Sermon Sun 6 March/ St Edward’s / Psalm 91 / Romans 10:8-13 (Gospel – Luke 4:1-13) with baptism
Some of you know that I like to paddleboard. It’s something that brings me great peace, just being out on the water and in creation. I paddle all year round in all weathers and often paddle down local rivers. And when it has been particularly rainy all kinds of things get washed down the river! I’ve pulled out chunks of wood, rubbish, so many bottles, shoes, a kitchen mop, my favourite was an old doll that I rescued, put in the washing machine and left in the airing cupboard to dry. Sadly the washing machine couldn’t get out all the dirt and I forgot to tell my family it was in the airing cupboard until I heard a shriek one day as one of them opened the door to find this rather creepy looking dirty doll staring out at them!
One day I was paddling at Barcombe Mills after some storms and as I passed an overhanging tree I saw a very bedraggled toy bunny that had been washed down the river, and I felt like I had to save it, so I pulled it out and took it home. It has been washed and ever since has sat on my bookshelf in my study. As you can see the poor thing has seen better days, quite bedraggled and he’s lost an arm. But I saved him from ending up at the bottom of the river so he’s a little bit special to me.
Our Romans passage today tells us:
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. And that, Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
We talk of Jesus as our Saviour, of seeking salvation in him. And I wonder if sometimes we might ask: what does that even mean? What do we need saving from? And this morning we will all be joining with some of the baptism responses which similarly talk of turning away from evil and towards Christ.
So what do we need saving from?
Well there’s 2 answers. Often we talk about the future, of eternity, heaven, of what happens when we die. We’re saved from death because we’re offered the opportunity to be with God instead. In a place where we can read in the book of Revelation in the bible:
Where God will be with the people, where there will be no grief, no crying, and God will wipe away our tears.Revelation 21:4
Which is a beautiful enough picture as it is. A picture of the God we heard about in Psalm 91 – a God of refuge and safety. Who we can trust wholeheartedly, who has angels watch over us. Who rescues us. Saves us. And that might be a huge comfort to us. But there is so much more to ‘being saved’ to knowing Jesus than that.
It’s not a saving from all the bad stuff of life. It’s not that we’re talking of some magical escape once you say those words, calling on the name of the Lord that you will never face rubbish again. If you think about it when we are saved from something it’s usually because we’re in it already!
I like to think of salvation a bit like my bunny pulled out of the river. That we might go through storms in life, we might face stormy seasons, but God can pull us through them. God can be present with us in them. Helping us feel we are in a place of refuge. Giving us peace in times of anxiety, strength in diffcult times, drawing us out of the deep water.
You know I love the line in Psalm 91 that talks of the Lord sheltering us under God’s wing, like a mother hen does with her chicks. That Psalm has been really important to me. Because about 7 years ago now I had surgery on my spine. One of the disks in my back had ruptured, as my consultant told me – like Mt Fuji – meaning that rather like the volcano, the contents of it were now strewn around and were pressing on the nerves in my spinal column. As you can imagine it was pretty bloomin’ painful! Two weeks later I ended up in hospital having surgery to sort it all out. It was not a fun time that’s for sure. But as I went into surgery I wrote Psalm 91 which we just heard, on my hand. It was a real comfort thinking of God as my place of refuge, God with me in that hospital bed, holding a wing over me, keeping me safe. Saving me in that time from my own fears.
And I can truthfully say that that time was also a blessing. Because it drew me so close to God. For months there was little I could do except lie flat on my back as I recovered, and I prayed and read the bible more than ever before because I couldn’t do much else! And I really felt God’s presence with me.
God didn’t save me from the injury or having the op but God saved me from descending into fear, anxiety and darkness.
Because Jesus is not some remote God up on a celestial cloud. He can be with us every day if that is what we want. He can be a comfort and a strength in every day life. Can help us find a refuge, a safe place from the darkness of the world around us or perhaps our own minds.
When I have talked in the past about my spine injury and how close I felt God was, sometimes people say to me things like ‘I wish I had that’, or ‘I could really do with that in my life’. But the answer is there for any one of us.
We can say ‘I turn to you’ Christ at any time we like.
I still bear the scars of my surgery of course, I still bear some pain. I am different, changed because of it. Like my bunny friend here is not his original colour, he’s lost an arm, he’s changed but he was still saved.
We may turn to Christ and we will still bear our scars and our pains but knowing Jesus is with us in them brings a blessing and a peace that can be with us all, now not just in the future.
We talked last week about turning to Jesus again in this season of Lent which we are now in and so I continue to encourage you today to seek Jesus as your Saviour, to look for that God who provides a place of rescue and refuge. Who will be with you in all things. If you’ve never thought before about who Jesus is today is a great time to ask! Or maybe you are turning to the Lord again for the 100th time. Whichever it is, don’t waste the opportunity we have to know the saving grace of God in our lives, whatever we face, here and now.