What is really ours in this life?
What do we really earn for ourselves?
And can we really take credit for much of anything?
are largely where we are because of others that have come before us.
Our efforts help and put is in the right places,
but without the help of others, we would not be where we are.
The image from Scripture is,
Since we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses,Hebrews 12:1
let us run the race before us with perseverance.”
This reference is an image from a stadium of those who have gone before us and paved our way cheering us on in the “race of life.”
This is, of course,
a reference to our faith development (see chapter 11).
It is Jesus’ “Follow Me” call to all those who would take up their cross; all those who would dare to be His disciples.
It is not the call to the Western way of life.
It is not a call to build your own kingdom.
To make sure that you are “set.”
We are creatures that like this; that like control.
Some of us in all areas of our life.
Some of us in some areas of our life.
We like the predictable.
Things we can count on.
And we gather with those who feel the same way
and whose way emboldens our thinking about our way.
This is the story of Genesis 11 from last week.
"Come, let us build ourselves a city,
and a tower with its top in the heavens
and let us make a name for ourselves.”
Such a far cry from Eden.
“Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness.’”
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”
“Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”
But this is the difference of imago dei vs imago hominis
The image of God vs the image of man
But many pursue the imago hominis.
Building our own kingdoms.
Life on our terms.
Both in subtle and not so subtle ways.
This phrase from Judges describes this well,
…everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”Judges 21:25b
But we were not intended to live this way.
This is not abundant living.
This is (literally) the death of us.
Paul says it this way in Romans:
For the wages of sin is death,Romans 6:23
but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
All we could ever earn on our own in life (our wages) is death.
When we die, we can say that we earned it.
Write it on your grave marker.
Life on life’s terms pays out with death.
And what’s the point of that?
Matthew says it this way:
For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?”Matthew 16:26
But the Romans passage offers an alternative:
A free gift from God.
I love the way Paul writes this.
All we could ever hope of earning through our own efforts is death.
But the thing that we really need,
(and long for)
we can’t earn.
But, get this,
it is a gift from God to us.
Our quest to justify ourselves and make something of ourselves is only realized in the person of Jesus.
And this is a gift.
Marked in us through God’s Holy Spirit.
Which is why we remember and celebrate Pentecost every year.
It is what “seals the deal” as far as entering into the life intended.
And this is, you might have guessed,
the opposite of the Tower of Babel story from Genesis 11.
And why the language metaphors found in both the Genesis reading and the Acts reading from last week were so important.
Genesis speaks of the one language of humanity.
“…let us make a name for ourselves.”
Acts speaks of the breadth of languages
(and thus the breadth of life) found in God’s gift.
“…in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”
We are due nothing,
But, through God’s gift of His Spirit
we have the opportunity for all the abundance that God offers us.
This is the joy of Pentecost.
The joy that sees us receive a Comforter.
That sees the Church equipped through the gifts of the Spirit
to do the works of God.
In the world.
So that others might receive the abundance God is offering too.