From the Desk of Pastor Clay

“And we know that our old being has been put to death with Christ on his cross, in order that the power of the sinful self might be destroyed, so that we should no longer be the slaves of sin. For when we die, we are set free from the power of sin. Since we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.”  - Romans 6:6-8, GNT
 
Why Did Jesus Do It?
 
With the events of Holy Week now in our rearview mirror, we are in the perfect position to think back and ponder more deeply about why exactly Jesus did the things he did. Why was it that Jesus came to earth in the first place? Why did Jesus minister in the ways he did, die the way he died, and rise to new life in the way he did? There are all kinds of answers, but the most compelling one is wrapped up in Paul’s letter to the Romans: through the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are set free from the bonds of sin and death and given new life in, through, and with Jesus. 
 
 
The way we talk about this from a United Methodist perspective is by looking at a few of our Articles of Religion that follow a sequential order that introduce us to the grace of Jesus Christ. 
 
Article Seven introduces the problem: we are sinners and have been sinners since Adam and Eve. We as United Methodists do believe in original sin. Through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, we were born with the “corruption of the nature of every mant that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam” (Article VII). Just by being born as a human person, we are born as sinners, separated from God. 
 
Article Eight makes the problem even more stark: we have been given free will as a gift from God. This means that God has granted us the freedom to choose whether or not we follow God. We are free to make a choice. God loves us enough to want an authentic faith response rather than making us into puppets on a string or programmable disciple-bots that just blindly follow God. Some may make the choice not to  follow God, and sometimes even as we make the decision to follow God, we will make choices that do not reflect God’s love for the world. (Even after we decide to follow Jesus, we have the freedom to sin.)   
 
But fear not, my friends. We are not lost in our sinfulness without hope. Article Nine provides the solution, which is found in Jesus. The solution is important enough to me that I’m going to have us read the entirety of Article IX: 
“We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by faith, only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort.” We are made right, or justified, by the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf” (Article IX). 
 
We are made right before God not by our own merits or because of anything we do but rather by Jesus Christ himself. Jesus took our sin nature and our brokenness upon himself on the cross and defeated death in the Resurrection so that we can be truly free, so that we can find our true nature and true reality in Jesus. This is why Jesus came to earth in the first place, ministered to those whom the world had written off, proclaimed the true nature of the kingdom  of God, and submitted to the death he died. It is why he was raised from the dead. And because of ALL that his death and resurrection mean to us, we commemorate, celebrate, and marvel at the amazing grace of God made known in Jesus Christ every year.
 
As a self-proclaimed church nerd, I love every celebration in the life of the church, the way that we rehearse and remember the major movements of God, but there is something about this time from Ash Wednesday to Easter that just stands out. There is so much deep meaning here that exists in the words of scripture but is codified into our beliefs through the Articles of Religion. May we continue to reflect and rely on this grace made known to us in Christ. 
 
In Christ’s love,