The only thing that will get us there is God’s grace. The full amazingness of God’s grace is not just that it forgives our sins, not just that it saves us from death, but that somehow God’s grace will one day, in an instant, completely transform our hearts and minds and souls. Our brokenness will be healed. Our sin stripped away. And we will know what it means to be fully children of God.
That yearning, that search for truth, that restless drive that there is something greater out there, it was just as alive and present 2,000 years ago as it is today. Paul met it when we arrived in Athens for the very first time.
As Paul talks about our gifts of the Spirit, I can’t help but also be reminded of Jesus’ message to us: “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. Let your light shine before others.” If you ever wonder, what is a spiritual gift, this is my definition for you: It is that which brings light out of darkness. It is whatever makes this world more beautiful and wondrous and full of love. Your spiritual gift is when your light shines for the whole world to see.
Being a part of the Body of Christ means that we are fully welcomed by God. But it also means that each one of us, no matter what our status is defined by the world, has a part of play and a calling from God. Our walk of faith isn’t to live as people who only receive. It is meant for us to be active and serve and give back. It is meant to be a part of God’s hands and feet, part of the great healing work of redemption.
There are over two billion Christians in the world today. Imagine if we all worked together? Imagine the gifts, the dreams we could accomplish, the visions for a better world. There is so much we could be as the body of Jesus Christ if we could simply learn how to come back together.
There is so much that demands our time and energy and resources in this world. Everything is clamoring over each other to say, “We are the most important thing. Make us top priority” And I admit, sometimes the church even gets that way. We think the most important thing is our tasks, our music, our preaching, our budget, our numbers. And we get so wrapped in all of those things, we forget the core of the gospel. We forget to love one another and love God.
Our job as Christians is to share that message of grace. It is to break down barriers and let the world know that your class, your wealth, your status, your ethnicity, your background, none of that is what defines you. None of that can keep you away from God. What ultimately defines you is the fact that you are beloved by God. You are beloved by God so much that God came into our world and died and rose again for you.
The message of the cross is strange. It is a message of foolishness to those who believe they have made themselves to be wise and worthy. But it is also a message of hope for those who have been called hopeless. It is a message of value and worth for those who have been called nothing. It is a message of strength for those who have been told they are too weak. It is a message of life for those who have only seen death.
As we journey this week towards Calvary, may we not worry so much about religion and labels and who is in and who is out. May we not worry if we don’t know all the traditions and rituals and rules perfectly. Instead, let us reflect on the reason God’s house was built in the first place, the reason this house was built, the reason this community was built – to meet God, to know God’s love, and to shine that love as a light to all people.
Jesus came into this world knowing the horrors of it, knowing its pain and trouble. Jesus did this, not because it was comfortable or easy, but because Jesus wanted to redeem it and make it whole again. Because Jesus loves you that much. Because no one is left out of God’s story.