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22nd Sunday of the Year 28 aug 2011

Dr Lutz Ackermann (Christ Church, Polokwane)

We can afford to be good (Rom 12;1-13) [show store ad bulletin] I sometimes get these. You know what it is. It is made like a little newspaper, but it contains special offers from a store. If I look at it I seem many things I like (TV, blackberry); so I can say I would like to have that. But when I go to the store I realize, I cannot buy it. I do not have enough money. I look in my pocket [take out R10] not enough money. On my bank account not enough money. So I realize I cannot buy this or that, because I cannot afford it. The prices are written here, but I cannot afford to pay them. But imagine, one day I get the paper with the adverts and it says zero Rand everywhere. Maybe on top: this week it is all for free. Mahala. (not with strings attached, but really). If that would happen, I could afford to buy not only the TV and the phone but on top of that some chocolates. When something is for free, we can afford them. How is it in or lives with God? If I had to pay for being a Christian I could not afford it! If I had to buy my own salvation if I had to pay to be saved I could not afford it! If there were a price tag on my new life with Christ I dont know how much it would be, but I would not be able to pay for it. Not with good works; not by being a faithful Christian, coming to Church every Sunday, being very religious (baptism, communion); not by singing to the choir, serving in the church, not even by giving a tithe to the church! Why? Because I cannot afford it! Life is too precious, we cannot afford it. Why is that so?

2011 DR LUTZ ACKERMANN CHRIST CHURCH, POLOKWANE

In the New Testament we can read the letter, which the Apostel Paul wrote to the Romans. He explains it like this. He says, none of us is good enough for God; no matter how much we try (love God and neighbour etc) it is not enough. There is nothing, absolutely nothing we can do to impress God. No matter how good we are we can never impress God! Its like a broken plate that needs to be fixed [show broken plate]. Just press together wont help, no matter how hard you press (even gluestick doesnt help). If this is God and this is us, there is a problem: the two are not together. The Apostel Paul calls that sin. It is something that affects all people, every single one of us. And the bad thing is that out of sin comes death. In fact, he says For sin pays its wage---death (Rom 6:23) Imagine, instead of your wages, all you would get is death! People sometimes strike, because they want an increase on their wages (and so many per cent is not enough). But no one would say: I want more of that, if all they get is death. Life is too precious, we cannot afford it. But luckily, the verse I just read goes on a bit: For sin pays its wage---death; but God's free gift is eternal life in union with Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 6:23) If life with God is a gift, it is free, ke mahala. If it is free, we can afford to live with God! Sin can no longer separate us from God, because Jesus has paid the price for us. We could never afford it, but God has already paid it all, when he gave his only son for us. So life life with God and life for God is a free gift. And if it is free, we can afford it! Have you received this free gift, have you received Jesus?

2011 DR LUTZ ACKERMANN CHRIST CHURCH, POLOKWANE

But there is more. In the text we read today, Paul tells us that we can live transformed lives (Rm 12:2). Transform means change [take some Presstik and show how you can change its shape]. And Paul says, often the shape of our lives is like the shape of the world around us [press Presstik against some mold; let someone youth! feel it and guess what the object was]. Is this world good; yes, but not good enough. There are wonderful things in life, but there are also bad things. Crime and violence not good! Fighting with those we love most not good! Being greedy, being selfish not good. Lying, stealing, gossiping not good. Hating others, not forgiving them not good! And we can go on. That is exactly the pattern, the shape of this world. But Paul says, as Christians we can afford to be different. When someone does not know God and tries to be different than this world, he or she may pay a high price. He or she may have to make many sacrifices. And s/he may find out, it is just too much that is asked of me. I cannot afford it! I cannot afford to be different, to live differently that everyone else does! But remember, in our life with God, God has already paid the bill! We can afford it! We can afford to live different from the world. If God has forgiven us all, everything, all that we ever owed God then we can afford to forgive others! (Jesus tells a story about this, Mt 18: 21-35). The Apostle Paul says, it starts with the way we think (Rm 12:2). If we think, all the time: I cannot afford this! I cannot afford to be different than everyone else is, the price is too high than we wont! We wont change for the better. But if we allow God to change the way we think, then it is a different matter! Then we will think: I can afford to be different for Gods sake (fGs) Where others cheat (fGs) I can afford to be an honest person (Mt 5:8).
2011 DR LUTZ ACKERMANN CHRIST CHURCH, POLOKWANE

Where others respond to violence with violence (fGs) I can afford to live peacefully and forgiving (Mt 5:9). Where others live like they can never get enough, always run for more (fGs) I can afford to live a simple life (Mt 5:3). Where others think about themselves and about their own advantage (fGs) I can afford to care for others, love my neighbour as myselves (Mt 5:7). Even to share with others my homes, my live (Rm 12:13) Where others are complacent and dont want to be the whistle blowers (fGs) I can afford to engage in a struggle against injustice of all sorts (Mt 5:4). Where others tell everyone, how big and important they are (fGs) I can afford to be humble (Rm 12:3; Mt 5:5). Where others harbour bad feelings against certain people in their heart (fGs) I can afford to forgive (Mt 5:8) And so on. But how does this work?, we may ask. Well, in that passage from Romans, which we read earlier, Paul speaks about two things. One is a new way of thinking. [rewriting our mind]. But of course we do not only think about being different; we have to actually live it. Paul says, offer yourselves, your bodies, your whole life to God. You know this verse very well, because we always say it at the end of the Eucharist (APB, p129 par 88). When we change our thinking, our whole lives will change. When we say: (fGs) we can afford to be good, we can! But its not just about saying we can but about actually living it! Paul calls that a sacrifice. Now that is a dangerous word. We can easily misunderstand it. Remember, there is nothing we can ever be or
2011 DR LUTZ ACKERMANN CHRIST CHURCH, POLOKWANE

do to impress God. Some slaughter a goat as a sacrifice; some make other sacrifices in their lives, and they think that buys them new life with God; forgiveness; salvation. No! Its the other way around. Thats why Paul starts the whole thing talking about Gods great mercy first of all, before he even mentions sacrifice (v1). Yes, our whole lives are supposed to be a sacrifice to God. But that only works, if we accept Gods free gift to us the new life. If we try to sacrifice our old lives to God it wont work. But when God has given us new life, we can live to his praise and glory. {if time: we are not alone in this; though we are many we are one body (v5); though we are one different, we can afford to live in unity; so serve in different ways (v4-8)}. So let me ask you two questions: Do you have the new life that God promises us? It is a free gift! Or are you still getting the wages of sin every month? Have you experienced for yourself that Jesus has paid for you anything that ever is to be paid for? Have you accepted Gods free gift, Jesus? If not, do you want to do it today? Do you know that you can afford to be good and to do good fGs! Or do you still think and live like this broken world thinks and lives? You can ask God to day to rewrite your mind. You can decide to give yourself as a living sacrifice to God. Not to impress God you cant do that. But you can say, God because you are so merciful to me, I can afford to give my life and live the way you want me to live.

2011 DR LUTZ ACKERMANN CHRIST CHURCH, POLOKWANE

Maybe, as we say and pray this in the Eucharist, you can affirm it for yourself. May we, by the grace and mercy of God live new lives, renewed lives that give God all the glory! Amen.

2011 DR LUTZ ACKERMANN CHRIST CHURCH, POLOKWANE