What About Jesus? by Pastor Leah Rosso

What About Jesus? by Pastor Leah Rosso

“Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asks his disciples. He has already asked them who others say that he is, and they’ve responded with “John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets;” but then he asks them who they say that he is, and Peter responds with, “the Messiah, the Lord.”

We’ve already said some things about who Jesus is this morning in the Apostle’s Creed. The Apostle’s Creed was originally compiled from statements people made at their baptism. They would confess loyalty or belief in God the Father and Creator, God the Son in Christ, and God the Holy Spirit— three persons, one God. And eventually, these confessions got put together into a creed (after a lot of arguing about what should be in it!) Did you notice what we confess about Jesus? We call him Lord— stating the authority he has in our lives; we state that he is the Son of God; we state that he was born and that he died and that he rose again. And that’s a lot. But isn’t it curious that his entire life is signified only by a comma? He was born of the Virgin Mary, comma, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried... If we didn’t know anything about him, we may think that he died as a child since there is nothing in there about his life or his ministry— about the Way that he established.

God's Will and Grace by Pastor Leah Rosso

So here we are, in our series on Grace, examining God’s Will. And unless you are a fan of the rebooted TV show, Will and Grace, we don’t often hear those two concepts in the same sentence. There are plenty of people that will talk about finding God’s will, seeking God’s will, knowing God’s will. And there are plenty of people that talk about God’s grace and its abundance and how we are saved by grace alone. But we often talk about them as though they are two separate people— two sides of God, rather than being one in the same. Why is that? Why is it so difficult for us to think about God’s will and God’s grace together? Could it be that we can’t fully understand either of them, unless we see them together?

For example, we often use the language of God’s will when we are trying to make a decision. We ask, “Is it God’s will that we go in this direction? Or that I take that job? Is it God’s will that we adopt a child or pursue another degree?”

"What the Bible Tells Us About Grace" by Pastor Leah Rosso

Last Monday at my class, “My Neighbor is Muslim,” we talked about violence in Christianity and Islam. And one of the exercises was a worksheet with 30 different quotes that people were invited to decipher whether they came from the Bible or the Quran. After giving people a few minutes to look through the list and mark which one they thought each quote came from, I asked them to count up the ones they thought were from the Bible and tell me how many they came up with. That’s when someone in the front of the room looked up, somewhat hiding behind the worksheet, and said, “All of them?”

Well, gratefully it wasn’t all of them— half were from the Quran and half were from the Bible. But we could have easily found 30 verses in the Bible that no one here this morning would want to hear. There are verses about killing people who don’t keep the Sabbath; about killing people who live in the land God promised the Israelites; verses about chopping off body parts that are causing us to sin. And yet I bet none of you came today worried about how you might be punished by God for your sin. How is that possible?

Is Grace Limitless? by Pastor Randy Johnson

Recently I read a column in the local Catholic newspaper in which the guest author, Hosffman Ospino, shared about a conversation he had had with his young son.  As he described it, “My 6-year-old son came home after school and unexpectedly asked my wife and me, ‘What am I?”  The question caught us off guard. “What do you mean?’ we asked.  He said, “Am I Mexican?  Are people who speak Spanish Mexican?”  We explained that he and his sister were both born in the United States and, in other words, they are American.  We also explained that people with Mexican roots who live in the United States are also known as Latinos or Hispanics.  Staring as if something was still bothering him, he asked, “Why are Mexicans taking over the country?” Then he added, “Are we taking over the country?”  I asked, “Where did you hear that?”  He said, “My friends say that Mexicans are taking over the country.  They say that America is for white people.  They heard it on television.”  Then he concluded, “My arms are white.  Are we white people?”  Our hearts sank.  A deep sense of sadness engulfed me.  Should not these 6-year-olds be engaged in play and imagining worlds full of hope?  Should they wrestle with these questions at such a tender age?”  The author then went on to suggest how parents and others who work with children can be prepared to speak about race with God’s children all ages.

We have some understanding about how challenging it must be in today’s world to be engaged in such painful conversations.  But when we turn to the world of the Scriptures we are often unaware of the challenges faced by those first century Christians who like many Americans lived in two worlds.  While in our world today the division is usually framed within a “black-white” paradigm, in the world of Jesus and his followers, the division was between Jew and Gentile.  We sometimes forget that the first disciples of Jesus were Jews who continued to practice Jewish traditions and follow Jewish laws even after they had put their trust in Jesus as their Messiah.  Just like people today, these original followers of Jesus had their prejudices against those outside of their circle of race and religion.  Their identity rested not only in their faith in Jesus, but in their Jewish blood and traditional Jewish religious and cultural practices. To follow Jesus did not mean giving up their Jewish ways nor did it mean extending God’s grace and blessing to those outside of the Jewish community.