By Elizabeth Baumann
A Reading from 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17
13 But we must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 For this purpose he called you through our proclamation of the good news, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.
16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, 17 comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.
I’ve never forgotten a conversation I had with my little brother after service one Sunday when we were both in the process of entering the Episcopal Church from the garden-variety evangelicalism in which we were raised. He asked me how I had made the switch from thinking about salvation as a matter of faith alone to a matter of sanctification. As it happened, we both had the same answer: it described our experience. But in retrospect, the answer is both-and, rather than either-or. As Paul says in our lesson, we were chosen by God to be saved from the very beginning, salvation to be enacted by the purifying action of his own Spirt and belief in the truth.
It was easy, then, to devalue the emphasis on belief with which we were raised, because, having always believed, our experience had been one of a process. But to switch to emphasis on a process runs the danger of forgetting that belief is the door that opens the way to the process. It leaves us vulnerable to being satisfied where we are — in the midst of a process that often stagnates, often only inches forward, especially when it is not infused with the energy that comes with belief: with seeing how faith makes everything different, everything new.
This morning we will stand and say the 1,700-year-old words the Church clung to as expressing her belief — knowing that belief is everything, and that seemingly small semantic changes were the difference between worshiping the revealed, incarnate God who said, “I am the truth,” or instead worshiping figments of our imaginations. May we all be infused with fresh belief as we say them.
Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
Church of the Good Shepherd, Augusta, Ga.
The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East