Pentecost +15

As you can probably feel in the nighttime air, we are in the midst of the changing of seasons.  It will officially be autumn on Monday, of course, but we’re already in it, right?  Church School is starting up, the choir will be back with us, we’ll bless some animals pretty soon.  Football is on, pumpkin spice lattes have been spotted all over town, and I actually wore full—length pants the other day, an anomaly even in winter, though I think we can be reasonably certain that Suzanne Wheelock stuck to shorts.

It’s also been wedding season around here.  Friday was my third wedding in four weeks, and we’ve got more coming.  Weddings are great for all kinds of reasons, but one in particular is that, as the service itself reminds us, that marriage signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church.  And so, in the economy of the Kingdom of God, salvation, going to heaven, looks more like a marriage, a wedding feast, than it does, say, something transactional.  That’s why our second reading from Paul’s letter to Timothy, I think, should be added to the readings for weddings.

In his letter, “Paul says it is the will of God that every human being be saved.  But it is part of Christian doctrine that not all human beings are saved.  Not all human beings go to heaven when they die.  How could it be that an omnipotent God wills something, and yet it doesn’t happen?

“Here we need to remember that heaven is like a marriage.

“For a human person to be in heaven is for her to be united in love to God.  Now, union between God and a human person requires that each have a mind and a will, in order for there to be two to unite together.  If God’s mind and will are the only ones present, then whatever there may be, it isn’t union between God and another person.

“In consequence, God cannot bring about union all by himself.  God can do all the work needed for union.  He can offer the grace necessary for it as a gift.  But if the will of a human person rejects that grace and refuses God, then even an omnipotent God can’t get union with that person.  God cannot succeed in giving grace if a human person chooses to reject it.”[1]

So what does that look like in real life?  Well, when you reject God’s grace, it’s difficult to be full of grace to others.  And so it looks like dissention and betrayal.  Purposefully ignoring the other, especially the poor.  Seeing people who are different than you as unwanted or as a threat.  It looks like choosing the lesser in all things, because you always choose yourself.  In our religious leaders, as Paul wrote, it looks like preaching and teaching things you know to be false, in order to corrupt and mislead, often to your own benefit, or in ignoring your duties altogether.

On the flip side, what does it look like to accept God’s grace?  Well, it looks like unity overcoming estrangement.  It looks like having joy even in the toughest of times.  It looks like freedom, the freedom of not having to be afraid of being engaged in real life, or having to be afraid of death.  It looks like seeing the other not only as they really are, but as Jesus sees them, and seeing Jesus within them.  Loving each other as God love us.  But most of all, I think that living within the grace of God looks like hope; the hope of heaven, of course, but also the hope, even the expectation, that what was lost can be found and what was old can be made new; the hope that nothing can separate us from the love of God, nothing can keep us from the marriage feast that is heaven.

It is God’s will that every person be saved, saved from eternal disunion from God, certainly, but also saved from an earthly life devoid of love and hope and joy.  God’s grace abounds: it is free and always there to be received.  May it be with you, and remain in you, always.

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