Please view this video prior to reading this entry.
"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!" that was what the "great OZ" said as he was exposed for the charlatan that he was. Oz the Great turned out to be nothing but a little man posing as a great wizard all in an attempt to persuade, manipulate and be feared by the inhabitants of OZ, and it worked! The people where terrified and had it not been for toe toe... Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and the Scare Crow would have been amongst the terrified. The truth is we have always been a bit uncomfortable, to say the least, around the divine or what we perceive as divine. Ever since the dawn of humanity we have been terrified, enamored with and even suspicious of dieties. Just take Adam and Eve for example. They had it all, yet they were suspicious and doubted the divine plan of God. The ark is another good example of us humans making sure that there was sufficient space between us and the divine. The Ark was so holy, so sacred that it was believed that if someone not holy touched it they would die. Even the holy, the "set apart" where not allowed to look into the ark because it was the very place where the very presence of God was and to see or to experience that was just to much. Even Moses was only able to look as God's back and then when he came down the mountain he shone so bright from his divine encounter that the people told him to literally, "put a hat on!" The elaborate and complicated hierarchy of access in Temple worship is another great example. Only certain people had access to certain area's of the temple and only one person could truly stand in the presence of God. There was the outer court also known as the court of Gentiles where non jews could come and enter, but that was as far as they could go. There was the Court of Women where women could come and bring their sacrifices, talk to the priests and observe certain rituals. There was the court of Israelites, a court reserved for only Jewish men who where ritually pure. Then there was the court of priest where sacrifices where made and only the Sons of Levi could enter. Then there was the "holy of holies". This was the most sacred place, here the real presence of God was located and only the ritually pure and ceremonially sanctified high priest, a descendant from the direct line of Aaron, could enter once a year. Whats all this amount to? LIMITED ACCESS TO GOD...until Jesus showed up.
The synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) bare witness to an event that changed all this. The hour upon which Christ gave himself up and died the temple veil was torn. The temple veil was a thick purple and blue and gold piece of material that separated the presence of the living God from humanity. The veil being torn was a symbolic gesture that demonstrated that the gap between God and humans was now bridged because of Jesus Christ, our only Lord and savior and mediator to God the Father. That amounts to TOTAL ACCESS TO GOD! Paul, the author of this weeks passage, was a God fearing Jew and devote, zealous and even fanatical pharisee (at first...till he met Jesus) but had no access to the real presence of God. Despite all his knowledge and zeal for the law he was still shut out of the presence of God. In our passage this morning Paul rejoices in the fact that because of Jesus he and the people he is writing to now have complete access to the presence of God. In fact all of humanity now has access to God and have been justified by faith, the faithfulness of Jesus that is, and can know and worship God almighty! We have been invited into relationship with God through Jesus and can know God personally.
Two things stand out in my mind as a read this passage. One is relationship and the other is justification. One literally opens the door for the other. Because we have been justified by faith we can now have relationship with God. The founder of Methodism John Wesley saw the importance of experiencing justifying grace through faith. He had is own justifying moment, a moment he refers to as "assurance", the assurance of his salvation. This moment happen at a bible study on Alders-gate in London over 300 years ago. Take a look at this dramatic recounting of that important day
Does your heart bear witness to the spirit of God within you. Are you assured that you have been freely justified from your sins and can know experience the saving grace known as sanctification? If not all you need to do is have faith and through that faith you will be able to experience a relationship with God unlike any seen sense before the fall!
This Sunday is also Trinity Sunday. There are lots of questions about the Trinity. What does it mean? How does it work? Is there really three people living in God's head? Which leads me to one of the funniest, yet most sincere questions about the Trinity that I have ever heard, "Is God scytzo?" Thats a good question. Perhaps God is. God came once as a poor, oppressed and impoverished minority, whats to stop God from wholly identifying with one of our societies most marginalized and misunderstood populations, the mentally ill? The simple end of it is that the Trinity and all it's persons exist in perfect relationship towards each other. They all submit freely, they all support each other and they all treat each other with divine respect. The Trinity exemplifies the way that we ought to relate to each other and ultimately towards God and without the justification and forgiveness of sins that are provided to us through faith in and the faithfulness of Jesus Christ we could not.
To put this all very simply, justification is what happens when Jesus becomes the heart of your life. Recently the Cleveland Clinic, the nations premiere free health care clinic, put together a video that asks, "what is inside the heart of a person and how would you react if you knew what was going on?" Take a look
The veil was torn, the curse was broken so that Jesus could transform our hearts. Transformation means letting God justify you by accepting his free gift of forgiveness and experience the assurance that you have been forgiven. You could have been a Christian your whole life, gone to church every time the door was open and still not know what this is like. John Wesley did. He was an ordained Elder in the Church of England for 20 years before he felt God's justifying grace and experienced assurance of faith and salvation. Do you need to have your heart warmed and transformed into one of the "Good hearts of God?" If so simply believe.