Jeremiah 31: 31-34 Zion Lutheran Church
Psalm 46 Christ the King Sunday
Romans 3: 19-28 Year A
John 8: 31-36 October 18, 2022
Save Us. I will.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This past week, Pastor Diane and I were at the FCTE retreat for pastors and deacons who are within their first 3 years of ministry. It doesn’t feel like all that long ago that we were sitting in those seats at newly ordained pastors and now we are their mentors. It was a holy thing to hear their struggles me their joys, their concerns and their hopes. It reminded me of how I use to feel when I was first ordained.
It was month 2 of my ministry at Mt. Joy-St. Paul Parish. I started the same week as the one congregation had just finished its 2 day VBS program called Giggle Camp. They were recapping and reviewing the experience with the writer and producer of the curriculum. I had no idea what I was doing. Like looking back, I knew theology. I knew how to write academic papers and study just enough to pass a class. I was very green and while I had a lot ideas, many of them were untested and many of them would fail in the coming years. Yet, all I kept hearing was how great it was to be so young! The woman from Eagles Wings affirmed that belief. "You guys at Mt. Joys are so blessed to have such a young pastor..." I remember being polite and thanking her for the compliment but I was unsure how being young and in experience was such a good thing. Like did she think because i was young i would be able to relate young people?
Clearly, she didn't know what I did on Friday nights in High School. I stayed in my room, took a part my computer, and would try to make it do things that it was not suppose to do. I didn't know how to hang out with youth. I still don't know how to relate to them. I was not the cool kid. I was the guy who kept to himself, served on the school paper, hung out with the track team (because my newspaper advisor was also the coach so I kinda had to in order to get time with him). When I wasn't being nerdy, I was in Boy Scouts or at church helping my dad. I never went to a party in High School. I didn't really go to any parties in college because I was usually working the graveyard shift at the hospital or because I lived at home with my parents to save money. Was my youth the reason I was such a treasured pastor? Because the congregation and parish had a lot of things that needed attention: declining attendance, depopulation of the area, buildings that were deteriorating, and very little financial resources. What qualified me to be the pastor they needed? Yes, I had a letter of call to the congregation that said I was the duly called and elected pastor but nobody ever mentioned that...all they ever talked about was my youth—my youthful inexperience. What they needed was someone with some experience, not my greenness.
yet, the congregation kept saying that they needed to be saved. They were looking for a savior. And you know, I tried to be their savior and I failed to save them. It is so human for us to hear, "help me, save me." and we immediately think we need to come to the rescue. And I think that is a good response if someone falls into a well or gets injured. We should jump in those kind of moments and render aid. But in this situation at MJSP and at countless other congregations in our world today, when people cry out for salvation, to be saved, especially in a Christian setting, I think we need to be careful about how we respond.
If you think the church needs to be saved, I hate to tell you this but she already has been saved. It happened 2000 years ago on the cross. The churches doesn't need to be saved. The world doesn't need to be saved...
And Yet, it doesn’t feel like it, right? We are still crying out for salvation. We just got down with an election cycle where many people cried out, “Save us” and many tried to answer that call by saying "Only I can save you." Every offramp, onramp, street corner, billboard, and tv channel, had signs and politicians saying, "I can save you." Yet, how many times in History have our elected leaders failed us? I am a political idealist. I watched West Wing as a child and had dreams of going to law school and becoming Sam Seaborn where I would write speeches for the president. I believe the best days for America are still ahead of us, not behind us. Yet, I am keenly aware that every couple of years, the people of America, of world, continue to be like St. Dysmas on the cross and cry out to be saved. They cry in pain and agony. They cry out in fear and hopelessness. They cry out for salvation and beg for salvation. But instead of turning to Jesus, we grab onto someone else. And I am not saying that all politicians are out to get us, but we often treat them like they are Jesus. But even the best politicians make mistakes and ultimately fail at being the kind of savior that the people need. Only Jesus has a perfect track record.
It is this record that we have pondered over the last 52 weeks of Church. In each season of the church year, we ourselves have cried out for salvation and in each season, God has replied by reminding us that answer to our cries is Jesus .
In Advent, we cried out, “Save us” and God replied by telling us that God would not abandon any of us—not through times of war, famine, terror—in the end, God will prevail.
In Christmas, we cried out, “Save us” and God replied by sending us a king born in the most humble of places on earth in a forgotten corner of globe, to two young people who had been chosen by God to raise his son.
In Epiphany, we cried out, “Save us” and God replied by reminding us of the time sorcerers, fortune tellers, outsiders came and paid homage to the king while the insider, the supposed king of Israel tried to kill him.
In Lent, we cried out, “Save us” and God replied by stretching out his arms on a cross and forgiving those who hurt him.
In Easter, we cried out, “Save us” and God replied by granting resurrection to Jesus and promising us a similar hope would come to us through the waters of baptism.
In Pentecost, we cried out, “Save us” and God replied by sending us his Holy Spirit to lead and guide the church, God’ holy habitation here on earth, ever since.
So on this Christ the King, I think we to be reminded of this important message: We gotta stop saying that our young pastors will save us. We gotta stop staying our kids will save us. We gotta stop saying that the synod will save us. We gotta stop saying that this program or that program will save us. We gotta stop saying that this stewardship drive will save us. Instead, we need to start saying AND believing that we are already saved by a king who still bears the wounds of salvation. We gotta put out trust in that king as our one and only savior. And we gotta believe that when We cry out, “save us.” Jesus responds, “I will.” Because Jesus is our savior—JESUS IS THE KING.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.