Dear St. Stephen,
I, Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, have heard that you wish to know more fully of the faith I have in my Lord, which has been passed onto you through these many ages.
I have sent to your Pastor, Christopher, the first two letters, that he may read them aloud to you, as it was done in ancient days. This letter will tell you of Sin and Death, Adam and Jesus, Justification and Grace.
1. Friends, have you ever really thought about how the world ended up so messed up? What components go into such a sloppy machine; how the cake got baked this way?
Well, here is one way to think about it.
Sin entered in through human disobedience—SIN capitalized and singular, snuck in through a sin, small and multiple.
And along with SIN came Death.
And Death long reigned, though we couldn’t figure out why. I believe your Pastor has used the metaphor of diagnosis and symptom before… well, Death was the symptom of Sin’s hold upon the world. Yet we couldn’t see Sin, only it’s destructive partner Death.
We’d find dead bodies washing up on the shore, but not notice the horrific war across the sea that caused such destruction, creating corpses.
But then, God provided the Law—a lens with which we could see Sin.
A microscope to move from symptom to diagnosis, a pair of binoculars with which we could see what was going on, on the other side of the sea.
We could see Death, but were blinded to Sin—but with the Law we could see both Sin and Death… and it was horrifying—before we’d seen one monster under our bed, but now we know there are two of them.
The Law condemned us all—all have fallen short, all collude with Sin, and in so doing, build up
2. We all are in the likeness of Adam. It was said Adam was given a garden to tend—this Garden, in fact, a way of life—only one rule from the lips of God. Yet, somehow that one rule was widened and condemned us all
—Did God say, do not eat of any tree?
Then widened still more if you touch it you will die…
And the fruit, like the Law, showed the nakedness of our sin, showed us how exposed we are to Death.
Adam, so accused, in turn accused Eve, and Eve the Snake—and the Snake had no arms to point away from itself and pass the buck on. And as they accused one another of Sin, Death spreads as well. Death culminating in Cain’s killing of his brother Abel, and all the horrors since.
We are Adam, Eve, Snake, Cain—this ongoing fall, Sin and Death tumbling and dancing together throughout our lives in continually new and nasty choreography.
3. Who can help us? Thank God for Jesus Christ—who too is a type of Adam, in the likeness of Adam, as we all are. Jesus too entering into this dance.
Jesus, confronted with temptation—bread offered, if he would betray his vocation and the Spirit put upon him in Baptism.
Jesus, confronted with temptation—miracle offered, if he would test and see if he really is the Son of God.
Jesus, confronted with temptation—all power, all authority, death dealing power, death dealing authority, if only the Father of Sin, not his Father in Heaven, was worshipped.
Jesus, Adam as we all are, but Adam who dances with the Spirit, not the forces of Sin and Death—he dances with the one who brought him—the Lord our God.
4. Just as Sin brought forth Death, and Sin only becomes obvious in light of the Law
—so too the redemption of all these things.
God is for us, not against us—that is God’s nature—God is gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. That’s the God we have…
And because God is gracious, he yearns to enter the dance and transform it—to justify us—to make us right, to redeem us.
But Sin and Death reign—we can not see, for so long and often still—the Grace of God, the redemption at hand.
We can not see it, aside from the second Adam
—Jesus Christ is God for us
—the invisible God full of Grace, made visible to us, and for us, through his Son—Jesus.
The best place to search for a loving God is Jesus.
—Just as the Law shows us our Sin, Jesus shows us God’s Grace.
God is gracious and makes us right, this reality only becomes obvious in the light of Christ.
Jesus Christ to whom be the glory forever.