Some Pastoral Reflections – from Pastor Duncan:
At the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
Every tongue confess him King of Glory now….
In November the Diocese of Quincy voted to leave the Episcopal Church. In news articles about this decision it was reported that one speaker, speaking in favor of leaving, made the following statement to the assembly:
We need to make a choice. Is Jesus Christ our Savior or not?
This is a good question and one that has gotten me thinking over the last couple months. Is Jesus Christ our (my) Savior or not? I answer without hesitation in the affirmative. Yes! Jesus is Lord and Savior! OK – then….. What does that mean?
This is not so easy and perhaps all of us should use the opportunity of the Feast of The Name of Jesus (January 1), the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6) and the weeks of Epiphany to ponder this question and what in means for us, our lives and our life of faith and commitment. Below is my response to this question.
1. Jesus is Savior – and has received me by Grace alone. I cannot earn God’s love or my place in God’s Kingdom by anything I do on my own. Neither being right, or being pure or good or faithful or anything is a pre-condition of God’s grace. Indeed, following Paul, I acknowledge that my efforts do not always lead to success and that I am a sinner who God has redeemed and forgiven. And because of God’s love and grace I then am empowered to respond by following. This time a year there is such an emphasis on Santa Claus and the question of have you been “naughty or nice.” If the latter you can expect lots of wonderful presents; if the former then coal and sticks are what you will get. We have to be so careful not to transfer this to our relationship with Jesus. God lavishes gifts upon us, not because we deserve or have earned them – but only because of God’s love and grace.
2. God reaches out to ALL. There is no litmus test. Even a cursory reading of the Gospels makes it clear that Jesus was drawn especially to those who were excluded by the political and religious authorities. Jesus reaches out to the lepers, the blind, the adultress, a Samaritan woman and the list goes on and on. I don’t think we realize how radical that was for the time. In the eyes of the established, those people were outside the community, they were untouchable, they were impure, they were sinners. But those are the people who Jesus invites to the banquet! Jesus’ harshest words are for those who are better than…., for those who would put people in categories and label and then exclude them based on those labels. God reaches out to ALL – and because of this Jesus is my savior.
3. In the book of Job when God finally speaks from the whirlwind He doesn’t have a list of answers for Job’s questions. Rather God refocuses the entire discussion: There are mysteries that we human beings cannot know or understand. And, we must learn to accept those mysteries. There is much that we do not understand, and we can be very hurtful when we begin to pretend that we do have all the answers, or that we know the mind of God. The mind of God is way beyond anything we can comprehend. And for the bottom line – when in doubt – see #1 above (as per Martin Luther). Jesus is my Savior because His Grace has empowered me to be able to let go of needing to know and be right.
4. I recently read through all of the Gospel of Matthew in one sitting as a devotional discipline. I was struck by the kindness of Jesus as he went about his life and ministry. We live in a society which has become, over the last few years, very un-kind. Spend 10 minutes flipping through channels on the TV and you will find reality shows and political commentary and other shows which are nothing but nastiness. They all seem predicated on exclusion – if you are different than me, if you think different, live different, have different politics then you are less than human. This seems to be the attitude. This is not the attitude of Christ. In his ministry Jesus reached out to all in kindness. Look especially at the story of the rich young ruler – someone who doesn’t agree with Jesus and walks away – how does Jesus respond to him? With love and kindness!!! (read St. Mark 10:17-27)
So, what is your choice? Is Jesus your Savior? What does this mean for you? My God grant you a blessed Epiphany.
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