1 Peter 2:19-25
‘Are you saved? Have you been saved?’—the usual opening lines of the would-be Christian evangelist’s speech when accosting a supposed unbeliever. Sincerely held convictions and good intention usually lie behind these expressions of concern for our ‘spiritual’ well-being. But a ‘one-step’ profession of accepting Jesus as your Savior leading immediately to the state of ‘salvation’ is simplistic and can be dangerously ego-centered. Personally ‘achieving salvation’ is not a check-list item for being ‘admitted to heaven’ when we die.
Listen for a moment to words from an Anglican Communion evangelism document entitled ‘God’s Sovereignty and Our Salvation’: ‘Salvation is at the very heart of the Christian hope and the promise of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the gift of reconciliation and transformation, given to humanity by God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.’ Salvation as transformation and reconciliation, proceeding from the Triune God who is love and relationship: this understanding and promise signals an ongoing, dynamic, shared process. In this understanding, salvation, ‘being saved’, is a never-ending and ever-deepening relationship of believers with Christ, and with one another.
As the evangelism document goes on to stay, ‘The gift of salvation is understood first and foremost by Christians as given by God through the incarnation, cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.’ This is the salvation, the being saved, which is boldly proclaimed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel calls us to examine what it actually means ‘to be saved’; to embrace the fulness of this salvation and to understand its meaning and urgency for our mortal lives and how we shall live, in these present days.
Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10
Many of you know that I have a special affinity for angels. These mysterious figures show up throughout scripture and fill the depths of my imagination with stories of their continual worship in heaven, especially as described in the Revelation to John. If I had to say there was a runner-up for the affections of my heart, it would probably be shepherds. This is in part because they were the first to hear the news of Jesus’ birth, announced to them by a multitude of angels. The main job of these country-dwellers was for the husbandry and protection of flocks of sheep placed in their care.
When I first began to pray with our Collect for this morning the phrase ‘good shepherd of your people’ caught my attention. I began to think back throughout my life to people who had been shepherds to me, and thank goodness there have been many. I recall the youth program at my elementary school that occurred every summer sponsored by our local Department of Parks and Recreation. While parents were working, neighborhood kids could ride their bike up to the school where young adults employed by the Parks and Rec would be on hand to facilitate games, art, physical fitness, and field trips. Being an only child experiencing the ups and downs of family life that was not always happy, I craved and needed special attention. There were two or three young adults during those summers who recognized that need and would play board games with me when no one else showed any interest. They shepherded me when I, in a way, was a lost sheep, bullied by other kids and isolated because I was not popular. When I received the attention I so desperately needed from these councilors I felt happy, content, and most importantly, safe. Perhaps this is what inspired me to ask my parents one Christmas if I could have an older brother. I wanted someone who cared for me, looked out for me, and who had walked the very path I had walked earlier in his life; someone who could guide, affirm, and encourage me when I felt especially alone and vulnerable. I think this is as true for the 49-year old Jim as it was for the 9-year old Jim.
Acts 2: 42 – 47
1 Peter 2: 19 – 25
John 10: 1 – 10
Finally the phone call came, and I went down to the post office to pick up my parcel. On this particular day the woman ahead of me in the line was picking up her package of bees. I’d seen them as I came into the post office. They were sitting, by themselves, on the loading dock. The postal workers won’t let them inside the building. They don’t like having to deliver bees, but the postal regulations require them to do so. My package on the other hand was sitting in the corner, near the counter. I knew it was mine because I could hear the goslings inside, honking away.
As incredible as it seems my four goslings had hatched on a Monday. They had been sexed, packed and shipped from Oklahoma before the end of that day, and there I was, picking them up in West Newbury on Wednesday. They came in a box about the size of a clementine orange box with a bit of straw and a heat pad. I put them in the car and drove them home, talking to them the whole way. When I got them home, I carefully opened the box and picked them up one at a time as I gave them something to drink. Having done that I was able to install them in their goose coop.