Pioneer of our Salvation

October 7, 2018


Living here in Norway these past years has forced me to ponder upon the ways that I speak about and act in regards to my faith and its understanding in the world.

What I mean is that many of the Norwegians, outside of our church, that I have come to know on a deeper level have very interesting, and often wrong insights into what it means to be a Christian, and to live as a Christian.

Here in Norway, many of the people my age and younger whom I have had in-depth conversations with, have never been regular church attenders, and neither have their parents, so, their understanding of what a Christian life is like, is lacking.  Yes, of course they might have been to a baptism, confirmation, wedding or burial, and perhaps many, but, they have only looked at them as archaic rites or traditional ceremonies, not as acts of faith, or worship.  Most of these individuals with whom I have spoken on a deeper level, concerning Christianity, are surprised that I don’t view my faith simply as tradition, or as centered upon rituals that help me to achieve oneness with God.  They are even more surprised that I give no creedence to the idea that God expects perfection from humans, or that we Christians are trying to live perfect lives, for I think that is the greatest misconception in regards to Christianity, this idea that the church is filled with people whom think they are perfect, or near perfect.

In the U.S. I have encountered the same issue, but in a different way.  In the U.S. many people have grown up in church, or at least have attended church with a grandparent, a friend, or in some way has a more defined context of what Christianity is all about.  Also, because there are so many different types of churches, meaning denominations, theologies and styles of worship, people know that they have to be more careful in their comparisons or opinions because Christian can differ so much, and making a casual comment about ‘church’ might not apply across the board.

Yet, there are many Americans, frankly, even Christians whom I have spoken to, who are surprised when I comment that God is not expecting perfection from us!

The other interesting point that surprises both Norwegians and Americans, and probably most peoples of the world, is that Christianity does not promise us riches or power, health or wealth.  Many people believes it does, but it does not.  Rather, what Jesus promises us is himself, his presence with us no matter what we encounter during our lives and beyond.  Also, Jesus does not promise the faithful a life without hardships or pain. This point surprises a lot of people too!

I share all of this today, because the writer of Hebrews, in his sermon to his readers, for that is what Hebrews is…a sermon, he highlights this point, again and again.

The writer’s audience, or better yet, congregation have been drifting away from the gospel message in the year’s since they first heard and believed.  At the time of his writing, the writer sees that they are neglecting their faith, and so their salvation, because following Jesus is not as easy as they thought it would be.

Not much has changed, has it?  Living out our Christian faith is still not easy, because it is not simply religion, but rather relationship with the divine.  There are not simple, easy steps, that then result in human righteousness, or a divine gift of wealth or health.

Let me try and explain what I mean.

My family and I just returned on Friday evening from a short høstferie holiday to Southwest Turkey.  We worshiped at St. Paul Union Church in the city of Antalya, a sister AICEME congregation, to whom we brought greetings.  We visited the ancient ruins of Perge, and took a few days down the coast in Cirali.  It was a good trip, and for me, an eye-opening one.

Now, so you understand, I have never traveled to an Islamic nation before, and so have never had the chance to hear the Muezzin’s call to prayer, five times each day.  Not speaking Arabic I could not understand what was being so beautifully sung out, but I know it was the Adhan, calling the Islamic faithful to prayer, to salat.  Salat, or daily prayer is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.  In fact the Prophet Muhammed called the five daily salat, especially the Friday noon prayer, as essential to salvation.

As, I heard the Adhan, I found myself thinking that it might be nice to have my faith set out in such a rigid and communal way, that dictated to me what is required for my faith.  And yes, I know that there are, and have been times and communities throughout the years of Christianity that have set out a rigid and communal way that dictated to their members, or to the masses what was, or is, required of a Christian.  Monasteries and convents are such communities, and in the early Reformation, Geneva, Switzerland led by John Calvin was an attempt to bring Christian dictates to the masses.

Each attempt at creating community that forces adherence to faith through rules and dictates, if involuntary goes against whom Jesus calls us to be.  We cannot set up steps, rules, or dictates to create a way to salvation.  We do not achieve our salvation, for Jesus does that, all we can do is believe, and live in that faith.

In Hebrews we read, “but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. 10 It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11 For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.”

In other words, Jesus, in his sufferings is the one who gives to us, by grace, salvation.  We can’t achieve it.  We can’t achieve wealth or health either.  We can’t achieve anything to make ourselves righteous or sanctified, Jesus does it all for us.

So, Christianity should be easy, we should be celebrating and living an easy life then, right?  Since salvation and righteousness is achieved by Jesus’ suffering and given to us because Jesus loves us, what do we have to worry about?  Christianity should be easy, don’t you think?

Well, no.  Jesus calls us to live differently.  Jesus calls us to come to him like children, full of faith and ready to follow.  Like little children who believe that he knows best.

So, when we are taught to, “turn the other cheek”  to our enemy, we turn it. Or, when we are commanded to, “love your enemy,” you love her.  Or, when Jesus describes the poor as blessed, we believe him and don’t explain it away by saying, “Yes, but if they worked harder.”

You see, receiving salvation isn’t the hard part of Christianity, that’s all on Jesus.  What is hard is living and giving the reality of Jesus’ love and forgiveness out into the world.  The world doesn’t like it, because it has a hard time understanding it, for it is so foreign.  This is why people do not understand Christianity, because it goes against the grain of how the world works.  They do not understand a faith that is about the receiving and giving of God’s love, and not about achievement.

As Christians are misunderstood, and even as we misunderstand at times what Jesus is teaching us, we are tested, and sometimes we suffer.  Be it ridicule or true persecution, it can test our faith and our way of life.

At the end of Hebrews, chapter two it reads, “Because he (Jesus) himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.”

This is the importance of what we learn here this morning, from Hebrews.  Christianity is not always easy, for how we live our lives is not by dictates or rules, but in loving relationships of forgiveness and selflessness.

It is also not always fun to follow Christ, for our rewards our riches are not always tangible here on earth, for again, we find them in relationship, not necessarily in earthly health or wealth.

Yet, as we persevere we believe and know that Jesus, who makes us holy, who sanctifies us, never turns his back upon us, but rather is proud to call us his own.  He is not ashamed of us when we stumble, or fall, but rather forgives us and lovingly sets us back upon our feet and calls us to follow and believe, to follow and to love, as he has loved us.

It is in the believing, and the following, the forgiving and the loving that our hearts and lives are awakened to the joys of faith, which are a loving relationship with our God, and loving relationships with one another, the sources of true and full happiness.


Bible References

  • Hebrews 1:1 - 4
  • Hebrews 2:5 - 12
  • Mark 10:2 - 16



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