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“On Working Out Our Salvation”
The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
“Work out your own salvation, for it is God who is at work in you.”
Few words in all the Bible capture more clearly, than those, the simultaneously vertical and horizontal life which is ours to live; God, “at work in us” is the vertical dimension of our lives; the love of God coming down to us. And us, “working out our salvation,” is the horizontal dimension of our lives; the love of God going out through us.
“Work out your own salvation, for God is at work in you,” is the simultaneously vertical, horizontal story of our lives; the Spirit of God coming down to us and going out through us; God putting kindness and courage in us, and, us, working that kindness and courage out in our daily lives; the love and goodness of God coming down to us and going out through us.
To work out our own salvation is, in the words of the poet, Mary Oliver, “To wake, each morning, with thirst for the goodness we do not yet have,” and, then, to work toward that goodness we do not yet have by making intentional decisions about how we will live and what we will say; deciding to live up to our baptism by actually changing what we text, e-mail and post on Facebook; making intentional decisions to actually get into our car, turn the key and literally go stand up for the same people Jesus would stand up for, if Jesus was here, by actually standing up against what Jesus would stand up against, if Jesus was here; praying, each morning, to live a life of kindness and courage, each day, until making that prayer our life eventually makes our life that prayer.
That is working out our salvation; what Evelyn Underhill once called, “Reaching for what we do not have by the faithful practice of what we do have.” Because, while we may not yet have the goodness for which we thirst, we can practice wanting it until, more and more, we do eventually have it; what Paul called, “Working out our own salvation with fear and trembling.”
But, not on our own, or all alone, because, while we are working out our salvation, God is working in our lives; giving us the wind of the Spirit to help us to be better and stronger than ever we could be apart from the Spirit of God, which is endlessly, relentlessly coming down to us and going out through us; the Spirit which comes down to us from God going out through us to others; grace in, grace out; God working salvation in us, us working salvation out; the simultaneously vertical and horizontal life; a life which is shaped like a cross, because it is being formed by the cross.