Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
Like most good Episcopalians, I subscribe to Forward Day by Day. A blogging colleague who is a good Catholic once told me that he would swipe copies of the devotional from a nearby Episcopal church, where he was friends with the priest. I can understand that. There are times when the daily readings are absolutely useless, but then, there are spurts when they are amazing. Yesterday’s was one of those truly remarkable bits, which was so simple, yet utterly profound.
Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus.
Acts 9:15. Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel.
“...God is not so grand that he does not work with individuals. There’s the story of Saul, to be renamed Paul, whom God made blind so that he might see.
But God is not so small, either, that individuals are the end of the story. Even the dramatic event in which Saul is blinded on his way to Damascus is not about Saul all by himself. Christ’s interest in Saul is that Saul has a purpose for others. Saul’s salvation is in Saul fulfilling his purpose for others.
Faith is not a self-centered love affair between any individual and God, as if there were no one else in the world. Faith begins with the love of God, or rather, with God’s love for the individual. It is never intended to end there. It must show forth in love for others. If it doesn’t, it is God’s love gone wrong by our failure to respond and serve.
Salvation begins with an experience of God, just as it did for Saul. But it is no salvation at all if it doesn’t lead to being an instrument of God’s love far beyond oneself…”
It’s so simple, but so life-changing. Salvation begins with an experience of God. I think what is so profound is the comment that ‘it is no salvation at all if it doesn’t lead to being an instrument of God’s love far beyond oneself’. Wow! Yes, there is salvation, basic salvation. But – what if it doesn’t lead to love? Is it really a transforming experience, or just a walk down the aisle during an alter call?