Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Saints and salvation: it all seems to go together, doesn’t it? It is this feast of All Saints that I hope enables us to see more clearly “what is the breadth and length and depth and height” of our salvation (Ep. 3:18), that to be “saved” means far more than simply confessing our sins and getting to go to Heaven when we die. Generally speaking, this version of Christianity many of us once embraced boils it down to such. Inasmuch as it may be the case that Jesus came to save sinners and throw open the doors to Paradise, the salvation God offers us is wider, deeper, longer, and higher than that! Jesus came, He says, to give us Life and to give it more abundantly (Jn. 10:10).
But, what is the salvation of God? The salvation of God is a life lived under the Lordship of Jesus Christ the Son of God our Saviour. “’He who does not take his Cross and follow after Me,’” says Jesus, “’is not worthy of Me.’” We are to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Pp. 2:11). In the early days of the Church, that confession of faith – Jesus Christ is Lord (1 Cr. 12:3) – could mean only one thing: Caesar is not! Salvation entered into the dailiness of life. Salvation intersected and impacted every area of life lived each day, including but not limited to, politics. Caesar as Emperor was treated as divine, as a god. He was feared and worshipped.
The Christian, however, fears and worships only one God and one God only, and it isn’t Caesar or any other worldly power that seeks to assert itself over our lives! There are and can be no other gods, no secondary gods who stand in line behind the one true living God. “’I am the Lord thy God,’” declares the Lord Almighty to us, “’Thou shalt have no other gods before Me’” (Ex. 20:2, 3; Dt. 5:6, 7). “’I am the Lord, and there is none else; there is no God besides Me’” (Is. 43:9-14; 45:5-7). For us, it is simply impossible and inconceivable that the God of Israel is but one among the many!
The salvation of God, which is to say, the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven come among us and in us (Lk. 17:21), touches both soul as well as body – for the healing of soul and body, as we say. And this salvation – God’s Kingdom, God’s reigning Presence – must be lived out, fleshed out, in our lives. This is called discipleship. Our Lord invested three years forming His nascent Church from the dough of His disciples who had offered up their all as a sacrificial act of worship to follow Him as God and Master. He called them out of the world to be formed by Him and in Him and then He returned them to the world to be His yeast in the dough. He called them to salvation. He called them to a life lived in His Name and through Him. He called them – as He calls even us – to follow after Him. This is salvation. His Life and His Death, His Passion and His Resurrection, are ours to be embraced and lived out as a witness to the world still blind and still enslaved to the powers of sin, death, and Hell, a world that prefers darkness to light and denial to the Truth (Jn. 3:16-21)! Salvation begins with our confession of Jesus Christ as Lord, and it is the life lived, brethren, after we have confessed like the prodigal son, “’Father, I have sinned . . . .’” (Lk. 15:11-32).
Now that we have been saved, now that we are being saved, now that we will be saved, so what? Salvation from God to us is more than simply saying I’m sorry to God so that we can someday go to Heaven in the sweet bye and bye when we die. Salvation is not something far off, but it is here and now in Jesus Christ (Rm. 10:5-13). “’Today,’” Jesus tells the good thief, “’thou shalt be with Me in Paradise’” (Lk. 23:43) and to Zacchaeus He promises upon his repentance, “’This day is salvation come to this house, . . . For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost’” (Lk. 19:1-10). This salvation, this participation in the very Kingdom of God, is not something for just some of the saints – the crème de le crème – but for all the saints who have united themselves to Jesus Christ in the waters of Holy Baptism. “’Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father Who is in Heaven. But whosever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father Who is in Heaven.’” Let us, brethren, embrace the salvation God offers us now – today! (2 Cr. 6:2) – and live in its power and joy – today! – and not deprive ourselves of God’s saving grace and the gift of the Holy Spirit sent for our sanctification. Let us not relegate to the future when we close our eyes in death that which God in His eternal mercy gives us even now.
Salvation, brethren, is to take the Cross of Jesus Christ and apply it to ourselves and live the Cross. “’He that loveth father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me. . . . And he that taketh not his Cross and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me.’” Elsewhere St. Paul says, “But God forbid that I should boast except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Ga. 6:14). For “it is no longer I who live [because I have died with Christ in the waters of Baptism], but Christ lives in me [because I have been raised with Him in those same waters of salvation]” (Rm. 6:1-14; Ga. 2:20). What you and I may fail to comprehend or more fully appreciate is that we – the Church, the Body of Christ, His disciples called out of the world to be re-injected back into the world – we, who are being saved, sanctify the world with our presence because we are being sanctified by the Spirit of our God for the salvation of the world! The Church is the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cr. 3:16-17; 6:19-20). The Church is “the fullness of [Christ] Who fills all in all” (Ep. 1:22-23). The Church is the Presence of Christ God in the midst of the world and we who are of “’the Way, the Truth, and the Life’” speak to the world and act in it “’the Way, the Truth, and the Life’” by our very lives (Jn. 14:6). The Church is the trumpet of God announcing that the Kingdom of God is at hand! Repent! Believe! Confess! Return! And live!
But, Lord, what if we leave all things and follow Thee? What shall we have? This was Peter’s question to Jesus, wasn’t it? This may be our question, too. If it is, it certainly isn’t unreasonable. Jesus is asking us to love Him more than we love mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wife, husband, or children. To love them above Him, which is to say, to fear and obey them before we fear, worship, and obey Him, is to make ourselves unworthy of Him and unworthy of His Kingdom which is our salvation. And what does Jesus say? What does He promise? He assures His disciples that “’in the regeneration [Resurrection] when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of His glory,’” the disciples who loved Him above all others will be the new Patriarchs of the New Israel. “’And everyone that hath forsaken houses or brethren or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My Name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold and shall inherit Everlasting Life.’” In short, turning our eye back to Eden and God’s vision for Adam and Eve who failed to receive the blessing, we who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and follow after Him shall be “’fruitful and multiply’” (Gn. 1:28).
Through Jesus Christ, we gain again the original blessing of God which our first parents lost by their Fall. What we give up for the love of God as a sacrifice of worship will be returned to us “’a hundredfold’”! We gain the Church as our Mother, along with the Theotokos, God as our Father, and all others as our brethren in Jesus Christ. The “’first shall be last, and the last shall be first.’” And it starts now. For “blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
Mt. 10:32-33, 37-38; 19:27-30