Friday, August 15, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for the Tenth Sunday of Pentecost - Proper 15

Bishop Eric Menees

“Almighty God, who hast given thy only Son to be unto us both a sacrifice for sin and also an example of godly life: Give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive that his inestimable benefit, and also daily endeavor ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”

As a student in my second year of college, I remember taking a study break and sitting on the bench in front of the Library on a beautiful spring day.  A pretty young woman came over and sat down next to me, which caught my attention.  She said hello and struck up a conversation.  In a few minutes I knew her name, she knew mine, and I wondered hopefully whether, for the first time in my life, a pretty young woman was hitting on me - that is, until she asked the question: "Are you saved?"  In this context I had no clue what she was talking about, and I quickly deduced that my chances for a date would vanish quickly if I didn't answer the question correctly.  So, I finally responded, "Saved from what?"  Oh my, her eyes lit up and she went into a thirty minute exhortation on the merits of giving my life to Jesus Christ and being saved from the fires of hell.  When I could finally get a word in, and hoping that the possibility for a date might be back on the table I said, "Why yes, I'm baptized and confirmed, and I want to be an Episcopal Priest."  Apparently that was the wrong thing to say if I wanted a date, because the conversation ended with her saying, "Wonderful...OK God bless you."  With that, the young woman stood up and went over to another bench where another young man sat alone. She sat next to him and I could see his eyes light up as I thought, “Poor guy.”

Since then I've wrestled with that question - Saved from what?  We are saved from the fires of hell and more.  Theologically what this refers to is "substitutionary atonement;" that is, the doctrine that states that Jesus gave his life on the cross as a substitute for you and me, so that He would receive the wrath of God instead of us.  For our sins, we deserve God's wrath because God is a just God and justice requires punishment.  Jesus bore the punishment of God for our sins in our place.  Isaiah prophesied about this 700 years before Jesus was born: But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)  And St. Peter wrote about it in his first letter: He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24)  It is important to note that the purpose of Jesus' suffering was more than simply saving us from the fires of hell.  He suffered and died so that we might be healed and live lives that glorify God and honor Jesus' sacrifice.

The question that lies before us is: How do we respond to the love of Jesus, who received the just punishment due to you and me?  This week's Collect contains the answer to that question.  First, we ask God to give us an attitude of gratitude for Jesus' sacrifice - that we not ignore it or cheapen it or minimize it.  If it were not for Jesus' sacrifice and our acceptance of that grace, we would receive the punishment of God: eternal separation from Him - which is the very definition of hell.  Second, we look to the example of Jesus' life, as set forth in scripture, for the very model of how we are to live our lives as the adopted children of God.  

If we can, with God's help, develop grateful hearts and seek to live lives that reflect Jesus' life and love, we will both honor God and have wonderfully fulfilled lives.  And to that I say, AMEN!
Catechism Questions Six & Seven

6. What is the way of life?
The way of life is a life directed toward loving and responding to God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, in the power of Gods indwelling Holy Spirit.

7. What does God want to give you?

God wants to reconcile me to himself, to free me from captivity to sin, to fill me with knowledge of him, to make me a citizen of his kingdom, and to enable me to worship, serve, and glorify him now and forever.

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