Saving Grace

Sunday mornings I sit in the narthex of my wife’s church building, running the zoom service during the in-person gathering. I’m sitting out there because it currently has the only live outlet to plug in my computer. In this area of the building is the rope pull for the bell in the steeple; I’ve had the joy of ringing the bell at 9 am each Sunday!

Sitting there, in the area through which folk now exit, is a whole new view of worship. For decades, I’ve sat in the front row and either led or been one of the leaders in worship. Now I get to participate, assist those on zoom and experience worship woven by Karen’s great leadership. After more than a decade worshiping apart from one another, when both of us pastored separate congregations, this has been a great change.

Her congregation has only been meeting in person for three Sundays, and the heat has been out of service all three weeks. April 11th when I arrived it was 42F in the building! The congregation is made up of sturdy folk, all farmer stock. They are unfazed by a little cold. One guy came in a short-sleeved shirt, while I was wrapped in sweater, coat, gloves and a blanket around my legs! 🙂 I literally felt like the phrase “the frozen chosen” applied to me!

I am finding so much to love on Sundays. The long drive into the country to the church building, ringing the bell, being in worship with this people, getting blessed by Karen’s teaching, the laughter and joy of the community.

This past week, Karen preached out of Acts 4, in which after seeing God heal a man lame from birth, Peter and John were dragged before the religious court and asked by what power or in whose name had they done this. Peter famously answered that “it was by the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.” Then Peter added, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:10,12).

The immediate context of Peter’s statement is an act of kindness to a man over 40 years old, lame from birth. The immediate salvation is something that impacted this man’s life physically, materially, and spiritually as he was granted free entrance into the worshiping community. In addition, his life changed eternally as well. The salvation needed which Jesus supplied was not just a future end but a present reality. Karen captured this. She said, “I see that the Name of Jesus is our authority and source for wholeness of mind, body and spirit.”

Then, she asked these great questions:

What in my life needs salvation?

Where is my lameness?

Where do I suffer from shame?

How does fear taunt me and disable me?

How does anxiety strip me of peace and wholeness?

Am I afraid of loss or death?

To whom do I turn when I am seeking wholeness?

What earthly healers has God provided for me? Medical professionals, spiritual advisors, friends, family.

What financial provision has God made for me?

When do I stop depending on the name of Jesus and begin to place my trust in the things or people of this world?

The elected official will save us,

The church hierarchy will save us,

The vaccine will save us,

Achieving racial equality will save us, etc.

Obviously all these can be part of God’s provision.

But it is essential for us to keep looking beyond these other names to receive healing and salvation in the name of Jesus, who conquered death, who is Lord of life.

Karen Shimer, 4/25/21

One of the biggest problems the church seems to have is not allowing the life claimed to impact the life lived. People are famous for claiming salvation yet treating others heinously. The claim of “I’m saved” is often mismatched to meanness, bitterness, pride, judgment, racism, etc. Clearly, the church needs to allow the saving grace of Jesus to touch all aspects of its life.

Karen’s questions were a great call to allow saving grace to impact other aspects of life.

My favorite question was: “Where is my lameness?” If you read my journal, or even much of my blog, and the number of entries when I bring my own limp to Jesus, time and again, you might know why this stood out.

Think of me under the bell tower, in the narthex, on my wooden chair, computer in my lap, coordinating the folk on zoom as I get a new perspective on the beauty and fullness of the gift of saving grace week by week both through my wife and through this people.

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