Wednesday, June 24, 2009

An acceptable time ... a day of salvation

Our church's spring newsletter was published last week. This was my cover article.

Has the gospel changed your life? Are you a different person because of God’s grace, because of the love and mercy and forgiveness and generosity of God? I mean, are you a different person from the person you would be if Jesus hadn’t become a part of your life?

Most of us were baptized as infants, some of us as toddlers or even older children, maybe even a few of us as adults. What does that mean? We say that in baptism God sets us free from sin and death and that after baptism we grow in faith, love, and obedience to the will of God. We are raised to new life and joined with Christians throughout the world in God’s mission for the life of the world. How has that been working for you?

On the Third Sunday after Pentecost, in the second reading, St. Paul quotes the prophet Isaiah and then puts a new spin on those words. In Isaiah 49:8 we read:
“In a time of favour I have answered you,
on a day of salvation I have helped you.”

This was part of a prophecy about God delivering the people of Israel from exile in Babylon and wherever they are scattered in the world. God promises to bring them back to their home, back to the promised land.

When Paul reads this prophecy he finds new meaning in those words and in the promise. Because of his faith in Jesus Christ he understands the prophecy in a new way. It’s no longer just about captives being set free to return to their homes. In this prophecy, and in the death and resurrection of Jesus, he sees a new homecoming and a new restoration. Now when Paul reads about “a time of favour” and “a day of salvation” he sees a restored relationship with God. So instead of “a time” and “a day” Paul writes:
“See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!” (2 Cor 6:2).

Paul also urges his readers not to take this for granted. The preceding verse says, “we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain” (2 Cor 6:1). God has given us a marvellous gift. The good news is that through Jesus Christ we are reconciled to God. In him there is grace and help. God’s anger and wrath at our sinfulness is turned away. Instead we receive love and generosity and good. We receive forgiveness of sins and mercy and reconciliation.

Just as Isaiah announced that God would set the people of Israel free, we are set free from sin and death and all that would separate us from God. Martin Luther wrote a document titled Christian Liberty. In it he wrote about the freedom that we have in Christ but he goes further than simply writing about what we are set free from. He also writes about what we are set free for.
“I will therefore give myself as a Christ to my neighbour, just as Christ offered himself to me; I will do nothing in this life except what I see as necessary, profitable, and salutary to my neighbour, since through faith I have an abundance of all good things in Christ.
“Behold, from faith thus flow forth love and joy in the Lord, and from love a joyful, willing, and free mind that serves one’s neighbour willingly.”

When Jesus meets us and the good news of God’s grace impacts our lives we are set free and changed and now our lives aren’t about US anymore. Now we live for others and for what we can do to make a difference in the world, for what we can do as gospel people, spreading the good news of God’s love and mercy.

“See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation.” The time and the day are here for us to worship, learn, witness, serve, and share. The time and the day are here to make a difference in the world. The time and the day are here to be and do and live for others just as Christ was and did and does for us. How will that be working for you?

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