are filled with the gift of the Holy Spirit.
In 1 Peter we are reminded that through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ we have been saved from a useless life. These words from Peter bring the words of "Amazing Grace1" to mind and our focus turns to the bloody body of Jesus hanging on the Cross. However, it is the events of Easter morning and the victory over death that God created that should mean the most in our lives as Christians. We are not called to dwell on the worthlessness of the lives we used to lead. Instead, we are reborn and made anew with the sole purpose of bringing the Good News that Christ is alive to the world.
The psalmist in Psalm 116 has faced certain death. In the midst of his worst fear he called out to God and discovered that God actively listens to our prayers. He not only listens, He responds. In that response we experience the salvation that God freely provides. There is nothing we can do in payment for God's gift of grace. Our only response is to lift of songs of praise and worship in recognition of God's love in our lives.
In our verses in Luke two disciples are walking away from the events of Easter filled with doubt and questions. Jesus appears to them as the approach Emmaus and spends some quality time teaching them how they answers they seek can be found in Scripture. Eventually, during a time of quiet participation in communion, the eyes of the disciples are opened and they see, for the first time, the risen Christ. Filled with His Spirit they return to Jerusalem to share the good news and to be among those who believe.
Kathy: Hi Gary - how has your walk with Christ been these past few weeks?
Gary: Hi Kathy, It's good to see you. - I guess I'm okay. I have been struggling a little over a problem. But I'm sure God will lead me to a better understanding soon. How about you? Is everything okay with the family?
Kathy: The kids are a challenge sometimes and Allan has been traveling a lot but we are doing well. I know what you mean about struggling though. I have been praying a lot lately about Grace. I don't really understand it - grace that is.
Gary: What is it about Grace that you are having difficulty with?
Kathy: I am not sure how to apply Grace to the raising of a family? Should I always be forgiving or are there moments that call for judgment and punishment?
Gary: I have been reading a book lately that might help. It's called "Genesis of Grace2" by John Indermark. He shows that Grace is not just a New Testament concept. There are examples of God's Grace at work throughout the Old Testament. I found it really helpful to see Grace at work in the lives of other people - people like Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, and David. I could loan you my copy of it.
Kathy: That does sound like it might help. I'd love to read it. Thanks. But how about you? What is your struggle?
Gary: Differences of opinions among Christians. You know I just don't understand how two devoted Christians, both of whom pray and study the Bible, can have such wide differences of opinions on matters that really matter.
Kathy: Do you mean like with the war in Iraq or the Terry Schiavo case?
Gary: Exactly. And then, because we each think that our opinions are based on faith, the other person is not only wrong but there must be something wrong with their faith too.
Kathy: Don't you think that this is just people being people?
Gary: Probably but isn't it a little scary when you think how these differences of opinions can cause wide schisms in the church? Wouldn't we, as Christians, be doing the world a better service by working together?
Kathy: But don't you see an exchange of ideas as a healthy way of growing in our faith together? If we all thought and believed the same things would we still be able to grow in our faith at all? I think that disagreement, questions, and doubt as tools that God uses to grow us into the disciples we are called to be.
Gary: I see what you mean. I never thought about that way.
Kathy: I know that you and I, for instance, disagree about the war, but I don't think it has ever gotten in our way to work and learn together as God has called us to do.
Gary: You are right again - maybe that's how we get along so well - I am always so agreeable.
Kathy: I wouldn't say that…
Gary: Just kidding. Do you want to borrow my book? Once you have read it maybe we could get together to discuss it, study some of the Scriptures it mentions, and pray about it in order to see if there is anything more we can learn.
Kathy: Sounds like a great idea. I will let you know when I'm done and we will schedule a time. Thanks for your help.
Gary: Same to you…I have to run now and rewrite that email I was going to send to a pastor in Afghanistan about Christians being called to be peacemakers. I think I am going to tone down the self-righteousness a bit.
Kathy: Good idea. See you later.
Risen Lord: As we look back to the events of Holy Week, we too, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, are filled with questions and doubt. We have seen your bloody body stretched across a tree and have come to realize that this dark moment in history represents your supreme sacrifice. Our sins have been washed away by your blood. No matter how amazing this gift of grace is, no matter how unworthy we feel or how unlikely we are to repay you, the true gift, the gift that keeps on giving, is the victory that took place on Easter morning. Help us to turn our focus outwardly to the world as we focus on the gift of rebirth. We are made new, not so we can spend our days thinking of our past but so we can bring the news of your victory and glory to the world. It is through the truth that Christ is alive we pray. Amen.
A very interesting article. I like your "Dialogue of Faith". It is a very poignant message for Church leaders especially to take note of. I also like your introduction and closing prayer. They illustrate the point that we should not dwell on Christ's blood- sacrifice on the Cross, but rather the victory He accomplished on Easter Sunday morning.