Monday, June 20, 2005

Sermon - Pentecost 5A - Romans 5:12-15

5th Sunday after Pentecost – June 19th, 2005
Romans 5:12-15
“Gift vs. Trespass”

I. Introduction – A happy Fathers’ day to everyone. I am sure many of you have plans to do something special with or for Dad today. Many of us will be enjoying our family time together. Whether you are a dad, or you are with dad today, or even if your father has long since gone, it’s a good day to remember the blessings God has given through our fathers.

As a relatively new father myself, I now see fatherhood somewhat differently than I used to. For one, I see myself turning into my father (which has its good and bad points). But I also see the effect I have on my children. When my words are repeated by a little mouth – well, that has its good and bad points too.

In Romans today, we are appropriately reminded that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Paul draws our attention to our earliest fore-father, Adam. He shows us the dubious inheritance that comes from the first man to each of us, his earthly descendants. But Paul also points out the contrast between the first Adam and the second Adam, Jesus Christ. What a contrast, today, as we learn that “the gift is not like the trespass!”

II. The Universal Effect of Adam’s Sin
To rightly understand ourselves, we must understand where we come from. Each of us has a heritage that is important in forming our identity. Some are Danish, Norwegian or German. Or maybe you are like me, a “mutt”. Maybe you were raised Catholic and married into the Lutheran church, maybe you were born and bred, raised and fed on Lutheran potluck jello-molds and potato salads. Understanding where you come from is a big part of knowing who you are today.

But as far as Paul would be concerned here, we are all in the same boat on the question of where we come from. We are all descendants of Adam. We all live in the world that was put in Adam’s charge. And we are all inheritors of Adam’s sin, and death. Though Adam was created in the image of God, as Genesis tells the generations after Adam, it makes it clear that these children and children’s children were brought forth in Adam’s own (meaning, now sinful) image.

You might wonder at this point, “what about Eve?”. Well, remember she too, came from Adam. But more importantly, Adam, as the head of the household, had the responsibility for his family. As the husband, he was to be the leader, protector, and provider. And in those responsibilities he failed. So too do many modern fathers follow in his footsteps, failing in our responsibilities as head of the household – failing to show the Christ-like leadership and love for our spouse and children. The father should be the example and encourager for the family to attend worship, for example. All too often, however, these things seem to fall to mom – if they happen at all. For these failures we fathers must repent!

But Adam also stands as representative of all humankind in charge of creation.
The corruption of Adam and Eve had repercussions on all of creation – from the mosquitoes to the whales, from forests and mountains to the stars in the galaxies – all creation is touched by the sin of Adam. And along with sin comes death and decay, disease and disaster. What an inheritance, right?

The thing is, no one escapes this. Paul shows that even before the 10 commandments and the rest of the covenant was given – even without the rules written down – we know there was still sin in the world because death reigned. And now, even after the law is written, we still find ourselves born into the sin and the death of Adam. It is inescapable, unavoidable, and completely predictable. Nobody is perfect. Everybody is a sinner. Like Father, like son and daughter. It’s the universal effect of Adam’s trespass.

And that means you and me too. Just as Adam was a trespasser, going where he shouldn’t have gone, we too trespass God’s laws in our sin. And it’s not like we are born perfect and eventually become corrupted through life in this world. No, we are conceived in sin, born into it, and thoroughly reeking with it. It has become such a part of us that we can’t really see outside of it, or imagine what it’s like to not be sinful. This is how hopeless our condition is.

We may not think it fair that God would hold us in some way responsible for the sin of one man, Adam. That because of what he did, we inherit sin, we fall under God’s judgment and wrath. It just doesn’t seem fair. But that is how it is. Not that we don’t add our own sins to the equation…

And there is only one place that sin leads – to the grave. Paul says it well, because of Adam “death reigned” – like a king on his throne, to whom we all must eventually bow.

III. The Universal Effect of Christ’s Grace
The only antidote to the sin and death of the one man Adam, is the death and forgiveness of the one man Jesus Christ. He brings a gift that is not like the trespass. What Christ gives is so different, so opposite to that which we receive from Adam.
Sure, there are some similarities, but they soon give way to great contrast. Both Adam and Jesus Christ - the only two men -ever- not to have an earthly father. In both cases, one man has universal effects. Adam’s sin affects everyone who is ever born. But Jesus’ gift is better – it is for everyone who ever was or will be born.

Adam’s sin changes the entire creation – corrupting it.
But Jesus makes us a new creation – and promises a new heaven and new earth.

On account of Adam’s sin, the ground is cursed with thistles and thorns.
Jesus is made a curse, and wears a crown of thorns for Adam’s sin and ours.

Adam’s bride, Eve, is taken out of Him.
Christ’s bride, the church, is taken into Him.

Sinful Adam dies because of his own sin.
Sinless Jesus dies for the world’s sin.

Adam disobeyed God’s only command to him.
Christ obeyed the entire law perfectly.

Adam ate from the tree and derailed human history.
Jesus hung from the tree and set us back on course for eternity.

Adam was expelled from the garden of paradise.
But Christ is preparing mansions for us in heaven.

Adam hid in fear of God, knowing he was naked.
In Christ, we need not fear God, for we are clothed in his righteousness.

What Adam had lost, Christ restored.
What Adam had polluted, Christ purified.
Where Adam failed, Christ succeeded.
Where Adam brings death, Christ brings life.

Oh yes, death – reigning as a king in the world because of Adam’s sin.
But Jesus, the real king - His death throws death off its throne. He casts death into the lake of fire – never to be heard from again. In that garden tomb, that empty Easter grave – death meets its death. When Jesus rises victorious.

This is the gift Christ brings- grace, mercy, peace – life in the face of death – forgiveness in the face of sin. The gift which is not like the trespass.

Maybe you will be giving dad a gift today for Fathers day. Maybe its something original like a tie. But today we have all received a gift – one that far exceeds what we’ve inherited from our first father. For in Jesus Christ we have been made children of God. Now his Heavenly Father is our Father. And in Jesus Christ, all blessings are ours. The gift is greater than the trespass. In His Name. Amen.

IV. Conclusion
Our first father, Adam, brought sin into the world, and with it death for all his descendants. But in contrast to Adam, Christ brought his gift of grace, and by his own death, restored us to life. What a contrast. What a gift.

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