Am I Really Good Enough? (Genesis 12:1–9; Romans 4:1-8)
March is the month that the season of Lent really starts to get underway. (For an introduction to the season we call Lent, see this video produced by Concordia Publishing House: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkqHQGdPwMo) Though any day in the life of a Christian is a time to reflect on God’s abundant mercy to us in Christ Jesus, Lent is a special time to relive how Jesus suffered and died for us to save us from our sins. It’s that time of year that some may choose to give up chocolate or social media for 40 days…the time of year that we bury our Alleluia’s until Easter Sunday. Around here, March is also the time Early Communion classes (“Welcome to the Lord’s Table”) get underway and the 8th graders of our congregation begin presenting their faith statements. No one has said as much out loud to this Senior Pastor (smile), but I can’t help wondering if there might be a little bit of that “am I good enough for all of this?” going around. If so, take heart.
Look ahead at the appointed readings for Lent 2: Genesis 12:1-9 and Romans 4:1-8. At first glance, you might think that when God took the important first step of building a nation through whom all the world would enter His blessing, He might have chosen someone from the right family, someone likely to produce a bumper-crop of children, grand-children and future citizens of God’s kingdom. But you’d be wrong. God chose Abraham (aka “Abram”). Abram was the son of an idol-worshipper (Joshua 24:2), a senior citizen (Genesis 12:4), and, together with wife Sarai, childless (Genesis 11:29). Hardly the sort any of us would expect! But that’s the point. There might have been more than one reason why God “shouldn’t” have chosen Abram and Sarai…yet choose them He did. The result? Their calling to faithfulness ultimately did not rest in themselves. It was God’s doing. Read the summary of Abraham’s life in the book of Joshua. The subject of the story is not Abraham at all, but God: “I took your father Abraham…and led him through all the land of Canaan…I gave him Isaac,” etc.
I mention all of this because, journeying through Lent together, it is easy to put the cart before the horse and think that Abraham’s/our performance drives the buggy. It doesn’t. Like Abraham we receive the promise that life begins with GOD…and results in GOD’s blessing for all the world (Genesis 12:3; John 3:16). That’s not to say that God can’t or won’t accomplish great things with us. God might indeed use us to accomplish some amazing, neat stuff along the way. But it is by faith in God’s promise, not by our performance, that we are given to live out our calling as God’s people. We are freed from the need to produce the perfect resume. We’ve already got the job. We live—and allow others to live—not as people with something to prove, but as people who have been proven capable, for Christ’s sake. We are freed from the burden of having to give up something for Lent and invited instead into the joy of giving up something so that we might appreciate it (and the One who gives it!) even more.
Are we good enough for all of this? Of course not. Neither were Abram or Sarai. But God has started something in us that He will bring to completion. As we walk the road to the cross again in this season of Lent, we look to the only One whose obedience truly was enough: Jesus. As people who are given to live in and with the crucified and risen Christ, we are good enough! The cross of Jesus is our strength!