Salvation

salvation

Today is the Sunday of the Passion or some may remember it as Palm Sunday, a day on which we read together the gospel story of the passion of the last moments of our Lord’s life.  The question I am often asked about this tradition is . . . Why?  Why do we torture ourselves with the sordid details of the Lord’s passion every year at this time?  Why do we enter the church singing ‘All Glory Laud and Honor’ in one breath . . . and then yell out ‘crucify him!’ in the next?  To many it makes no sense at all . . . and there are even those who stay home from church on Palm Sunday because of its emotional toll.

Those of us who have walked the Stations of the Cross these last several weeks can attest to the powerful message that the Story of the Passion brings to us.  As we hear the story repeated throughout Lent and examine the sculptures depicting these events on the walls of the church and spiritually walk the road to Golgotha with Jesus, the story begins to be more and more real to us.  And that is why we do it . . . to remember the story of our salvation.

In the days of yesteryear . . . that is before television and movies, there were passion plays performed which only the more wealthy could attend and books written which were also beyond the reach of most common folk (until the invention of public libraries).  It was in the church where much of the adult learning took place . . . through missals, and sermons and great music and occasional acting. It was the tradition of the reading of the Passion on this Sunday before Easter that became part of the liturgy of the word.   It was in this way that the story could be recited and remembered by all.

With the advent of movies in the twentieth century such as King of Kings and the Ten Commandments by director Cecil B. DeMille   it became sort of a contest as to who could produce the best and most accurate Biblical narrative.  As time went on and motion picture techniques developed, movies became more and more realistic until today we have such films as The Passion of Christ by Mel Gibson, which if you saw it, you will probably never forget it (and probably will never view it again).

But the reason for it all is to learn and to remember why Jesus came to us and lived among us and had to die a most horrible death for us.  It is a teaching tool so that we as a people can appreciate the mighty acts that God has done.  And not only appreciate it for ourselves but also to know enough of the story to be able to tell others.

In the gospel some weeks back, there were Greeks who came to the disciples asking to see Jesus.  We didn’t talk about it much at the time, but this event was the pivotal moment in the life of Jesus when Jesus knew that the time had finally come.  The Greeks came and asked “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

The Greeks coming and asking for Jesus appear to have been a sign that Jesus knew meant that the time had come and that the passion would soon begin and his eventual death and glorification at the resurrection was assured.

The spiritual world played an important part in the life of Jesus and also plays a very important role in our physical space.  Though unseen and unheard, we are taught through prophetic witness in the scripture that the angelic realm guides those who pray for guidance and helps those who ask for help.  Christians throughout the ages have always been in a spiritual battle between good and evil, and many of us, unknowingly, play a part as soldiers in this battle of wills.  Jesus was obviously much more aware of his role in this battle than we are.  He knew all the players . . . and they knew him.  When the demons he encountered tried to reveal his identity to us, Jesus was able to silence them with a command.  And so a war of sorts continues between these realms even in our own day, and certain things are revealed to certain people but hidden from others until the time is right.

The passion of the crucifixion was itself a harbinger. . . a warning . . . and a sign of something extraordinary happening in the history of the world.  The cross at Calvary is the focal point of good and evil touching for one brief moment in time that has consequences for us far beyond our lives here.  The cross was a horrible instrument of execution that has been transformed by God into the sign of hope of salvation for the many millions who understand its meaning in their lives.  And it is through the cross that our salvation is assured.

So what is salvation?  Salvation is a free gift offered by God to all who ask for it.  In our dictionary Salvation means being saved or protected from harm or being saved or delivered from some dire situation. In religion, salvation is stated as the saving of one’s soul from sin and all of its consequences.  And although it cannot be seen or felt in any physical way, it is by its very essence all that keeps us from utter damnation. And the scariest part, the part we that we learned a few weeks back at a retreat with the Franciscans is that our salvation can be lost.

Back when I was about to enter kindergarten I was a bit insecure as a young boy and had two stuffed animal friends, a cat and a horse, that my mother had made me.  They went everywhere with me and I was never without them.  They were like the boy Linus’s blanket in the comic strip Peanuts.  Well, school was coming, and my parents knew that I couldn’t take my trusted friends with me there, so they devised a plan.  They bought me a gigantic present in a very, very large box.  It was a cardboard supermarket that I could put together and sort of live inside.  They thought it would take my mind off my two stuffed animals and finally one day it would take their place . . . which it did . . . and since the supermarket was too large to take to school, I was content to leave it behind each day knowing that it was there waiting for me whenever I wanted to play with it.  They knew that for me the animals had become a crutch that I would never let go of unless they did something.

CHALK

The fact is that many of us hold on to things that are bad for us  . . . yet comfort us and seldom do we ever want to let go.  Our monk friend showed us that like these two pieces of chalk we hide things, like our sin from view and we keep them close at hand always grasping and never letting it go.  But the salvation of the cross of Christ, we also know is a great gift that we all desire . . . but in order to receive it, Jesus tells us that, we must be willing to let go of those things we hold so close so that we can finally claim this free gift of salvation for ourselves . . . some are able to do this by the grace of God – but many are not.

You must know by now that Christianity is not a religion (although the world would want you to believe it as just one religion among many).  No . . .  Christianity is not a religion . . . it is a bond, a relationship between God and his children.  It is actually a way of new life because spiritually all of us have already died with Christ and have been raised to this new life, this new way, only by believing that Jesus Christ died on a cross so that you would not have to.  A Christian is any person who willingly turns his back on his sin and gives his heart and life to Jesus, the messiah, and endeavors to live a life worthy of God’s greatest of gifts . . . eternal life in Christ who is the author of our salvation.

 

We adore Thee, O Christ, and bless Thee.

Because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world.

Amen