Wednesday Wondering - Wednesday, November 22, 2023
Matthew 6: 5 - 13
5 “And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 “Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.
Luke 4: 43
But he said to them, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.”
I have been wondering a lot about this idea of salvation. What does it mean when we talk about salvation? I think that for many of Christians, when they hear the word salvation, they think of this idea of going to live with Jesus, God, in heaven at the end of days. In many ways this is based on an interpretation of the Book of Revelation, that is seen as a prediction of the end of the world and the coming of Jesus again to take up to heaven the select who have accepted Christ as their personal saviour. This all seems to based on this idea that Jesus came for us to worship him rather than Jesus coming to proclaim the good news of the coming of God’s kingdom. This kingdom would turn everything upside down. It is a kingdom that is based in love, rather than power. It is a kingdom that is based in inclusion, rather than exclusion and marginalization. It is kingdom that is based in nonviolence, rather than war. This was the kingdom that Jesus lived as he walked the roads of the ancient world. I wonder if we might have forgotten that this was Jesus’ mission. N. T. Wright, Anglican Bishop and New Testament scholar in his book “Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church,” speaks to this in the following way, “Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord’s prayer is about.”
In the Gospel of Matthew the disciples have asked Jesus how they are to pray. Jesus says that in prayer they are to begin, “Our father in heaven, hallowed by your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We all know this as we often recite it, but do we hear these words, “Your kingdom come,” and “on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus is telling the disciples, and us, that the coming of God’s kingdom is not some cosmic kingdom in the sky that we work to enter. The coming of God’s kingdom is something that is to happen here in this world in this time and in this place. It is not in some distant future, but it is to happen in the here and now. The challenge for us is that for it to happen we might have to shift our understanding of our faith and our salvation.
It might just require us to shift or faith from worshipping Jesus to emulating Jesus in all that we do. It might force us to see that our salvation is not something that is tied to my own personal piety, or my own individual worship of God, but rather that salvation is found in community. Salvation is found in living lives as Christ lived, loving the least loved, embracing nonviolence in a world that seems so violent, forgiving when grudges are so easy to hold, and compassion when anger and marginalization can be so easy. We so often hear the voice of Jesus as the voice of salvation, but we hear it coming from heaven that it drowns out the voices of the downtrodden, the marginalized, the grieving, the lost. The reality is that for most Christians this heaven based salvation is easy to hear, who wouldn’t want to enter into eternal life in heaven, and in only focusing on that idea of salvation we might just be missing the actual point of our faith. In focusing on this heaven based salvation many Christians will therefore organize their entire lives around this focus and in doing so they loss sight of God Incarnate, Jesus with us, the coming of the kingdom of God to this world and in doing so we lose sight of the transformative nature of Jesus and what he preached. Jesus spoke of the coming of the new kingdom, the coming of God’s kingdom, the transformation of the world as we follow and embody Jesus in all that we do. It is the challenge of our faith to shift our focus from the heaven based salvation that only save me, to the coming of God’s kingdom, as earth as it is in heaven, that transforms the world for all. Which one will we choose?
God of salvation, open our eyes, our hearts, and our minds, so that we might see Jesus as the one who came to bring God’s kingdom to our world. Give us the courage to truly follow God as this world is transformed as follow Christ’s example and live lives of grace, compassion, love, forgiveness, and mercy, so that all people feel their worth in God’s kingdom. Give us the wisdom to see when we are focusing on our own heaven based salvation rather than the salvation, redemption, and transformation of this world. We ask all of this in the name of the one who came to show us the way, your son, Jesus. Amen.