For this season of Lent, St. Alban’s will be focusing on the question, “How are you being saved?” Our Lenten speakers are addressing this question, and parishioners will be speaking on this at Adult Sunday School throughout Lent. I am intrigued by this question because it is so different from the language concerning salvation that we often hear.
I’ve had a lot of questions from parishioners who are put off by this wording. To boil it down, the question usually comes out like this: “What do you mean being saved? I’ve been saved, isn’t that enough?”
The word “salvation” has many different connotations. Usually we hear it in the context of “being saved.” However, “salvation” can also describe healing, as a salve heals a wound. Healing from a wound or an injury takes time. Not very often can one suffer an injury and recover instantly. The hard work of healing can be a lengthy process.
Paul speaks of salvation this way in his letter to the Philippians: “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (2:12). Paul also says that the message of the cross is the power of God “to those who are being saved” (I Corinthians 1:18). Salvation, healing, and the love of God are not single instances that happen in our lives. Rather, our lives in Christ Jesus should be inundated with thousands of moments of salvation and healing.
I am being saved everyday. God is saving me from my sin, or what Robert Jenson calls “the incurvature of our souls.” I believe that God is saving me through my dedicated times of prayer and scripture reading. During these moments, God calls me away from myself, and the curvature of my soul bends outwards to God rather than inwards to myself. In that, I am working out my own salvation, I am concentrating on the healing that God provides.
So then, what’s the point? When you think about salvation as a “one and down” affair, it’s all about getting into heaven/avoiding hell. That’s stuff for spiritual babies – let’s feast on the real food of spiritual nourishment.
I believe that this whole business of salvation is about restoring humanity to its full humanity. As it stands now, we live mean and dark lives, beset by sin and death. This is not the fullness of humanity. Athanasius, one of the pillars of the early church, put it this way: “He, indeed, assumed humanity that we might become like God.” The fullness of humanity is seen in the life of Christ. That is the final goal of all this healing; to become like Christ so that we can be fully human.
Pretty cool, huh? Our Christian lives are not “fire insurance” to protect us from hell in some afterlife. Our Christian lives are about becoming fully human right here and right now. What a blessing! We don’t have to wait until we die to experience God’s salvation – it’s already available!
And that brings me to the title of my blog – “Blogitations on the Holy Life.” You see, this whole Christian adventure is about becoming holy, leading holy lives. Even in this life, beset by sin and darkness, we are on the journey of becoming holy. This is what the word “sanctify” means – “to make holy.”
Next time you’re in church and hear the priest say these words, take them seriously. The bit about being holy in this life comes long before the holiness of the great beyond.
“Sanctify us also that we may faithfully receive this holy Sacrament, and serve you in unity, constancy, and peace; and at the last day bring us with all your saints into the joy of your eternal kingdom.”