Rev’d Jonathan Gale
We all want to be saved. Of course if we are blind to danger we won’t be any the wiser but if our eyes are open to danger we will call out for help.
But depending on where we are when we are in danger and who is in earshot, the response to our calls for help might vary.
Poor Joseph didn’t stand much chance. His brothers say this:
Gen 42: 21 They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us.”
So Joseph pleaded with his brothers but they didn’t listen to him. His cries fell on deaf ears and he was sold as a slave and taken to Egypt.
If you look to the wrong people for help, you’re certainly not going to get it. In fact things can go from bad to worse.
We may have looked to the wrong people or wrong activities to find a solution to our problems. We all have a sense of what that means.
It was Blaise Pascal who wrote of what has become known as the God-shaped gap in our lives. He said, “this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”
The phrase, “looking in all the wrong places” is all too familiar to us.
In our Gospel reading Peter is saved from drowning because he happens to have Jesus right in front of him.
Noticing the strong wind,* he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’
The disciples have this all play out in front of them and we read
33And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’
They witness an act of salvation and come up with a statement of faith, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’
We don’t have the same privilege, because we can’t see the Lord with our physical eyes.
That being the case, how does salvation work for someone today, i.e. well after the time that Jesus walked the dusty roads of Palestine?
Well, much as it did for the Romans to whom Paul was writing.
The passage we read from Paul’s letter to the Romans means a great deal to me. In January 1974, after I had spent a year in the army, I was struggling to believe that I had faith, and I knew faith was absolutely necessary for salvation. Each day I would close the door to my room and pray, but I felt nothing. It was as though the ceiling were made of brass.
And then one day I was reading this passage in the New English Bible – and this is a picture of the exact page I was reading:
And how could they invoke one in whom they had no faith? In other words, “You’re calling on God. You must therefore have faith!”
As I read that, God revealed himself to me. I had the most moving sense of being filled with pure love, like liquid golden light, and I simply knew that I had faith and that I was embraced by God.
But what I was experiencing was one part of the process. Paul says, because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.
All very well but even that is only part of the process.
Paul gives the whole package at the end of the passage – but he gives it in reverse. What does he say?
13For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
14 But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? 15And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’
So the order is this:
Vs 15b – It’s about the Good News that Jesus has died and risen again for our salvation
Vs 15a – someone is sent to proclaim the Good News
Vs 14c – the Good News is heard
Vs 14b – the Good news is believed
Vs 14a – it is responded to by someone calling upon God
Vs 13 – those who call on the Lord are saved
We always need something to engender faith.
For the disciples in the boat it was Jesus walking on the water and rescuing Peter in front of their eyes. After that they proclaim ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’
For us it is the Good News in the Scriptures to which we respond by calling upon God. In doing so it dawns on us that we are exercising faith, faith that is associated with salvation. In that we proclaim ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’
Poor Joseph was looking in the wrong place. No human can save us.
Peter in Acts 4 tells the ruling council This Jesus is
“the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.”
There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.’
Only in Jesus is salvation found.
Speaking to Thomas in John 14 Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Are you sure of your salvation? It’s amazing how many people aren’t.
I’m going to conclude in a prayer now and if you are unsure about whether you are saved or not, I suggest you quietly (not out loud) join in this prayer.
Let us pray:
O God, we have all fallen short of the glory of God and I admit my uncertainty about my salvation and my culpability before you.
I thank you for the salvation that is in Jesus.
I call upon you: save me now for I believe in you and receive you as both the saving Son of God and my Lord.
Readings for today:
- Genesis 37: 1 – 4, 12 – 28
- Romans 10: 5 – 15
- Matthew 14: 22 – 33
Ivan Aivazovsky‘s painting ”Walking on Water”