We grow up loving the stories of heroic tales where a rescue is involved. We first hear such stories in the fairy tales popular for hundreds of years that may soon be forgotten in this high-tech world unless we keep telling and reading them. We have an innate desire to see good triumph over evil so when the villain is defeated, we cheer. That was likely the appeal of the westerns that populated TV screens in the 50’s and 60’s.
We rarely take as much time to consider the cost to the rescuer or their families when such a risk is taken. We may pause when there is a reminder of military lives lost or fire fighters whose lives are snuffed out trying to save persons and property and yet we pass these people and their workplaces almost daily with not much thought about that. Those who seek to protect us are the unsung heroes of the day. They come when we call whether we are in a predicament of our own making or that of someone else or nature. Too often our own focus tempts us to look at how long they took, whether they did it the way we thought they should, and more. In hindsight we can be tempted to be judgmental and fail to put ourselves in their shoes while knowing our own frailty in one area or another.
And it’s not just in all those professions and jobs we have come to mind that reveals how shallow our understanding might be.
Salvation was the biggest and most costly rescue ever provided. It was the action of God to save fallen humanity from a poor choice in Eden that opened us all to a life far different than He planned or wanted for us. Even if we have known the rescue and knew we needed it, have we understood all the dimensions of it? Eugene Peterson reminded me of that while reading Reversed Thunder.
“…salvation is the action of God. It is always more than we think it is, far more than we are experiencing at any one time. We are forever stopping short and defining it in terms that we understand right now. But such understandings are always premature, and therefore reduce this large action that we have so much more to learn in, so much more, by God’s grace, to get in on.”Eugene Peterson in Reversed Thunder
We are regularly reminded of the cross. It is a symbol found in our places of worship and even jewelry we may wear around our necks. Every time we participate in the eucharistic meal we are reminded of the death of the One who came to rescue us but look a bit deeper.
“Salvation is the intimacies and festivities of marriage; salvation is aggressive battle and the defeat of evil. Salvation is neither of these things by itself. It is the two energies, the embrace of love and the assault on evil, in polar tension, each defined by the other, each feeding on the other.”Eugene Peterson in Reversed Thunder
It can slip from our reflections that what is not seen in those Easter dramas we know or movies about the horrors of the cross that a great war was going on unseen behind all these pivotal events we know and recall. We can forget that salvation came for the children of Israel when Moses led them into battle against the Amalekites. We can forget that Joshua led the children of those same children into battle against the Philistines. Repeatedly the biblical story depicts feasts and celebrations and great battles. And the story tells us of a final great battle where all the territory lost to the invasion of evil upon the earth will be won.
The apostle Paul reminds his readers often of the battle for our minds, souls, and hearts and how we are to stand and war against those things that would seek to defeat us in the greater battles, the unseen ones that have the power to take more than our earthly lives.
3″ For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NIV)
The scenes in the Narnia movie of in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe where Aslan teaches Lucy, Peter, Susan, and Edmund give us a powerful example of what the war for the salvation of Narnia looks like when Aslan presents himself at the stone table to give up his life so the endless winter and evil that has taken over Narnia can be defeated. We see a metaphor of the cross and beyond that to the battle ahead that will free the entire world of the cost of sin. Aslan reminds us all (as he did the children) that we are called to be warriors.
You may protest and declare that you are not a warrior, and you fear the idea of battle. It is beyond your imagination to see yourself taking such a risk as riding into battle. During the eucharist meal there is not much awareness of what you are called to.
“The meal is leisured and joyful. The war is strenuous and determined. The meal deals with the ordinary, the war with the extraordinary. Salvation is both. We cannot choose one over the other. If we are going to be with our saving Lord, we must regularly and often sup with him; and we must be ready, at a moment’s notice, to enter the fight with him.”Eugene Peterson in Reversed Thunder