Psalm 66, 67 (Morning)
Psalm 19, 46 (Evening)
Ephesians 2:1-10 NRSV: You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else.
But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
One of the odd discoveries I’ve had since being licensed as a lay preacher a few years ago is “You never know what people will claim to have heard in a homily.” Now and then people will come up to me and tell a story about themselves, of a dark or uncertain time, and then say something like, “But then I remembered something you said when you preached on that, when you said (fill in the blank.)”
Well, that’s all great except for one thing.
I don’t ever recall saying what they claim I said. At least not the way they describe it anyway. They’re being all complimentary, and I’m thinking, “But I didn’t say that!” All the same, I keep my mouth more or less shut and thank them.
It’s a great reminder that my works are not nearly as responsible for the message people hear on Sunday than I want to think it is. Paul is reminding us in Ephesians that a lot of the things we think cement us in our relationship with God are mostly illusion. God has already claimed ownership of our souls despite what we have or haven’t done.
God doesn’t love us because we’re smart, or good-looking, or generous, or pious. God doesn’t fall out of love with us because we’re mentally challenged, or homely, or cheap, or irreverent. God’s love for us is not tied to fees or dues or down payments, or installment payments, nor does it come with threat of abandonment or repossession. But here’s the twist–it’s not even as much as our individual selves, as it is ourselves in community. We are alive in Christ together, which means we need each other.
I suspect we’ve made this whole salvation thing more complicated in the 2000 years since Christ preached the Gospel than God ever intended. As a result, we lose our focus on one of the most fundamental aspects of the God-human relationship–that the Almighty sees us as beloved. I also suspect that we’re missing the boat when we think God “tells” us something. We probably get what God “tells” us just as balled up as what people think I said in the pulpit–or even more so. Maybe a more realistic idea is that God reveals things to us and we have to trust that they are revealed in love, and act accordingly–a love so generous that its best reflection is in the power of groups of transformed individuals.
Hmmm. “A love so generous that its best reflection is in the power of groups of transformed individuals.” That sounds a little like Pentecost, doesn’t it?
As we await Pentecost on our liturgical calendar, where have you seen salvation reflected?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid