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Vol. 81 - No. 9
Sept 2010

WORD FROM THE PASTOR:             

The Trade

Kids love trading things. Over the years, the items traded have varied-- marbles, baseball cards, Pokemon cards–but one of childhood’s great joys is getting together with friends and swapping treasures. When I was a child, we traded comic books. Friends would come over with their collections–"I’ll trade you this SpiderMan for that Fantastic Four!" I imagine, too, that exchanges are still made during the lunch period–"Yuck! Peanut butter again!" "Hey, I love peanut butter! I’ll trade you my salami sandwich!"

Swapping is part of adult life, too. Baseball teams trade players all the time–often to the chagrin of their fans. The words "What a boneheaded trade!" frequently cross the lips of baseball afficionados. When we buy a car, we usually bring our previous vehicle as a "trade in". Trade-offs are also an integral part of married life. "This week we’ll go to the Italian restaurant you like, and next week we’ll go to the seafood place I like." "I’ll go to the ballet with you next week if you’ll go to The Gaslight Anthem concert with me this week."

We find the idea of people trading places to be entertaining. Mark Twain’s story about "The Prince and the Pauper", where a royal lad and a poor boy change places, has been a perennial favorite; and in the reality TV show "Wife Swap", women exchange husbands, children and homes for 10 days to see how the change affects their families and themselves.

One of the most important aspects of Christianity is about a trade–a trade that happens between us and God. Of course, lots of religions envision trades between humanity and God. The trade usually goes like this: I give God something–my obedience, a really, really nice sacrifice, a lot of money. And then God gives me something in return–His blessing, His favor. I scratch God’s back, and God scratches my back. But that is not the kind of trade the Holy Scriptures envision. Because ultimately, I have nothing to give God. I am a sinner. And any sacrifice I offered Him, any obedience I offered Him, would be polluted by sin. I can’t "scratch God’s back" because my hands are polluted with disobedience.

No–the exchange, the trade, goes like this:

"God made [Jesus], who knew no sin, to be sin for us, so that in Him we might

become the righteousness of God" (II Corinthians 5:21)

–"Our Lord Jesus Christ...was rich, yet for our sake He became poor, so that by

His poverty you might become rich." (II Corinthians 8:9)

–"In Christ, the Son of God became a son of man, so that the sons of men might

become sons of God" (a formula used by many of the early Christian writers)

Jesus Christ, by becoming human and dying for us, makes a trade. He trades His righteousness for our sin. He trades His divine riches for our lowly poverty. He trades His divinity for our humanity. And in return–we receive righteousness, we receive the riches of God’s love, we receive membership in God’s family.

An odd trade, when you think about it. Trades are supposed to be pretty much equal. When I traded comic books, I tried to get something of equal value for what I gave–a Fantastic Four for a Spider-Man, as I said earlier. I would not have surrendered a Spider-Man for a Little Lulu! And if the Yankees traded A-Rod and Derek Jeter for a couple of obscure players with mediocre records...panic would break out! And if I said to my wife, "You let me buy that $5,000 stereo system, and I’ll let you get that $25 tea pot"...I might well end up bunking with the chihuahuas. Yet God is willing to make what seems like "a boneheaded trade". In the crucified Christ, He takes my sin and gives me His righteousness. He takes my spiritual poverty and gives me His spiritual riches. He takes my humanity upon Himself and makes me God’s child.

He sacrifices for me. He makes trades in which He gets the short end of the stick–and in this case, the "stick" is shaped like a cross. Because the trade He makes ultimately means going to the cross. Swapping my sins for His righteousness means that He must die for those sins. But He’s willing to make the trade--because He loves you and me with a self-giving, sacrificial love. He knows that there can be no "even trade" between us sinners and Himself...so He submits to a grossly unfair trade. He scratches our back with salvation and forgiveness–but He allows His own back to be lacerated with the whip.

Martin Luther called this great trade "the joyful exchange" (translating a Latin phrase from the medieval Christmas liturgy). This exchange is a great measure of God’s love for us. It’s one of the most precious aspects of Christianity--the wondrous message that God was willing to take our sin on the cross so that we can be clothed in His righteousness. And certainly, knowing that God has shows us such great love spurs us to love Him, to obey Him, to serve Him. We do this not as a "trade"–not so that He will "scratch our backs"–but out of gratitude for all that He has done for us in Christ. We have benefitted from an incredible trade–and now we "give back" to the one who saved us. Glory to His holy Name!

And by the way...how’d you like to trade that corned beef sandwich for my hummus and crackers...?

God loves you and so do I!

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