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The Rev. Dr. Peter Samuelson The Rev. Dr. Peter L. Samuelson

The Rev. Dr. Peter Samuelson is a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

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The Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Minneapolis, MN

Does Jesus grade on a curve?

May 24, 2010

The end of May is a time of celebration.  Many are celebrating their accomplishments: a graduation from high school or college;  achieving an advanced degree.  We celebrated our son's graduation from the University of San Francisco this past weekend.  We are right proud of him!

The end of May is not only a time of celebration but of judgment. For the looming question in the minds of all students in the month of May, especially graduates, is:  Did I make the grade?"  "Will I pass?"  One of the other hats I wear, besides as a pastor, is as an instructor of Educational Psychology at a local university.  I find the most difficult part of the job is to pass out grades.  I must divorce my personal feelings about my students and simply judge them on the quality of their work.  Since I have yet to meet a student I didn't like, this can be a struggle, but judge I must.

One of the enduring metaphors for our relationship with Jesus is the student/teacher metaphor.  Those who follow Jesus Christ are called his "disciples."   A disciple is one who "disciplines" him or herself after the instructions of the teacher.  So I wonder, in this time of celebration and judgment, does Jesus grade on a curve or just have set standards for achieving an A, B or C?  What happens when you fail as a disciple of Jesus?  None of us could be deemed a very good student. Even the original 12 did not do well.  Peter, the teacher's pet, failed worst of all, denying Jesus mid-exam. 

One of my seminary teachers said that you did not have to preach the law on Sunday morning to remind people that they live under judgment, the world does a good enough job of that.  It is not only students who are judged by the quality of their work, but anyone who earns a paycheck must face the same scrutiny.  Even relationships based on love have an element of judgment.  There is no escaping it.  Life holds constant judgment.

There is only one exception - our relationship with God through Christ.  The cross is the final judgment.  We failed.  Yet as the final judgment, the cross is also the end of all judgment.  Christ carries judgment to death, and as he rose, creates the possiblity for a new relationship with God based on grace.  As disciples we may not make the grade, but as followers of Christ and joined to him in our baptism, grades no longer matter, only grace.  So here is your final grade: because of Christ, you passed!




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