One of the first expressions I remember in my early church years was, “Jesus Saves.” There was even a song sung called, “Jesus Saves!”
“We have heard the joyful sound: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Spread the tidings all around: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Bear the news to every land, climb the mountains, cross the waves;
Onward! ’tis our Lord’s command; Jesus saves! Jesus saves!”
What does it mean, however? Saves us from what? Primarily I remember I would be saved from punishment for my sinful nature. And be permitted to enter a place called “heaven” after I died. It could mean more during our early lives. I could be saved from worries, my trials and tribulations, things like finding a job, recovering from losing a job, dealing with my eventual death or with deaths of loved ones. But how does Jesus save us? How does he turn fears and tears to joy, losses into gains?
The name “Jesus” is mostly a symbol. Jesus symbolizes to us in the Christian faith or tradition God’s presence. Jesus could be another name for Holy Spirit. Jesus is a name representing our link to God, the one who supposedly created us and all there is.
What does calling upon God in the name of Jesus? How does it save and heal? How does it save from worry, grief, and the constant fear of losing, of deep loneliness?
I refer to the first lesson in today’s service. Isaiah 49:1 reads, “The LORD called me before I was born, when I was in my mother’s womb he named me.” Thus, we have always been known as part of God, beyond limitations of time. Our actual identities are not mortal bodies, liable to wear, tear and loss. We can grow to see our identities as Spirit, connected in One Spirit with the God of the universe. Spirit is everywhere, unbound by time or place. Spirit is in every moment we breathe, think and move about. It is a basic tenant to spiritual beliefs. We are not bound by a mortal body but as Spirit, we are united in one with all.
In spirit timelessness, there is no world or planets or physical universe. Spirit is beyond that. The world and universe we see and peer at through microscopes and telescopes is temporary, ephemeral. Some thus say, “It isn’t real. It is an illusion of reality.” That seems quite scary. For if I am not my body, I may feel afraid! Who am I? But consider, who are you? Are you really your body? Which one? If we had our choice, we’d probably chose the one which was the most healthy, strong, and confident. The younger version! In our short time-bound lives, we were once suckling babies, small children, adolescents, young adults, and parents, grandparents, retired, old, frail and near the end! We’d like to keep our young version, like the once new car we had but now is rusty with faded paint! Yet throughout all these changes in time, in body form, we remained the same “I Self.” Note: we always talk about our bodies from the observer viewpoint. We say, “My arm, my eye, my head, my body, my feet, my stomach.” It’s always body parts identified body in the “third person,” as the observer.
In the gospel of John, we read Jesus telling his disciples, “Unless you drink my blood and eat my body, you have no part of me!” His disciples, of course, were shocked. How could they eat and drink his body like a bunch of hungry cannibals? But Jesus explained, “The Words that I speak to you are spirit and life! It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless.” (John 6:63)
So, the first step in being “saved” is to understand your Higher Self is not of this world. As we read from 1 John, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desires are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever!” (1 John 2:15-17)
One of the earliest songs I heard in the church was called, “This World is Not My Home,” made famous by Jim Reeves back in the 1950’s.
“This world is not my home I’m just a-passin’ through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”
So, the first step in finding healing through Jesus is to consider thinking what millions have found: “We are not our bodies, we are immortal Spirit, One with God!”
The second way “Jesus Saves” is the acceptance that all our sins and mistakes have been forgiven! In John’s Gospel, chapter 1, verse 9, John the Baptist declared when seeing Jesus, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” Or, there is no reality called sin. Sin is simply part of the errors we make while living in mortal bodies. Sin is “missing the mark,” or the inability to make perfect judgment. In the eyes of Eternity or Spirit, “sin doesn’t count!” There is no sin. How is this possible?
Again, it in understanding how we see ourselves in a new way. In this earthy, linear way of thinking and living, we have bodies. We are “stuck with them” in time and space. Yet in another view, another choice of seeing, we understand the body and mind judgments as filled with errors or sins, but they don’t mean anything in Eternity!
Early Christians understood this as “an awareness,” or understanding of the duality of our existence in a physical, earth revolving, time based, light and dark world. “The Kingdom is within you!” Jesus taught. Yes, we all make mistakes in our identities. We forget, or may even deny them, but that’s okay. If you enjoy yourself and are having lots of fun and success in life, I have nothing to say to you. But times suddenly seem lonely, sad, or empty to you, when parents, children and friends die, or you know you are close to it, you might want to consider another option, the one the scriptures offer!
I think of us as Prodigal Sons. We grew up and one day said “Good bye to our parents” and struck out on our own. For a while it was a wonderful time; we had a ball! But then, life fell apart. It happened to the prodigal son. Losing his money, self-respect and confidence, he finally came to himself and thought, “Why don’t I just go back home and try again with my father. I’ll be very contrite and tell him how sorry I am for messing up!” So, he did and when he got back home, his father welcomed him! He ever set up a great party to celebrate and let all by-gones be gone!
Fr. John Merganhagen, a friend of mine with whom I did a few retreats, once told participants, “let all your sins go! Don’t dwell on them.” Then he said, “I can see a picture of God sitting some evening listening to all ours sins of commission and omission. Finally, God takes a big yawn and says, “Ok, that’s enough! I’m tired now. Go to bed in peace. I will always love you as my own!”
Last, be patient with your learning process. We are only here a few years but it takes time to let such “born again” thinking sink in. Some never get it; perhaps they make many returns to figure it out. It’s like, “Happy Birthday! Have many happy returns!”
In today’s Psalm, we read in 40:1-3: “I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog and set my feel upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth!”
Often when sudden losses or calamities occur, we can blow pass them quickly. Especially if they are miles or countries away from us. But close to us, at home, we need patience. Then we may need to take a walk, do something else, or just sit patiently with it. It’s like learning a new sport. I took up golf when I was about 50 years old. I thought I could learn it quickly! Boy, talk about practicing patience. My friend used to say, after losing his swing and rhythm, “It’s like undressing in public!”
I have grandchildren who compete in sports. Naomi and I love to join their families and watch their events. Not to brag, but they do quite well! They win races, events and get ribbons and trophies. But somedays, they aren’t so good. My daughter wrote me a while ago saying her champion son had an awful event! “Couldn’t do a thing!” So, it goes.
So, it goes with our lives. Losing health, loved ones, jobs, or being sick unto death can be hard. We must sit with it, be patient, wait for it to pass. I remember a friend diagnosed with a terrible disease. She was still young and vibrant. Her family were hurt and saddened. She got worse. One day I went to visit her in the hospital and she said, “I’m okay. I know it’s about time. It will be okay. I am okay. I just waiting now.” And she did, and died peacefully.
Yes, we all have bad days, bad games, and tough times. But practice patience. Own your losses. Stay with them. Let them feel part of you. Embrace them, and they will lift more quickly. Remember that in our essence, we are spirit. This world is not our home. A place of Spirit is where we are, at home, One with love, and with all there ever was or ever will be. Amen.