My Eyes Have Seen Your Salvation

[NOTE: I shared this post earlier this week as part of our church‘s annual Advent Blog. For more of the Glen Elm Advent Blog, head over HERE.]

Rembrandt_-_Simeon_and_Anna_Recognize_the_Lord_in_Jesus_-_WGA19102Simeon and Anna are two fascinating figures in Scripture. This elderly pair are featured briefly in Luke 2, portrayed as examples of righteousness and devoted service to God. Expectantly, they wait for His promises of salvation to land and take hold of their world.

Forty days into his life, Jesus’ parents took him to the Temple. A purification-related offering was to be made by Mary along with a dedication of their firstborn son to God. Not by coincidence, Simeon is present in the Temple that day as well. Through divine revelation, he perceives Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, a figure the Holy Spirit had promised Simeon he would behold before his death. Holding the child and blessing him, Simeon marks the moment by declaring, “My eyes have seen Your salvation.”

But what had Simeon really seen?

  • He had seen an infant who cannot hold up his head.
  • He had held a Redeemer who is dependent on a teenager’s breast for nourishment and a carpenter’s hand for protection.
  • He has lifted a peasant and soon-to-be refugee child, yet he has the audacity to declare that he has beheld God’s salvation.

Am I missing something here?

Beyond the specific Spirit-revelation received by Simeon, I believe this passage identifies one of the paradoxes of faith. By its very nature, faith is not airtight. The holes are not all filled; the gaps are not all bridged. By definition, faith requires trust. It is certainly not blind, but neither is it 20/20. Faith is an odd middle-ground, where we are given just enough, and likely no more.

And faith has always been that way.

  • Abraham was told by God to pick up his life and leave his land. For where? “A place that I will show you.” Just enough information to move his feet forward, but not enough that he might sprint to his destination, or even map out the route.
  • Moses was instructed, “Go speak to Pharaoh; I will be with you.” Every reasonable objection raised by Moses was met by God’s insistence that He would accompany His servant. No elaboration, no explanation. Moses was to move forward from the burning bush one step at a time with confidence that he did not move alone. And that was to be sufficient.
  • Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Give us today our daily bread.” There is no mention of tomorrow, there seems no thought of next week. We are coached to ask for a handful despite our desire to ask for a pantry full. We are urged to live contently with just enough, and not much more.
  • Early disciples left careers and communities to respond to three words from Jesus’ mouth: “Come follow me.” No job description, no benefits package. No peek at the last pages of the story. The invitation to come was to be enough for today’s response.

i-have-seen-your-salvation-1Someone said to me recently that following Jesus is not like him writing up a contract and then asking us to sign. Rather, he asks us to sign a blank sheet of paper, and then he fills in the details afterward.

And if we dare to put our name on that line, to align our lives with his…

  • Jesus will lead.
  • The Spirit will reveal.
  • And the Father will provide.

And at some point, or several, we will find our mouths very naturally forming Simeon’s words, “My eyes have seen your salvation.”

Hope for the World

one wayOne facet of Christianity that rubs hard on many twenty-first-century minds is summed up tightly in this word: Exclusivity.

In a world of nearly infinite options, it seems unthinkable to some that one should feel “pigeon-holed” when it comes to the salvation.  And so we hang on the walls of our minds scenes of mountains with multiple paths of ascent or heavenly cloud-scapes reached by seven billion-plus uniquely crafted ladders.

babelIn a sense, our hearts long for a return to the Tower of Babel, a design-as-you-wish blueprint that, if you are faithful in your efforts, will surely deliver you to whatever awaits “up there”.  “All roads lead to God” is the common tongue of every labourer on this scaffolding.

But as in Genesis 11, the word “gibberish” is quickly associated with this scenario.

vramachandraIn a twist on this discussion, Vinoth Ramathandra (a man to whom Timothy Keller introduced me) addresses an associated critique of Christianity, one that depicts religion as being dissociated from the “real world”, as being obsessed with the “spiritual” and out-of-touch, even inappropriately unconcerned, with the here-and-now world.

Ramathandra’s response will induce a pause for both hearty believers and hardened skeptics:

“Christian salvation lies not in an escape from this world but in the transformation of this world. You will not find hope for this physical world in any other religious system or philosophy. The biblical vision is unique.  And that is why if someone says, ‘Surely there is salvation in other faiths,’ I always ask them, ‘What salvation are you talking about?’

Not this salvation.

No faith holds out a promise of eternal salvation for the world like the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ do.”

Christianity, if personified, is not the arrogant or presumptuous jerk that some portray, despite the fact that you may have met arrogant and presumptuous jerks with Bibles in hand.

Rather, Christian doctrine is unique by its very nature.  You can narrow your gaze on a concept like love or goodness, and then preach on the “common truth” that underlies all religions and philosophies, but you will only be adding to the static.  An observation like Ramathandra’s tunes in tighter to the signal and in turn, heightens the dialog.

HopeFor Christian fundamentalists, it highlights the care of God toward His current creation.  Unlike humanity, God is not always racing ahead to “what’s next”.  He deeply loves “what is” and is working for its redemption. For cynics of Christianity, such doctrine at least forces a reconsideration of the concept of hope.

What well do you draw yours from, not just for yourself but for the world in which you live?

Is there any?

Is it wrapped solely in the evolution and development of humanity? Strictly in scientific discovery? An alternative philosophy? A different religion?

YOUR TURN: What do you make of Ramathandra’s assessment of Christianity’s unique tone of hope for this world?  Christian or not, what are you striving to do/be as an agent of hope in our world?  Your input makes this post better!

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Saturday Six-Pack (21)

Leaning heavily on the adage “better late than never”, I give you this week’s Saturday Six-Pack… on Tuesday!

The perk? Only five days to the next half-dozen online offerings.

As usual, these articles are mostly faith-focused or ministry-geared, with a bit of disorderly-pile-of-who-knows-what tossed in!

If you need help starting, begin with my two *Picks of the Week*, and move from there.

For a steady stream of such links, follow me on Twitter ( @JasonBandura ) to the right of this post.  Sharp quotes and solid articles are tweeted 3-4 times daily.

Today’s edition:

1) The Bonds of Freedom
There is great paradox within the Christian understanding of freedom.  This piece from Christianity Today‘s Roger Olson fleshes out the tensions that differentiate Christian freedom from the version many of us fantasize about.

2) Tracking Wonder and Making More Time to Create
This non-Christian piece from Psychology Today was my morning call to prayer.  If you need more time for living, your next move is worship.  At least, that is what I read.  For the original statement, click the link above.

3) Great Quotes on Great Leadership (*PICK OF THE WEEK*)
Anyone who knows me knows that I love a great quote. Tim Challies offers this list of the best bits he found in Albert Mohler’s book, “The Conviction to Lead.” (He reviews the book, which he calls “probably the best book on leadership I’ve ever read” HERE.)

4) You Asked: Does the Bible Separate Salvation from Baptism?
This brief but balanced response is offered by the Gospel Coalition to a question received from a reader, a question relevant to the whole of the Christian community, and helpfully clarifying to my Churches of Christ heritage, whose views get unnamed mention in this piece.

5) Why Should We Care About Advent? (*PICK OF THE WEEK*)
In regard to Advent, there’s one question that trips up more Evangelicals than any other: “Why bother?”  Elliot Grudem, for the Resurgence, offers a handful of solid reasons on why the pre-Christmas season of Advent is full of power and potential.

6) Top Ten Gandhi Inspirational Quotes
I have long loved Gandhi. I have long loved quotes.  This LifeHack offering seemed like a no-lose way to close this installment of the Six-Pack.

May your week be full of awareness and enjoyment of the God who already fills it with Himself and every good thing.  Blessings on you, my friends.

YOUR TURN: Direct other readers to the best stuff with a comment below, or weigh in on what you read.  Your input makes this post better!

[You can subscribe to this blog via RSS or email, in the upper right corner of this page.]