Sorry about the delay -- The sermon from Aug. 5th was eaten in the computer, so I'm posting a long-ago model.
When we look at how God’s work redefines things, one of the ones we ought to dig into the deepest is probably the idea of salvation.
We tend to see salvation as an event. Of course, that’s how we usually talk about being saved. Something threatened me, but I was saved from it, which means it doesn’t threaten me any more.
But salvation in a spiritual sense doesn’t work so well if we see it only as an event. It makes things easier to deal with, maybe, since we can put a checkmark by the “saved” category in our lives and go on about our business.
Sometimes the Bible talks about salvation that way. And sometimes it talks about it a different way.
Paul does that here. He calls the foolishness of the gospel good news for those who are being saved. We use verbs that way when we talk about ongoing things, not once-and-done-with things.
Our language can help us – we Christians talk about being “born again,” so think about how different each one of us is now from when we were born. We walk upright. We get our own food. We shriek less.
So wouldn’t we progress in our life of faith? Wouldn’t we grow up?
We say God wants to restore the full relationship we were made to have with him and renew his image, imprinted on us from before our birth. Sure, that has to start somewhere, but like our growth continues after our birth, our relationship with God continues after our salvation. We are being saved – we’re living the lives God wants saved people to live.
Think about it as like the difference between “being alive” or existing and “living.” Many things are alive, from little one-celled critters to the giant whales in the ocean. They do what they need to do to survive. They eat. They reproduce. They fight off things that try to eat them, or they don’t, and then they stop being alive.
But not too many seem to have a concept of living as an action verb. In their own limited ways, I think some animals get that. Dogs, for example, when they find an open field where they can run forever and not have to worry about fences or leashes or slow-footed humans. Chimpanzees, maybe, when they get together and see what they can do to make the humans point and laugh. Or dolphins, who will jump and play in the wake of a ship for no reason researchers have ever figured out.
Human beings, though, are the only creatures we know who can fully understand the difference. And so Jesus invites us to live saved and not just exist that way.
Picture a relationship with God that said, “Well, you used to be headed for hell, but now you’re not. But that’s about it, so toddle along now.” That’s not for me. I want a relationship with God that continues to make a difference in every moment, every aspect of my life.
When God formed human beings, they didn’t have life until he breathed it into them. Then he did, and we became living beings. The Hebrew word for living beings is nephesh. It literally translates “bundle of appetites,” and if you want to, you can picture it like a nest full of baby birds when mom shows up. We became a living bundle of appetites and desires, beings who want to do and experience and live.
Our sin prompts us to try to satisfy those appetites in ways that prove harmful to us, and separate us from God as well as the true self God wants us to be. In Jesus, God he made it possible once more for us to turn our bundle of appetites towards him, and to live as he had always designed us to do.
And that sounds like good news to me.