About Me

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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Access Denied

Scripture Lesson       Romans 5:1-8

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.


For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.



Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access…


My friend and mentor in ministry, the Rev. Dr. David Bartlett, is an amazing scholar. He's a brilliant professor of the Bible. He's the best preacher I've ever heard. But he's awful with computers. In a commentary on Romans 5, he seized on the word, "access." From the verse, "our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access." I'm certain the word "access" was on his mind because his computer had told him at least once that day, "Access Denied." Had to yell down the hall to his secretary again, "What's my password?"


Access denied. Have any of you seen that message on your computer? Usually when you've forgotten your password, right? Or mistyped it. An honest mistake. The message that sends chills down my spine is when it says, "You have three remaining attempts before we lock your account, before we come to your home and take your computer, and send you to live with the Amish."


Isn't it awful when your access is denied? When your clearance is revoked? When permission is withdrawn? It's as if you've been labelled a suspect, a threat, when all you wanted to do is see your friend's new cat videos.


But then, you don't want just anyone having access to your stuff. That's why we have all these convoluted passwords. That's why they make us change them. So, once again, we have to pull the folded index card out of our wallet and mark through the old one and write down the new one.


Why do we put up with this? Why do we put ourselves through the stress of access denied to what we know is rightfully ours? You know why. Security. That's why. Thanks a lot, Russian hackers. We'll deny even ourselves access to our own stuff in order to maintain our security.


You know what they call the opposite of security? Insecurity. I thought you would have known that one. Insecurity. Vulnerability. Weakness. It's our weakness, our insecurity that makes us risk a denial of access. We would deny ourselves what we would deny to strangers for fear of losing what little security we have.


You can't have access denied if you don't also have insecurity. Insecurity. You know how awful it is when you feel insecure. Insecure about your looks. Insecure about your finances. Insecure about your health. Insecurity can make you want to hide under the covers. Insecurity can make you do some stupid, outrageous things to prove to the world that you aren't afraid. There are all kinds of ways to deny people access. There are all kinds of ways to deny people access to what's really inside you.


Insecurity is a soul-word. Insecurity is like an infection of the heart. Like a virus. It brings judgment upon us. Our own judgment. When we're insecure, we yearn for someone to save us. We yearn for something to heal us. But we're afraid. We're afraid of risking what what precious little security we have to accept the salvation.


But the Bible says, "…while we were still weak." While our security was still riddled with holes. While we were still sinners, it says, Christ Jesus came that we might have access – not access denied, but access granted. Christ Jesus came that we might have access granted to this grace in which we stand, says the Apostle Paul.


You have access. You on the left have access. You on the right have access. You on the political left and you on the political right have access. Even the people in deep in the quivering middle have access. Even the folks in the far back row have access. We all have access to the forgiving, strengthening, new-life-giving grace in which we stand through Christ Jesus Our Lord.




These days, a lot of times you'll hear people asking, "Do you have access to the Internet?" "Do students have Internet access?" Do you have free wifi in your church? (You'd be surprised what people look for, these days. We also have coffee.)


But, as many of us know, just because you have access doesn't mean you know how to use it. Just because you have access to a million-dollar home doesn't mean you can afford it. You might have access to health coverage, but if there aren't any doctors in your county it doesn't do you much good.


Jesus died so that no one would be denied access to the grace of God. But what if you don't have avail yourself of that access? What if you deny the need for Christ's forgiveness? A lot of people do.


On a Sunday when a family stands before the church and accepts the grace of baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you might wonder, what about those who don't? Are we who accept Jesus extra-blessed?


The baptism of Christ is not a golden ticket to get out of jail free. It's not a secret password. It's not the magic wristband that gets you in the door of your heavenly hotel room. Baptism is personal, but it's not private. That's why we always baptize with a flock of the faithful around us. Baptism is a great strength, but it's also a great responsibility.


The Apostle Paul says our access to the grace of God through Jesus Christ brings us peace. The access to grace brings us hope. But not closed-session classified hope. The peace of Christ, the grace of God, the communion of the Holy Spirit gives us hope, the Bible says, hope of SHARING the glory of God. We have no right ever to restrict anyone's access to this grace. In fact, in Baptism, we are granted, commanded, to boldly boast in our hope of unrestricted, unlimited sharing of our undeniable hope.


What about those whose access is denied or restricted or ignored? Paul says it's our job to get out there. It's the business of the baptized to get out there, get out into the world, and with hope share the opposite of insecurity. Connection to the love of God is good tidings of great joy for all people.


Christ did not die for the godly. Christ died for the ungodly. Christ died so the ungodly parts of us might be put to death, washed off, made new. Christ died so the ungodly parts of the world might be made new especially when and especially where the world seems so worn out and un-righteous.


The Bible says, "God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us." While we are still sinners, may we boast in our hope of sharing the grace of God