Ascension Lutheran Church

Calgary, AB

Second Sunday in Lent

Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

[1] What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? [2] For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. [3] For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” [4] Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. [5] But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.
[13] For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. [14] If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. [15] For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation. [16] For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, [17] as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”)--in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

One aspect of Lent is that it reminds us of our need for a Saviour. After a week of Lent and noting our various failings and shortcomings in keeping disciplines such as giving up sweets, spending an extra 15 minutes a day in prayer, or not spending extra money on ourselves but giving it to the poor (the disciplines of fasting, prayer and almsgiving), we are confronted with the larger and more uncomfortable truth that if we can’t manage something as simple as those things, we have no hope of ever being good enough or doing enough to earn our salvation.

Today’s lesson from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, holds up the truth that none of us can earn God’s grace, but then we aren’t expected to. Abraham believed God’s promise he didn’t earn it.

But it’s also important to note concerning Abraham that his “belief” wasn’t merely his mentally assenting to an idea—rather his belief then shaped how he lived. God made the promise to Abraham that he would be given a great land and his descendants would become a great nation. Abraham then did what God asked, packed up his family, his household, his life and went to the land God showed him.

Faith isn’t an idea about life, it is a way of living life. It’s not just thinking about following Jesus and his teachings, but putting them into practice.

It’s like the story of a trapeze artist who was entertaining crowds walking across a gorge on a wire. He went back and forth, doing various tricks, including crossing pushing a wheel barrow. He then asked the crowd if they thought he could cross the wire pushing a person in the wheel barrow. The crowd shouted “YES!”. He then asked for a volunteer, and there was silence. The point being, that what you truly believe you will put into action.

Abraham believed God’s promises and acted on them. We are called to trust the promises God has made to us and live them out.