Gen 2:4-7; 1 Pet 1:13-23; Jn 3:13-21
In Nomine Iesu
"Oh, you shouldn't have. No, really, you shouldn't have. It's too nice. It's too expensive. I don't deserve it. You shouldn't have bothered. Why did you do this? Wow. I'm totally blown away by this! You really shouldn't have."
Isn't that how it sounds when we receive an unexpected gift? "You shouldn't have." Why? Because now I have to give you something back. Because now I'm obligated to you. Because now there is a debt between me and you.
We're natural-born transactionalists. Deal-cutters. Bargainers. When we give gifts, it's to get something in return. Isn't it? Guys? Hmmmm? We bribe. We bargain. We butter up. We control and manipulate. "If you really loved me, you'd buy me that ring." "How do I love thee, let me count the ways: One carat, two carats, three carats, more."
Thusly God loved the world: He gave Jesus. This is His love: He sent His only-begotten Son into the world, into our flesh, born of a Virgin, born under Law, to redeem the world, to buy it back, not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and his innocent suffering and death. Not to condemn the world but to save it.
It's not a deal, it's a gift. God loved the world in His Son. God gave His Son to the world. A gift given. Wrapped in swaddling clothes. Hung on a cross. Raised from the dead. It's a fact whether you believe it or not, want it or not, like it or not.
God gave Adam life. Body and breath. He breathed into Adam's clay His breath of life and Adam became a living being. It's one of the most remarkable verses of the Bible,and I defy anyone to rationalize it. There was no transaction. No bargaining. No deal. Just lifeless clay and the breath of God. Divine CPR.
God has given you body and breath too. Not out of the mud, but from your mother and father. Biologically reasonable, yes, but no less mysterious. We know about the genetic code and conception and all that, but we are no less fearfully and wonderfully made. Your eyes, your ears, your parts, your reason, your senses, your psychology, your intellect, your intuition, our talents. All are gifts from your Giver God.
Adam and Eve refused the gift, and you know the story. It's written in Genesis 3 and also in your life. The rebel will. The refusal to be given to. The gift used against God. That's what evil is. God's good used against God. A tree becomes a weapon of defiance; its fruit the sacrament of death. "On the day you eat of it, you will surely die." "You will be dead to me. Adam, where are you? Where are YOU?"
They loved darkness rather than light; themselves rather than God; the devil's instead of God's truth. You know the outcome. Ashamed, hiding, fearful, accusing each other, accusing God.
We love the darkness. We love the deal. We love the notion that we are gods and that we have God wrapped around our little fingers. We love the idea that we can be like gods. Some people think they are. What better religion can there be than one where you are a god? We love the notion that we can work our way up the ladder, and we'll devise ladders small enough for us to climb. Oh we love the darkness for what it hides. We hide from each other and from God.
You too. Your inner sinner, the old Adam, Adam 1.0, loves the darkness, the shelter the darkness affords for sin. Who will see when no one is watching? Who will know when no one has knowledge? Who will judge when you don't get caught? God does. His light penetrates the darkness of sin and death, exposing the evil and bringing it into the truth.
Here is the truth: God gave His Son. This is His love for the world, for you. Behold, the Lamb slain and living whose blood pays the price for your sin, whose death conquers your death, whose life is your life. It's all given, to be received by faith, simple trust that it is finished, it is so. This is the judgment: Light or darkness, life or death, Jesus or self. "He who believes, who trusts, is not condemned; he who does not believe, does not trust, is condemned already." Believe it, my friends, believe it. Trust this Jesus who saved you. He is all you have and all you need. He is given you.
He gives you His gifts. You were dead in trespasses and sin. You still are, in yourself. Dead as dead can be. The Law says so. Your sins are the hard evidence. But God breathed life into you. New life. The Spirit. In your Baptism you were born anew from above. As you had no choice in your first birth, so there is no choice here either. Baptism is not a deal but a gift. Forgiveness, life, salvation - all are given you in water and Word. And again in Absolution, given you in the word of forgiveness. And still more in the Supper, His death destroying, sin forgiving, life sustaining body and blood given you in your own mouth, His words ringing in your own ears. "Sinner, I have not come to condemn you but to save you."
God can't help Himself. He loves to give. He loves giving out gifts to His children. And He loves when His children receive His gifts. It is the Father's joy that you receive the gifts of creation, the gift of His Son, the gift of salvation, the gift of the Spirit and new life and adoption and the opportunity to call Him Father with delight.
So what do you say to such gifts? What can say? "Oh, you shouldn't have?" Of course not! Simply Amen! Gifts received with joy and thanksgiving. This is most certainly true.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Created: July 15th, 2010