Let’s pray….. Rev. Stuart Buisch
Who wants to be saved? Who can be saved? How long does saved last? Who does the saving?
Finally, who cares? I am not sure those are all the questions nor am I at all certain that the answers are of any interest. Who is your Lord and Savior? Is followed too often with what do you mean by Lord, and then too we are back to saving – Savior.
During this time of pandemic, I am not sure I have met anyone who wanted to get covid19. But we do live in a world of death by police, train, drugs, food etc so I guess it is possible to commit suicide by getting covid19. Clearly one problem with the language of salvation is that it really cramps the independent streak so rampant today among humans. ‘I don’t need to be saved from anything or anyone. I am fine, leave me alone.’ One might ask do those speakers need to be saved from themselves? Do we all need such salvation from ourselves?
To move toward an answer to who can be saved Cornelius offers some interesting details. As Acts 10 opens we meet a man who fears God, worships God, is generous with human needs and prays constantly. Clearly, he has faith, would my home be described like his? Something seems to be missing but only for a while. God gets right on it and gets the missing information and experience to him. Interestingly God does that through Cornelius not through the inside group of apostles. God sends an angel that Cornelius believes. Belief is key to the notion of salvation. Cornelius had to believe that the messenger was from God. He did. The content of belief discloses the experience of salvation. Cornelius had to believe that God was doing something for him, for his household. That a message could come that he would have the opportunity to believe. He got the message from Peter and believed. And before the apostles could intervene, with hands on Cornelius and his household, the Holy Spirit fell on them and then, may I say comically, the apostles hurried around to get the group ‘baptized with water.’ God pretty dramatically declared them to belong to God, was the water necessary? Sometimes the rules we establish about salvation get clumsy and legalistic and provide no benefit to anyone or to God.
How long does saved last? I went to a Wesleyan College. To become a student there I had to declare my faith in a written, reviewed and approved document. Yet while I was there every semester there was a week of ‘services/meetings’ to get me converted. There was a week one semester to get me to go to the mission field and another week -if I remember rightly, well you get the idea. If salvation is something I am doing, I sure better worry about how long it lasts. But if God is doing the saving, doesn’t it become problematic to suggest that God isn’t very effective at saving? However, there is this human component. Belief. If one believes today and tomorrow doesn’t believe how does that effect salvation? It is most interesting to me that in many of the accounts of faith in Acts the issue of longevity of faith, the fickleness of believe today and doubt tomorrow is missing. The Ethiopian Eunuch goes back home rejoicing with no company ( apart from angels and God ). Peter stayed with Cornelius for several days and went back home to Jerusalem. If the account of Cornelius suggests anything it clearly opens our eyes to recognize that God is the saver and God is profoundly interested in those who believe and those who do not believe.
God is the one who cares. God was and is present beside each covid bed where loved ones are unable to be. God’s Spirit consoles those who are moving from this life to the next. God is also present and cares for the ‘long-hauler’ Covid patient and chronic pain sufferers who are not in quarantine but are just as overwhelmed by their disease. God is the one who works through the church and without the church to convince individuals and communities that they are loved, that they belong, that they have value and that their lives have purpose.
But let me be clear the church or certain parts of it have been explicitly clear about establishing their own boundaries for salvation. Different groups of the church have worked excessively to make the borders of salvation in their group clear and monitored by those who ‘know’ the truth. Perhaps the reason that fewer people care about salvation today is that in the change points of each person’s life: birth, marriage/relationship, death those without faith seem to be handling those transitions with as much skill, grace, community and personal/psychological/sociological health as those who linger in churches that continue to shrink in their self-imposed Christian/salvation boundaries.
As long as we have structures to explain and provide experiences of salvation by professionals who ‘know it all’, we run tremendous risks of getting some or all of it quite wrong. We also invite the wise among our children to be thoroughly disgusted by the charade of faith we play. They will find their own ways to build community and to be compassionate to others, animals, and the ecosystem that we call home.
Nevertheless, the hope we have is the angel armies commissioned by the Creator of the Cosmos will continue to reach out to those who pray, give generously to the needy, inside and outside their culture’s community. Pain-bearer Christ will continue to suffer beside those who know his name and those who only know his presence. The Wind of God will blow through the cob webs in our souls with flames, words and apparent destruction to the borders we build making hurricanes, wild-fires and cyclones seem insignificant. But none of that will be in the news because it is good and all will be well. Amen.
Creator God, let us see your hand around us… Pain-bearer Christ, teach us to stand with you in the places of hurt…
Wind of God, blow through our confusion, doubt and willfulness and plant seeds of compassion, grace and peace….