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Lent Reflections (37)

The readings today...

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
Jeremiah 33:1-9
Philippians 2:12-18

Again these are fairly well known passages.  Nothing terribly profound today - I'm in a bit of a hurry to fit this in before a whole host of important things.

Way back when, the joke was that Jeremiah 33:3 was God's telephone number (cf Whitehall 123 etc) - 'call upon me and I will answer'.  I suppose it doesn't really work in this digital age or email, text, Twitter, blogs and Facebook, but even so, there is something encouraging about the promise it contains.  Beware simplistic readings though, sometimes, humanly speaking, it feels we get the engaged tone, or queuing message "your prayer is important to us, please wait will we try to connect you" followed by soon sort of angel-choir-muzak; or even, dare I suggest voicemail "sorry, there is no-one to hear your prayer right now, but if you leave a message we will get back to you".  it's not that God is slow to hear or slow to respond, just that sometimes we think we know the correct reply in advance and are miffed if we don't get it, and get it now.

Perhaps it is the Philippians that is worth playing with though, especially this verse:

Keep on working with fear and trembling to complete your salvation, because God is always at work in you to make you willing and able to obey his own purpose.

Philippians 2:12b-13 GNB

This verse is often overlooked because it disturbs any tidy model of soteriology that operates purely on a 'transaction' basis - pray the prayer and you're in, the end.  Yes, there has to be a point when we decide for or against this Jesus and his claims, but conversion and - according to this passage anyway - salvation are a process in which we participate actively.  Salvation is not just a golden ticket to heaven or a 'get out of jail free' card, it is a process of transformation in which we participate.  The old 'faith and works' dilemma, which has raged through history and is always at the back of my mind in its James 2 expression - 'faith without deeds is dead'.  Perhaps the deeper question is, how exactly do we 'complete our salvation' by working together, with God to be transformed...

God of eternity, who answers when we call

Who hears our 'yes' to Jesus

And who draws us into a process of conversion

More and more into your own likeness

Help us to tune in to your voice

And to be open to your Spirit's transformation

Until, in your time, our salvation is complete




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