Thursday, March 3, 2016

Lent 4: 'Do you turn to Christ as Saviour?'

May I speak in the name of Almighty God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Amen

This evening we come to the fourth of our our mid-week Lenten reflections looking at our baptismal promises. And tonight we look at 'Do you turn to Christ as Saviour?' What do we mean when by 'turn to Christ'? For to turn to something implies turning from something else; so what is it we are promising to turn from and instead turn to Christ? Well, in the previous three promises there are things we have promised to reject, renounce, and repent of. We have promised to reject the devil and all proud rebellion against God; we have promised to renounce the deceit and corruption of evil; and we have promised to repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour. So when we promise to turn to Christ, it is these that we are promising to turn away from – from the devil, from evil, and from sin.

It might seem like an obvious thing to do, an easy promise, a no-brainer to use a modern phrase often used. Why would anyone wish to be under the influence of a malign fallen angel who is bent on our destruction? Why would anybody prefer evil over good? And why would a person deliberately choose to align themselves to anything as destructive as sin, something that can literally cost us eternal life? And yet we have only to look at the history of the world to know that far too many have; we have only to look around us to see that many of those in our communities do; we have only to look in the mirror to see the face of one who is all too much in grave danger of falling prey to the sin and evil of the world, the flesh, and the devil we are tempted by each and every day.

Indeed, resisting temptation is hard a thing, so hard that we would be foolish to think we could do it by virtue of our own strength. We need God's help. And this brings us to the second part of that promise – for what do we turn to? We turn to Christ. And who is Christ? He is God himself, the second person of the Blessed Trinity. So in this promise we are turning away from all the things that are of the evil one that are covered in the first three promises and turning instead to God. In a way it is both a promise and a plea. A promise because we are solemnly and reverently telling God that we understand how wrong and wicked all the things we have promised to turn away from in the first three promises are; and a plea because it recognises that it is not something we can do without divine help, and so we call out to God in the person of Son of God for that help.

It is worth noting also that all three of the last three of the six promises made at baptism, again at confirmation, and again every time we renew our baptismal vows make reference to God in the Second Person of the Trinity. And this, I suggest, is very important for three reasons. The first is that to speak of Christ is to make a very specific declaration regarding our faith. It says quite clearly that we are Christians and our understanding of God is very much to be found in how God has revealed himself to us in the Person of the Son. Secondly, the direct reference to God in the person of the Son implies our Trinitarian understanding of God, that he exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That is because a Christian can never speak of God as Father without also expressing our faith in the Son and the Spirit; nor can we speak of the Holy Spirit without speaking of the Father and the Son; and we can not speak of the Son without speaking of the Father and the Holy Spirit. And finally, to speak of Christ, the anointed one, the Messiah, is to remind ourselves that he was fully God and fully man.

And this last point is very important. Remember that the promise we make is to turn to Christ as Saviour; and it is part of God's plan for our salvation that the redeeming sacrifice for all mankind on the Cross be made by the one who was fully God and fully man. It is only Christ, therefore, who can save us from our sins. Remember also that he it was who taught his followers the way we must walk if we are to be obedient to the will of the Father; he it was who established his Church to be his body on earth, the Church into which we have all been baptised; and he it was who gave us the sacrament of the Eucharist, the sacrament in which we eat his flesh and drink his blood so that we may be filled with his grace and strengthened so that we might attain eternal life – the sacrament without which, he declared, we have no life in us.

This is, I think, to touch only briefly on what it is we promise when we vow to turn to Christ as Saviour. I pray brothers and sisters that you will use this season of Lent to reflect even more deeply not only on what it means and how it is you may live that promise out day by day until you stand before the throne of judgement; and I ask that you pray the same for me. Amen

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