Calvary Episcopal Church, Rockdale
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SERMON
7 Easter
May 20, 2007
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The Rev. Robert C. Granfeldt
Click here for today's Bible readings and Collect.
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As we come, this morning, to the close of the Easter Season we arrive, also, in our lessons, at the
closing lines of the Bible; which is to say (excluding a final, formal prayer of grace) the concluding
words of the last book of the Bible, the Book of the Revelation. As John of Patmos writes, in ending his
Book:
Amen. Come Lord Jesus.

Come Lord Jesus
- the great prayer of the Church from its very beginnings.

As one might guess, since I’ve made no secret of the problems I have with the Book of the Revelation, I’
m quite content to hear the Book’s closing (even though we’ll be visiting it again, in just two weeks, as
one of the Lessons on Trinity Sunday)!

Nevertheless, though the Book is difficult and troublesome, there are many things in this last book of
the Bible that do bear mention, and one of them can be connected to this brief plea that looks forward
to what is usually referred to as the Second Coming of Christ: the idea that when Christ comes to this
world, again, the “righteous” among us will be “saved,” and spared the torments of an eternity in hell!

And it’s there, as well, that our second lesson connects with our first!

Being saved is the concern of the jailer in the story from Acts!

Paul and his companions have gotten in trouble with the authorities for disrupting the civil order by
“advocating unlawful customs,” and they’ve been thrown in jail. In the middle of the night, the Lord
sends an earthquake to free them, and the jailer is distraught to the point of suicide when he realizes
what’s going to happen to him when his bosses find he’s let the prisoners escape. But they haven’t
escaped – they’ve stayed right where they were, as witness to God’s power – and when the jailer
realizes what’s happened, he begs Paul and the others to tell him what he must do to be saved.

And that’s when they tell him, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”

Believe!

That’s the operative word, here: believe! And it’s the problem word!

If you want to be saved (and for today, we’ll not worry about what “being saved” means) you have to
believe!

But what, really, does that mean: to believe?

Well, if you check your dictionary, you’ll probably find something like these as the primary definitions:
  1. To accept as true or real, as in:
Do you believe that news report?
  2. To credit with veracity: I believe what you say is true – is factual.
That is, in short, to believe is generally defined as accepting or trusting in the truth of a statement of
fact.

And that, indeed, is what you’ll hear from most religious teachers or preachers. If you are a Christian,
they’ll tell you, you must believe that this or that statement about Jesus is factual; you must believe that
these assertions of fact or those avowals about God are true.

And if you do not believe these statements and assertions about the Father or the Son are accurate,
true and factual, then you are not a “true believer,” and you are doomed for eternity – damned to suffer
in hell, forever!

Except that’s not what it’s about, at all!

The Lord God is so far beyond human experience, so far beyond human imagination that the mind
cannot begin to comprehend his power, his majesty, his glory.

And Jesus Christ, the incarnation of God in a man is beyond anything we puny human beings could so
much as fantasize!

Think for a moment: with all the bizarre imaginings of pagan believers the world over, and throughout
history, with all their fantastic gods, none ever imagined anything approaching the image of a
God-who-
is-love emptying himself of his Godhead and becoming incarnate in a particular, individual human being,
living a fully human life and then dieing a fully human death!

And to make the intellectual acceptance of the idea or notion of such a deity, or of all the theological
speculations that have been posited of that God, the determining factor between eternal salvation in a
heavenly paradise versus eternal damnation in a burning hell would be the greatest abomination
imaginable!

And to think that I am going to heaven because I believe the “proper” things about God, while you are
going to hell for ever, because you disagree with me, is simply beyond any reach of the moral
imagination!

And if the God we believe in were such a God as to enforce such things, then he would be an immoral
God, himself, because he would be in violation of his own eternal law: The law of love!

No!

Faith and belief are not about the truth of propositions concerning the nature, or attributes, or acts of
God! Rather the closest synonym we have in the English Language for the words “faith” and “belief” in
their most important meanings is actually the word “trust.”

To say that we believe in God, or that we have faith in God, is to say that we trust in God not to betray us
in the things he has promised us; to trust him to be as he has revealed himself to be. It is to trust God.

It is to hold that when the First Letter of John says, “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in
God, and God abides in him,” that statement is trustworthy, and that we can rely on God to be exactly
such a God: that we can trust God to
BE LOVE!

And it is to know that we can trust the God who is love not to consign us to a hell of eternal suffering,
even if we should fail to believe the proposition that God is love!

That has been a difficult lesson for the followers of Christ to accept, and through the ages Christians
have been incredibly hard on those who have disagreed with them about the “things” they believe and
say about God – hard to the point of burning at the stake those they’ve disagreed with; hard to the point
of going to war with them and killing them wholesale! But it’s impossible to believe that a God who is
love could desire those things; impossible to believe a God who is love would punish his people for
their imaginings, punish them for their misunderstandings.

What we believe about God is important, certainly. What we believe helps shape both who and what we
are and what we do – how we act. We ought  to be diligent in informing our beliefs about God. But we
need to do so in the knowledge that what you or I or anyone else believes about God takes a far second
place to the much more simple and pure act of simply trusting God: trusting God to be God, Trusting
God to be love; trusting God to love us, regardless of what we think!

In fact, I think a better answer for Paul to give the jailer who asked how to be saved would have been:
“trust in God – and be loved!” And that should be the final word of Scripture – and it is.