DiscipleChurch Family and Friends:
This Sunday in DiscipleChurch, I intend to complete a sermon I started two weeks ago, the last time I preached.
We will continue on our way through the Acts of the Apostles. I am persuaded that the two key verses from the entire work are Acts 1.8 (“But you will receive power when my spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”) and Acts 2.21 (Then, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”).
Some sermons are comforting and reassuring and easy and feel good. Kind of in the “God is really nice so we are called to be really nice, too. No, people, even nicer than that” and “Isn’t God good! Isn’t the music great! Isn’t the building nice! Aren’t you wonderful for all you contribute!”
This won’t be one of those sermons.
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” That is a promise made initially by the prophet Joel in Joel 2.32 for a time to come, and then reaffirmed and reapplied by Paul in Romans 10.13 as having come true, and then affirmed again by Luke in Acts, also for the time that arrived with the outpouring of the Spirit. What Joel wrote would come true “in those days,” Paul and Luke wrote had indeed come true with Jesus’ resurrection. Joel wrote about something that would happen in the future. Paul and Luke wrote, essentially, “The future is now. The promise has come true.” “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord is saved” now.
Is this promise true in your experience — that everyone who calls on the name is saved? Is it true in your observation of the lives of others or in what you read in the newspapers?
In the Methodist Justice Ministry, we encounter daily people who call on the name of the Lord to be saved from addiction and poverty and crime and helplessness and the irresponsibility of parents and the violence of their partners and the unfair, utterly random events of creation: like who their parents are, or what class or race or neighborhood they were born into, or the genetics of their body. Yet despite their fervent prayers, they seem to remain trapped in and by them.
The claim of truth of this scripture is important to the sovereignty and power of God, and to our relationship with God. Prayers for rescue, to be saved on earth from earthly plights like illness and violence and oppression and injustice and slander, are central to the Psalms and in the prophets. And Jesus tells us to pray daily to God to “deliver us from evil.” This scripture from Joel and Romans and Acts promises that if we do so pray, we will indeed be delivered.
Really? That may be the way that it works in our comfortable neighborhoods. But it’s not the way it seems to work in the neighborhood of our clients IN THIS VERY COUNTY. Or in the Ukraine. Or in West Africa. Or in Central America. Or in…….
So maybe we need to consider (1) what we are saved from, and (2) how we are saved and (3) who is to do the saving. I mean, unless it doesn’t matter to us if the scripture, and the promise, are true and reliable. And I tell you now, brothers and sisters, if I were to conclude that this promise is not true and reliable, I’m out of worship services, no matter how grand the music and posh the building.. I’d continue the Justice Ministry trying to fulfill promises and save people without God’s help. But if the scripture is not true and reliable, I just don’t think I’d be any good at it alone. This really matters to me. And, I suspect, to you.
Please join us for worship starting at 7:20 in Wesley Hall for our homeless breakfast (bring some food to share), and then for our chapel service of word, song, prayer and communion at 8:30 in Leonard Chapel, and then for our prayer and formation group at 9:30.
Come to be saved…and to save.