Sermon February 18, 2018  First Sunday in Lent  Scripture:  Romans 3: 21-26;  5:1-5;  8: 31-39 The Gift of Grace  by Rev. June Fothergill Mark Twain once said, “  Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.” ( p. 330  1001 Quotes, Illustrations and Humorous Stories ed. Edward K. Rowell) I also heard the other day that a Miwaukee minister declared that there were 947 sings and was besieged for copies of the list! (p. 42  An Encyclopedia of Humor, ed. Lowell D. Streiker) Paul says in vs. 21  But now apart from law the righteousness of God has been disclosed and is attested by the law and the prophets the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. Sometimes people view religion as a list of do’s and don’ts, if we just follow the rules, then everyone will be all right.   Yet, this creates problems, as Paul very well knew.   One is that few of us can successfully keep all the rules all the time, even if we have a list!    Trying to live by a list of do’s and don’ts opens us up to the reality of hypocrisy on the one hand and self righteousness on the other. Either way we are far from the right relationship with God the rules promised. Paul would not say that there is no place for what he calls the law- the ways of life developed by his people over the centuries to help the community stay in touch with God and their roots of history and faith.  He knew the value of these to teach us about what God wants from us.  He proclaimed in synagogue after synagogue and here in Romans that the story of Jesus and the salvation he brings is rooted in those very scriptures.    Yet, the righteousness  of God is now available to us all in a new way- trust in Jesus and his story of salvation- his life death and resurrection.   Believe in Jesus Paul urges and you will know the righteousness of God, you will be in right relationship with God. Vs. 22 For there is no distinction since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; This is a summary of the previous chapters where Paul spells out the ways that the world is trapped by sin and alienated from God.    Another school shooting this week reminds us how far our own society is from God.   Every society has conflicts and struggles with violence in various ways but our society is well known for more mass shootings than other places where...

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