Where can I find Salvation?

One thing about heaven is that you don’t have to go some place else to find it or to be there.  For the Kingdom of heaven is within you (Luke 17:21). 

“The ‘divine Ephraim’ says, ‘How can you say that we cannot be saved in the midst of the world?  If you wish I will tell you briefly:  it is not the place that saves, but a heart and will turned towards God.  Adam in paradise, and in great tranquility, drowned, while Lot among the Sodomites, as it were on the waves of the sea, was saved.  Saul in his royal palace lost this life and the next, while Job sitting among the ashes amidst great misfortunes, received the crown of the just.'”     (Ford, David and Mary, Marriage As A Path to Holiness:  Lives of Married Saints, pg xliii)

Possessions and the Possessed

“All possessions, not only the large ones, are dangerous, in so far as man learns to rely upon what is, by its very nature something passing and unreal.  (St John) Chrysostom is very evangelical at this point.  Treasures must be gathered in heaven, not on earth, and all earthly treasures are unreal and doomed to corruption. […]  Possessions can be justified only by their use:  feed the hungry, help the poor, and give everything to the needy. […]  Chrysostom goes so far as to denounce even the splendour of the temples.  “The Church”, he says, “is a triumphant company of angels, and not a shop of silversmith.  The Church claims human souls, and only for the sake of the souls does God accept any other gifts.  The cup which Christ offered to the disciples at the Last Supper was not made of gold.  Yet it was precious above all measure.  If you want to honor Christ, do it when you see Him naked, in the person of the poor.  No use, if you bring silk and precious metals to the temple, and leave Christ to suffer cold and nakedness outside.  No use, if the temple is full of golden vessels, but Christ Himself is starving.  You make golden chalices, but fail to offer cups of cold water to the needy.  Christ, as a homeless stranger, is wandering around and begging, and instead of receiving Him, you make decorations.”  (Florovsky, Georges, Aspects of Church History, Volume IV, Collected Works)

Sunday after the Elevation of the Cross 2008

The context for my comments on this the Sunday after the Feast of the Elevation of the Cross, 2008:   The remnant of Hurricane Ike ripped through the Dayton area causing massive damage and power outages.  One week after the storm passed through numerous people are still without power.  This past week another type of hurricane swept across America – a banking/financial crisis whose long term impact is probably going to be greater than that of Hurricane Ike.

(Galatians 2:16-20)    We know that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.

Though this text is usually used in the Protestant-Catholic debate about works vs. faith, Americans should think about this text in terms of how they understand themselves.  Americans often feel we are a righteous country and our deeds prove our righteousness.   St. Paul says it is not our works that will save us.   We are not made righteous by the works we do, nor do we earn God’s favor in this way – not even as Americans.  God sends sunshine and rain to the good and to the evil, and all benefit from His generous goodness.  We don’t earn His favor.  God so loved the world, not just the United States, that His sent His Son to save the world.  Americans are often tempted to think that because we are righteous God sends His grace on us – but God’s grace, His favor, is unearned.  It is a free gift.   The question is not how good and righteous we are, but whether our faith in God is such that He justifies us.  We are not justified by our logic, we are justified by God’s saving action which He has offered to the world.    If God has shed His grace on us – this is a cause for humble thanksgiving, not for arrogant self congratulations!

(Mark 8:34-9:1)    [34] He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. [35] For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.

The very teaching of Christ which distinguishes Christians from others is the willingness to practice self denial in order to follow Christ.  We do not need electricity to be Christian.  We do not need economic prosperity to be a Christian.    We can do everything we need to do as Christians and to be Christians without electric power and without a strong economy.  With St. Paul we know how to live in times of great abundance and in times of need.  We are to be people of gracious thanksgiving, faith and prayer, not just when things are going well, but at all times.  No storm of any kind – whether natural or manmade – should be able to drive away our faith in God.  For if we value prosperity and electricity more than we value God, if we cannot practice self denial, then we cannot be Christian.

 [36] For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? [37] Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?

This verse really speaks to our current banking/financial crisis in America.  People have thought they can gain the world, greed abounds everywhere, but they lose their souls and do not realize they have lost something infinitely more valuable than the millions they pocketed.  Insatiable greed gets euphemized as “profit” which we see as always a good.  But it is not what Christ who spoke about denying one’s self would have emphasized.   The rich young man went away from Christ saddened when Christ told him to give away his prized positions to the poor.

[38] Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Jesus spoke against unbridled greed, and some are embarrassed by his words to love our enemies and to give expecting nothing in return.  Some are embarrassed to take up the cross and follow Him.   We are embarrassed that it is not wealth and prosperity which make us Christians, and that we can give thanks to God even in times of need.   Embarrassed because we love our prosperity, and think it is what is truly important and what we should be defending at all costs.  But it is not prosperity which makes us godly, god protected, or loved by God.   It is our faithfulness to God in any and every condition which reveals our hearts.