Are you saved? For christian traditions which stem from or are influenced by the anabaptist and piety focused traditions this is probably one of the first questions you will be asked, especially on many of the contemporary evangelical traditions. This is because their theology puts a premium on works righteousness, or the idea that what you do paves the way for your own salvation.
As Presbyterians, “Being Saved” is not something that you would hear in most congregations. It is not that it is unimportant, but the motivation and moral code that we live by is not based on a quest to be saved, rather it is based on a desire to live in thankfulness for the salvation that God has given to us through Jesus Christ. Since Salvation for us is something which God extends to all people, our focus is an ordered life, which is based in living thankfully for the grace and mercy which God has extended to us.
I often remark at how important this is, because when we live in thankfulness we are no longer living for ourselves, rather we are living for God. More importantly, those things that are such a struggle become blessings.
In my congregation in Iowa I had a family that gave their time to the local homeless support organization. They spent hours and hours of time counseling, listening to the most desperate of stories, and working to find ways to help. Often they found themselves in situations, which were precarious to say the least! But every time they were asked why, they would come back by saying that God had blessed them so much it was only a partial repayment! I know that was tongue-in-cheek because when you pushed them they would always come back to it being a gift they could give out of thankfulness.
Ordering life out of thankfulness is hard to do today. Our society is built on greed. We do not need to look much farther than our own community and the disparity between “the haves and have-nots” in the Silicon Valley. But, as people of faith, we have to think of a better way, a way that focuses our lives on how we live thankfully and contently with God.
This ordered life is as intentional as those who live a pious life with one big exception; we are not living for our own salvation, we are living for the praise and glory of God who has given us all things good and wonderful! See the difference?
When we live for ourselves it is a chore or a checklist. It does not matter what we do as long as it gets done rightly. Rather when it is out of thankfulness and gratitude we are doing it out of a sense of call without expectation of reward or anything else. This means that the joy we find is not something that is personal, rather it comes from knowing that we have shared with others a glimpse of what God has given to us.
The truth about the family that did the service at the homeless shelter in Iowa was that they would often state that if their work at that place were a job they would never take it. But as a mission they would do more than was ever expected. This came from a real understanding that their Joy was in serving God in Thankfulness, not in reaping the rewards that so many place on doing good.
As we enter this Thanksgiving week and celebrate that wonderful day with our families, I ask you to think about how you order your lives and ask if you order your lives in thankfulness to our God in Heaven.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen