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Sermons

March 5, 2006 | March 12 | March 26

March 26, 2006

DEAD MEN WALKING

1It wasn't so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. 2You let the world, which doesn't know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. 3We all did it

My life in my basement study at home these past few weeks has existed mostly of watching bouncing balls.

Basketballs.

March Madness.

This time of year I become a Brackett Crazy and try to choose who is going to the Final Four… and eventually win the national championship.

Of course… like everyone else… my brackets are in ruins… ashes of last minutes shots and upsets and bad guesses.

Pennie usually joins me in watching the games… as we partly watch and mostly sleep thru the games played during the week nights.

As we were getting ready to watch the games this past Friday… we were watching a news report about the latest “hoped for” breakthrough for men who are grieving over their hair loss.

It is called hair cloning.

The theory is that you can take cells of your hair… reproduce them… the replant them so you will grow new hair.

You just can’t make this stuff up!

Yet according to the report… many of our fellow citizens are spending a billion and half dollars fighting hair loss!

We are…said the correspondent…a “hair obsessed culture.”

I am not sure I would go that far.

What I would argue is that we are a “youth obsessed” and “death denying” culture.

From hair treatments to face lifts… tummy tucks to botox injections… tanning salons to Bo-Flex machines…

We are bound and determined to cheat Father Time… roll back the years… and stay “Young” forever.

Don’t get me wrong.

I drag my sorry rear end out of bed 3 days a week at 5 in the morning for my aerobics class at the Y so I can get my exercise… and Pennie hits the machines at Curves.

We work modestly at staying in shape and making attempts to eat right.

There is nothing wrong at living in a healthy way.

The problem is when such living and exercising… being fit and staying young becomes as obsession.

Paul had a good definition for this:

You let the world, which doesn't know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience.

Perhaps that sounds like pretty strong stuff… comparing our beauty obsession to lungs inhaling and exhaling unbelief.

Yet I think Paul is on to something.

Peterson interprets it as being mired in that old stagnant life of sin.

The more traditional interpretation may be closer to the truth… As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins

Mired… dead… in sin.

Our blind and idolatrous worship of the world’s ways of living and being… getting and having… staying young and fit and comfortable… is a form of dying.

We have all in a sense become Dead Men Walking.

The term Dead Man Walking is a term used to describe a man of his way to be executed for a crime.

As the prison guards escort him to the room or chamber where his execution is to take place… the guards call out. “Dead Man Walking.”

That is how Paul describes us: Dead Men Walking.

We become consumed by the values and meanings… riches and rewards of the world around us.

As Paul says:” We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat.

And in doing so… we are dying… dead.

We think we are alive.

We work at becoming alive.

We work at looking and feeling alive.

But we are dead… mired… lost.

Something… someone outside of ourselves… must save us from this fate…

Save us from becoming Dead Men Walking.


Someone does.

immense in mercy and with an incredible love, 5he embraced us. He(God) took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ

God saves us.

God saves us from the need and desire and lust and sacrifice to do all we can to stay alive and young and comfortable.

God save us from becoming… and remaining Dead Men Walking.

Saving us.

One commentator I read this week lamented that salvation is not a term we use a lot in mainline churches.

We do our best not to look like or sound like or preach like or pray like those who sole desire is to call you and pull you from the depths of sin and death and hell and be “saved” by Jesus.

Yet… truth be preached… we do need saving.

For left on our own… we cannot overcome the powers of the world.

We cannot on our own overcome the seductions of physical beauty and monetary status.

By ourselves we surrender to the powers of war and conquest… bigotry and hatred.

By ourselves… our fate is to be forever Dead Men Walking.

Someone must save us.

Someone does.

God saves us.

Let us very clear about this.

It is God who does the saving.

Salvation is God’s show… a solo act.

He did all this on his own, with no help from us!

Now I know we have read the words “saved by grace”

I know that in our baptismal classes and confirmation classes we are taught this.

We are the recipients of the free gift of God’s grace.

We can do nothing to earn God’s grace.

That is what we are taught.

It is not how we live.

Not one of us.

Want proof?

Just ask someone around here if you can help them.

Oh no… I can do it.

That’s OK… I’ll figure it out.

We pride ourselves for our independence.

We boast that we work out our own troubles.

We are believe that we can heal our hurts… cure our aliments… cleanse our spirits… treat our wounds… all by ourselves.

We will find the right book… seek out the best treatment… learn the correct practice… pray the right way…

And thereby save ourselves.

Salvation by rugged individualism.

Rescue by not be dependent on anyone else to save us.

Including God.

For if we were to think God might save us… we might have to admit to our need to depend on someone else to save us.

We might have to rely of grace.

And even then we will work out some way to earn God’s grace.

Perhaps we will perform the sacraments.

Perhaps we will give our lives to God or Jesus or the church.

Perhaps we will be good persons… good neighbors… good citizens… good Christians.

Then… by being so good… we will merit… or earn God’s grace.

After all… there has to be some accountability doesn’t there?

I mean… do you really believe God is going to save you just because God is a nice… a loving God… and wants to save you?

Surely there must be something we can do… something we can pray… something that we can perform to demonstrate that we are deserving of God’s grace… God’s saving us.

In a word… no.

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. 8Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It's God's gift from start to finish!

Hear that closely.

8Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It's God's gift from start to finish!

All God’s idea.

God’s gift from start to finish.

All we have to do is trust him.

Ah.

Maybe that is our problem.

We have to trust God.

And that is all we have to do.

Trust God.

And admit… and confess… and live in a way that acknowledges that our salvation… our rescue from the ways of the world… our pardon from being condemned to being Dead Men Walking…

Our salvation comes free… at no cost to us.

All we must do is accept and embrace this free gift.

And accept and embrace the truth that none of this is due to anything else.

Especially nothing that we do or say or believe.

Nothing.

I leave the last… and best word to Paul.

9We don't play the major role. If we did, we'd probably go around bragging that we'd done the whole thing! 10No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

Amen.

A Memeber of the United Church of Christ