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Salvation is the Name of the Game




Today is the twenty-first anniversary of the horrific events of September the 11th, 2001, another date that will live in infamy. In those days and months after 9/11 we stood a people united in tragedy. The normal events of our life have been tragically and irreparably changed. As I stood and watched the collapse of the 2nd tower my mind would not comprehend what I was seeing. The bottom of the screen said the first tower had already collapsed and I could not perceive what I was reading. My mind went into denial of what my eyes were telling me. It is amazing to me how our minds will reject reality when we find it unbelievable. It is inconceivable to us that someone would take an airliner with innocent passengers aboard and fly it into a building filled with equally innocent people. Our concepts of fairness and justice cry out against such a circumstance. As the facts of what took place began to unfold we had to come to grips with a hideous form of evil that consumed close to five thousand lives with in a few minutes. We are only learning now that of the four aircraft hijacked that day only one was unsuccessful in accomplishing its diabolical mission. There were people on board the fourth plane who were determined to save others.


Our lessons this morning indicate that our real problem is with saving mankind. The lessons read this morning are rife with the topic of the day, which is salvation. The redemptive act of God Almighty in His Son Jesus Christ is the Salvation of the world through His sacrifice on the cross. The whole point of His life here on earth was to stay the course and complete the mission, given Him by God the Father. That mission was and is the salvation or redemption of mankind. If anyone had an intimate knowledge and understanding of salvation it was the Apostle Paul, who in this letter to Timothy that was read this morning, utters those wonderful words that in the 1928 BCP Eucharistic service was called the Comfortable Words and are still found in the Rite One Eucharist.

"This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." [I Timothy 1: 15]


That is the crux of the issue, Jesus came to die for us, to cleanse us from all unrighteousness and bring about the forgiveness of our sins. Out of His own mouth Jesus told us that He came forth to save us. Later in Luke's Gospel Chapter 19, we read of the episode with Zacchaeus. Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem, and He was passing through Jericho. The local tax collector, Zacchaeus, wanted to see Jesus, but because of the crowds and him being so short he could not see. Can you just see him jumping up and down behind the crowd of people trying to see Jesus? Well, "Zacc" runs ahead and climbs a sycamore tree so he can see. Jesus comes to the tree and tells "Zacc" to come down because He wants to have dinner at his house. "Zacc" is so happy that he tells Jesus that he will pay back anyone he has defrauded and will give half his possessions to the poor. That's a whole lot different than the Rich young ruler in chapter 18 who could not give up a thing. Anyway, Jesus said to him,

"Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a Son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." [Luke 19: 1 01]


In Matthew's account of the birth of Jesus, the Angel told Joseph that his name would be Jesus because "He will save his people from their sins" The name Jesus is a Greek translation of the Hebrew Joshua or Yeshua or Yahweh-shuah, which means Yahweh, is salvation or Yahweh saves.


This theme of God as Savior is found throughout the Old Testament. This morning's Psalm in the daily office reading refers to the God of our Salvation. The Venite, Psalm 95 talks of the Rock of our salvation. When you read the gospel of Luke you see that he hammers away at the fact that Jesus came to save us. When the angels announced to the shepherds that Jesus was born, they said that a Savior was born in Bethlehem. The fact that his birth was announced to the lowly shepherds sets the agenda for who you would find Jesus with. The announcement was not made in Jerusalem; the word did not get there until the Wise men arrived in town. The Word came to the outcasts. That's precisely where we find our gospel opening up this morning. The tax collectors and sinners were coming to hear Jesus and the religious elite was upset that he was hanging around with such people and contaminating himself with them. They were still grumbling when he went in to eat with "Zacc". I guess they were mumbling and grumbling so much that Jesus told them three parables, the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal (or lost) son. He wanted them to see how ridiculous it was to be exceedingly joyful over finding a lost animal and then not be joyful over a lost person, repenting and returning. It seems they were hard, judgmental and unforgiving in their attitude toward their fellow man. Their contempt of people who did not measure up to their standards was an important facet of their lack of humility before God. They failed to recognize their own need of Grace. What is so Christ like in the people of the parable is their persistence. They kept searching until they found the lost sheep or coin. That is what Jesus told the crowd at "Zacc's" house, that He had come to SEEK the lost. There is a sense of urgency about that seeking.


There is a poem called the Hound of Heaven that speaks to that pursuit by the Redeemer. In 1981, a Minnesota radio station reported a story about a stolen car in California. The police were searching intensely for the vehicle and the driver. They were even placing announcements on local radio stations to contact the thief. The real owner of the car had placed a box of crackers loaded with rat poison on the front seat. As he was on his way home to take care of the rat problem, he stopped at a convenience store and the car was stolen. Now they were frantically trying to contact the car thief to save the thief s life. So often we run from God because we are afraid of his punishment, and we are really eluding rescue. Have you ever lost a favorite tool, or misplaced a favorite piece of jewelry? Do you remember how you looked and looked and turned the house upside down looking for it? That's the picture Jesus wants to convey, that determination to find the lost object. What kind of a God is this that will leave behind the ninety-nine GOOD sheep who did not stray away, and go after a dirt-bag lost sheep? We have not come to grips with the God who loves us all so much that He is concerned over the lost that have strayed away. Now while you think you are safe in the sheepfold; you never know when you might stray away! Would you not want to be searched for if you were lost? In John's Gospel Jesus said, "I AM the Good Shepherd" and in that context is the fact that the sheep was lost. At the Church of the Good Shepherd there is that lovely stained glass window depicting Jesus with the lost sheep in his arms. What is so wonderful about that scene is the fact that the Son of God came to save US and could not, rather would not save himself, from physical pain, torture and death, for our salvation. He endured the temptation to throw away his whole mission one more time before he achieved his destiny. In his agony and seemingly his defeat he was paradoxically tempted to throw his mission away by saving himself. For if he saved himself, he would not be able to save us. He had to die on the cross to save us from our sins. The rulers, the chief priests and scribes had achieved what they wanted and they had Him hanging on the cross, and what did they say?

"He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!" And again from the soldiers; "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself." One of the two men being crucified with Him also taunted him; "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!"


Save, Save, Save yourself they kept hammering at Him, but He would not. He had worked that out the night before in the Garden of Gethsemane, when He had asked the Father to remove this cup from Him. But in obedience to the Father He said "Nevertheless, Not as I will, but as You will." Throughout the New Testament, in the Gospels, The Acts of the Apostles and the several Letters of the different Apostles, the theme is Salvation. When Jesus said it would be hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, the disciples asked, "Then who can be SAVED?" After the day of Pentecost, Peter and John testified before the council, when they had been arrested for healing a cripple that,

"There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved." [Acts 4:12]


In Philippi, when Paul and Silas were unjustly beaten and jailed, an earthquake occurred. The jailer was about to commit suicide because he thought all the prisoners had escaped when Paul stopped him. The man came trembling to Paul and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" I realize that all this talk of saving and salvation sounds very other denominational, but the facts are clear that, if you are Christian, you are by your faith a saved person! God's plan is a seven-step plan and is thoroughly Orthodox and liturgical. These are the facts:

1. God loves us.


2. We are sinners.


3. We are dead, in our sins, without Christ.


4. Christ died for us.


5. We can be saved by faith in Christ.


6. We can be saved and know it.


7. Once saved we are children of God and should obey him.

When we realize the fact that we have been saved we are full of joy, but nothing like the celebration that goes on in heaven. The early Christians really celebrated that salvation in their worship, which is why our principal act of worship is called the Eucharist. It is thanksgiving for so great a salvation. The psalmist gives us a hint of that joy when he says;

"Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; wash me, and I shall be clean indeed. Make me hear of joy and gladness, that the body you have broken may rejoice.”

[Psalm 51:8-9]


Jesus said, "there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." That is because God's overwhelming concern is for those who are lost and have strayed away from Him. Peter writes in his second letter;

"The Lord ... is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." [2 Peter 3:9]


With that mission it is no wonder that there is joy in heaven. If there is joy in heaven, then there should be joy here when people come to know, believe and trust the Lord. If the mission of Jesus was to seek and save the lost, and we are now the Body of Christ then our mission is also to seek and save the lost. Our mission is to proclaim to the world this Good news of God in Jesus Christ. For us here at St. Augustine, that is accomplished through worship, service and evangelism. In our worship of God we acknowledge our salvation through dwelling in him, by receiving the Body and Blood of his Son. We reach, out and serve him in service to others and by so doing we evangelize, spread the Good News by being examples or icons of Christ in His servant hood. If we would see Jesus today, we would have to look for him among the sick, the hurt, the crippled, the disadvantaged, the outcast, those we call sinners, the prostitutes, the drug addicts, the drug runners and sellers, and the prisoners. In other words, any place where there is pain and suffering in body, mind and spirit. If we are part of his plan of salvation today, we will have to do it through our Worship, Service and Evangelism, Then they will know the Good News that Jesus Saves. Today we celebrate God’s mercy. We recall his love shown unendingly and faithfully to his people in the desert. Paul teaches us that God’s love is freely given; it does not depend on the human person’s worthiness. God takes the initiative.


We celebrate the Father’s love shown in Jesus—a prodigal love that has no limits. Today and every day the bread and wine are signs of this love. They symbolize and are the reality of God’s love and mercy. Let us today allow their healing power to penetrate our weakness, to heal our hurts, and then to empower us to go out and heal the hurting one in our midst. God is not in a hurry and we must not be either. The waiting may be the place where the Lord is most present.



DOCTRINAL POINTS: Luke By Pat McCloskey, O.F.M. in Homily Helps


1. Paul is presented as thanking the glorified Jesus for his mercy. Paul has received an overflowing measure of grace together with the gifts of faith and love. All of this was totally undeserved, especially since Paul had been such an enemy of Christ and his Church.


2. What Jesus has done for Paul should bring assur­ance to the Christian community that they, too, can depend on the mercy and patience of Christ. In fact, there is a Christian formula that sums up the Church’s experi­ence quite nicely: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Thus, Paul’s example and Christian ex­perience should lead all believers to put all their trust in Jesus.



3. The stage for this wonderful story is set very clearly. The tax collectors and sinners (not much differ­ence) are there with the ever-present Pharisees. Jesus could not possibly be any good in their point of view. You could tell by his company. Jesus is not about to take any of their nonsense, and so tells three examples of the marvelous, unlimited love and forgiveness of God. All three are a condemnation of his critics’ own narrow, bigoted, self-righteous stance. In a dramatic way, Jesus gets across that their point of view is opposite and diametrically opposed to God’s point of view. And they are supposed to be the professional religious!


4. They are so caught up in their own cynicism that they would not be able to find it in their hearts to rejoice with the shepherd who found his sheep or the woman who found the coin. They give virtue a bad name. They are the original party poopers. God’s magnanimity finds little companionship with their narrowness.


APPLICATION/DISCUSSION:


The words of the Prayer of Consecration in Rite One include the plan of salvation and even though we may think that Episcopalians are not into all that talk about saving, we are! Jesus told us at the last supper that his blood was going to be poured out in remission for our sins.


1. GOD LOVES US: All glory be to thee, Almighty God, our heavenly Father, for that

thou, of thy tender mercy, didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the cross for our redemption. Is that love or is that LOVE!


2. WE ARE SINNERS: Who made there, by his one oblation of himself once offered, a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, for the sins of the whole world. That is all of us.


3. WE ARE DEAD, IN OUR SINS, WITHOUT CHRIST: And although we are unworthy, through our manifold sins to offer unto thee any sacrifice, yet we beseech thee to accept this our bounden duty and service, not weighing our merits, but pardoning our offenses, through Jesus Christ our Lord.


4. CHRIST DIED FOR US: In his holy Gospel, he commanded us to continue, a perpetual memory of that his precious death and sacrifice, until his coming again. In remembrance of his death and passion, we may be partakers of his most blessed Body and Blood. Again and again we are reminded that Christ died for us.


5. WE CAN BE SAVED BY FAITH IN CHRIST: We most humbly beseech thee to grant that, by the merits and death of thy Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in his blood, we, and all thy whole church, may obtain remission of our sins.


6. WE CAN BE SAVED AND KNOW IT: And here we offer unto thee, 0 Lord, our selves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy and living sacrifice unto thee. You usually don't offer up yourself without knowing that you are saved.


7. ONCE SAVED WE ARE CHILDREN OF GOD AND SHOULD OBEY HIM: We and all others who shall be partakers of this Holy Communion may worthily receive the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son Jesus Christ, and made one body with him, that he may dwell in us and we in him.


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