We wait in prayer, praying with the psalmist: “O Shepherd of Israel, . . . stir up your might, and come to save us.” We hear the word save quite often around church. What do we mean by it?
Some hear it as a question of who gets to go to heaven and, perhaps more darkly, as a question of who doesn’t get to go. I’m convinced that God cares about what happens to us after we die and that God offers far more mercy than we allow ourselves to expect. Nevertheless, if we understand the focus of God’s saving work to be primarily this set of questions, then our faith is rather lackluster and not very biblical. Such a narrow focus would leave us with little to do after our justification by grace. But God’s saving work addresses so much more. The Shepherd of Israel loves the world—not the thought of its coming to an end and our escaping from it. So salvation and restoration of creation go together and, indeed, are one and the same. We pray, “Restore us, O God.” God is accomplishing that work right now in our midst, and we get to be part of it.
We confess our sins, and God begins saving us from our self-centered preoccupations. Then we begin looking at our neighborhood in a more discerning way. We pray for the hungry and the homeless; God nudges us as we pray, encouraging us to become part of the solution. We end our silence against domestic abuse, first having the courage to name the problem in our public prayers and then through support of the local battered women’s shelter. Our prayer doesn’t bring the reign of God in its fullness, but it contributes to giving the world a little foretaste of it. We wait for God’s final salvation by inching forward, one small grace-filled step after another.
Come, Lord Jesus. Show us little glimpses of your grace and mercy and perhaps some big ones every now and then. Amen.
We are close to the reality of Jesus, in whom we have invested so much of our life and faith. Jesus is larger than life, shattering all the categories of conventional religious recognition. On the one hand, it is asserted that this is the “Son of David,” in continuity with the old dynasty and the old prom- ises. On the other hand, this is one “from the Holy Spirit,” not at all derived from the human dynasty. This twofold way of speak- ing about Jesus does not re ect vacillation or confusion in the community. Rather, it is an awareness that many things must be said about Jesus, because no single claim says enough.
• Read Isaiah 7:10-16. How and when has God saved you in unexpected ways?
• Read Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19. What grace- lled steps have you taken to bring salvation and restoration to the world?
• Read Romans 1:1-7. The author suggests adding a chair to your feasting table. Whom will you invite to ll it?
• Read Matthew 1:18-25. When has God meddled in your life? What was the outcome?
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