Saturday, April 11, 2009

Hope at the post office

7 years. For 7 years she lived in a concentration camp during World War II...and she survived. Father: dead. Uncles: dead. Neighbors: dead. Mother: alive. Her mother, having escaped twice - the second time for good - was a fighter. She had to be in order to survive, and survive she did. When she escaped the second time, she took with her her son and daughter and started a new life.

Her daughter, Vide (vee-day), now lives in southern California and as I listened to her I could tell that she was a fighter just like her mom. Vide has had many things to grieve in her life, yet through the death, the destruction, the persecution, through all of it, she's held on to one thing: hope. She was never willing to give up hope. Hope that the way things are now aren't the way things will be forever. Hope that healing can come to those who are sick and that reconciliation can occur between two enemies. Hope that goodness and love prevail over evil and hatred. Hope that there's life on the other side of death. Hope.

At the end of our conversation, Vide leaned in close and whispered, "If it wasn't for God, I would not be standing here talking with you." That was her final statement about hope. Her hope was in the goodness of God, having experienced grace, rescue, and redemption in deeply profound ways. It was a fitting ending given that it was Maundy Thursday and that we both were looking forward to the hope of Resurrection Sunday. Who says waiting in line at the post office isn't exciting?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

From and For

It's Sunday morning. You're attending a worship service at a local church and toward the end of the preacher's sermon the preacher stands front and center and extends an invitation to anyone who feels that special nudge to come forward and kneel down in front of the cross as an act of surrender, essentially "giving one's life to Jesus." For many, this experience is understood as the moment they were saved: saved from their sins; saved from their addictions; saved from their past life; saved from whatever they want to give up. Having grown up in the Reformed tradition, I was routinely reminded of what I needed to be saved from, yet when I read the Scriptures, I find that salvation is so much more than me being saved from something.

Being saved "from" something appears to be only one aspect of the gospel. Another aspect is discovering what we're saved "for."

- In Exodus 3, we discover Moses as a murderer turned shepherd, whom, through burning bush, God calls to return to Egypt "for" the salvation of the Israelites.

- In Luke 8:26-39, we encounter a demoniac who is healed by Jesus "from" demon-possession "for" the salvation of his city (verse 39).

- In Acts 8, we read about Saul's conversion, and how he was saved "from" persecuting Jesus "for" the salvation of the Gentiles.

It appears that our salvation is every bit as much about participating in God's redemptive activity in the world as it is about believing the gospel for our individual selves. We are saved both "from" something and "for" something. In my interactions with followers of Jesus all over the world, I have observed that many know what they are saved "from" but much fewer know what they are saved "for."

Ephesians 2:10 gives us a bit of insight into the "for", which I won't go into here. Rather, I simply want to ask, "What good works are you created in Christ Jesus
for?"

Leave me a comment. I'd love to read about your callings.