As many of you are aware, I had the tremendous opportunity to be the Primates Nominee for a conference at Windsor Castle this past summer. The theme for conference was the “Church of Today and the Role of Clergy”. Over the course of 10 days we heard from experts in particular fields such as Biblical Studies, Gang Warfare, Brexit and Environmental Impacts where I got to meet Jane Goodall. Our days were also full of small group discussions where each of us took turns in presenting a book review on a pre-selected book and engage with one another in daily Bible study. In many ways I am still processing and unpacking all that I experienced and learned in the conference.
One of the overall themes that kept emerging in my particular small group was the Doctrine of Salvation. Now instead of taking the remainder of today to explain fully this Doctrine, the Coles notes basically says that the Doctrine of Salvation teaches us about the saving nature of Jesus and the role of the Church in the work of salvation. As the conversation developed I began to feel more and more uneasy with the direction of the conversation was heading. For many of the participants, they kept coming back to the idea that we as the Church need to be actively engaged in the work of saving people. The more I thought about that, the more I realized that the conversation was missing something quite crucial, in my opinion. The conversation was talking about the Church’s role in salvation and nothing about Jesus. An easy trap for many of us to fall into. But there is an important distinction to make.
What is key in the Doctrine of Salvation is that it is Jesus who saves us. Because of his death and resurrection on the cross, he took away the sting of death and ensured that we all have life eternal with him as the Body of Christ. When I eventually made this point, that it is Jesus who saves us, there was an awkward silence for a moment until someone commented that he wished I had said this an hour earlier.
It is important for us to remember that it is Jesus that saves us. This is really good news to hear because it means that we are off the hook and are therefore not responsible for whether people are saved or not. This is why it is important that today too, we are reminded of the power of the cross. We are a long way from Holy Week where our journey to the cross is quite close and tangible. We are at the beginning of a new school year, the start of the academic and work calendar. In many ways September and the beginning of Fall is the “New Year.” With all the business and hectic pace we find ourselves immersed in with the beginning of things, adjusting from the summer routine to the work routine, commitments renewed and a host of other things “To Do” it is easy for us to loose track and lose the thread of what really is important in our lives and our Faith.
We live in uncertain times for sure. These days, more than ever it seems, we are confronted with decisions and choices that overwhelm us. As we get bogged down in the daily routines and decisions with work, school, commitments, shopping and what to buy and what not to buy. What is organic and environmentally friendly that will, at the same time, not completely blow the grocery budget and the list goes on; we lose the thread of what really matters and is important to us as people.
Because of the business of this time of year, which seems to be any time of year really, it is easy for relationships to be strained, to take things and people for granted and for our Faith to suffer in the midst of all this stuff.
We need today and Holy Cross to remind us of what is really important and what really matters in the final analysis. When all is said and done, we need to be reminded that we are above, all loved by God and saved by God. No matter what we have done, left undone, wished we could have done differently, we are God’s own beloved children and there is nothing that can ever separate us from the love of God.
I don’t know about you, but for me this is quite liberating to realize that as imperfect as I can be, I am loved by God, saved by God and used by God for God’s work in the world. The same is for you and for our neighbours, friends and world. Friends, we need to rejoice that we are already saved! Holy Cross Day, Holy Week and Good Friday is where we come face to face with our mortality and we are reminded that we are already saved because of The One who died for us on the cross! Our job, our work and mission as a people of Faith and a Church is to proclaim this good news far and wide and let the whole world know that they, like us, are already saved!
Because we are saved we need to act like we are saved! As has been said many times not only from this pulpit but from many others, living a life of faith means living our faith in the world. We are not called to be armchair recipients of faith and grace. We are made by God and called by God to engage in a neighbourhood, city and world that is broken, hungry and yearning for purpose and meaning. Because we are saved, because of all that Jesus taught us while he was with us in the flesh in our world, we are called to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty everyday. We are all called to this church, this neighbourhood and therefore have a valuable part to play in making our church and our lives the life giving bread that we have been hearing about for the past several weeks. We as people who form the Body of Christ and this church all have gifts and a part to play in the continuing work of God’s salvation. When the Church works in harmony, we can continue to do amazing things in the world.