It’s vacation time, has been for a while now. Like many others I’m looking forward to my time away from the regular rhythm of my job. I have a list of things I want to do when vacation rolls around. I want to spend more time with my family, read a couple of books – The Thin Light of Freedom by Edward Ayers and some fiction. I want to get outside more, make good food, swim in the ocean and paint. After I give the last benediction before getting away, I usually think to myself, “At last, I’m free to breathe, relax and do some of the things I’ve wanted for the past 11 months.” Of course you might ask, “Why do you wait so long?”
In the 6th chapter of Paul’s 2nd letter to the church at Corinth he tells us we don’t need to wait until the end of our lives to enjoy the benefits of God’s salvation. He reminds us we are free from sin and the death, right now; that the power of God’s unending love liberates us, right now; and that we are liberated to live Christ-like lives for a world in need of hope, peace and the promise of God’s coming realm, right now!
Paul says, “See, now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation!” For Paul, salvation carries with it two meanings. Our primary understanding of Salvation is the result of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Because God’s love is revealed through Jesus Christ we are no longer estranged from God, but reconciled; we need not despair at the state of the world, but are filled with hope; we are empowered to be agents of God’s love to all; and, we look forward with faith to eternal life at the end of our time. Paul thought of Salvation as an act, an event that took place once and for all that has saved us.
But salvation had another meaning for Paul as well: it is the process through which we live into the reality of God’s act of Salvation, of God’s love for us all. We can live in the light and reap the benefits of God’s salvation now! We don’t need to wait! We don’t need to wait until the end to take the risks necessary to love others and build communities of hope. We don’t need to wait until the end to forgive others and accept the forgiveness of God. We don’t need to wait until the end. We should not wait until the end to speak the truth, to be compassionate, to resist evil and oppression, and resist hatred and human degradation whether it comes from the words and actions of family, friends, religious and civic leaders, any one in government and our president. Now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation!
I knew a man, Phil Payne, who worked in the brass mills of Waterbury since he was sixteen. Phil loved flowers. When he was 17 he began hybridizing lilies. He spent the rest of his life, as he put it, “playing with God in the garden.” Phil often worked two jobs while he and his wife raised a family, served their church, and worked to make his community a better place to live; but he always managed to make time for his flowers. Just a few months after retirement Phil became sick, was diagnosed with cancer and died shortly thereafter. It seems only natural in a situation like this to become resentful, bitter, and angry with God. But Phil didn’t, neither did his family. Phil didn’t wait until the end to do what he loved. He spent his life with God playing with their lilies. When Phil left the church for the last time his casket was covered with his flowers.
Now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation! Right now, this very moment, is the time to forgive and accept God’s forgiveness! Right now is the time to take the risk to live in the world faithfully knowing God is with you! Now it the time to begin loving others and ourselves in ways that reflect God’s love for all! Now is the time to live in the light of God’s grace for we have been called to this very moment and this exact place to do what God has in mind!
Of course this is not always the easiest thing to do. But it’s a process. We can practice living in the light of our salvation. By God’s grace we can get better at it. It all begins in this very moment by our saying , “yes” to God’s gift of salvation.
So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to find that book and read a bit. Now where did it, oh yeah, it’s in the box marked vacation.
In the love of Christ, Shepard