Sunday, February 20, 2011

My Talk Last Sunday: Exercising Faith in the Redemption of Jesus Christ

The following is a fleshed out outline of the talk I gave last Sunday.  A few people asked for a copy, so I am posting it here:

1) Jesus has many titles we use to describe him and his relationship to Heavenly Father and us.  Lord, God, Prince of Peace, Master, Judge, Creator, King of Kings, Son of God, Son of Man, Lamb of God, etc.  There are two titles that are so common and that are used together so often that they almost blur together and are seen as synonymous.  They are "Savior" and "Redeemer" - and sometimes we say them so fluently that it comes out sounding like one title - "saviornredeemer".  However, they actually mean very different things, and it is very important to understand those different meanings if we are to exercise faith in the redemption. 

a) To "redeem" means to "recover, purchase, buy back".  (Give example of something of great value that is pawned and must be "redeemed".)  In the Gospel sense, all of us are "fallen" and "lost" when we are born into mortality - where we live in a world influenced to a large degree by Lucifer.  In a way, symbolically, it is not inaccurate for him to be referred to as "the god of this world".  We are separated from God, and the very first thing that has to happen in order for us to return from that separation is to be bought back from the one to whom we were sold, so to speak. 

b) To "save" means to "keep from being discarded".  (Give example of things we value that we just can't bear to throw away, often even long after they have any objective worth left.)  In combination with "redeem", we are "saved" by Jesus pledging to not let us be sold ("lost", "pawned", "separated", etc.) again. 

c) So, before we can be "saved" BY (meaning not just through but also "at the side of") Christ, we must be "redeemed" from Lucifer. 

2) Explain distinction between "being redeemed" and "exercising faith in the redemption".

a) "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."  So, "exercising faith" means acting on hope and unseen evidence.  In the case of faith in Jesus' redemption, this means acting in a way that shows we really believe two things: I) God can and has redeemed all mankind; II) All are worth redeeming. 

b) God can redeem and has redeemed all mankind.   First, we MUST admit that all need to be redeemed, including me and all of you.  "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." "As in Adam ALL die, so even in Christ shall ALL be made alive."  The first step in exercising faith in the redemption is to accept and truly believe that ALL actually have been redeemed, with the exception of the Sons of Perdition - those very few who look God in the face and swing their fists. 

I think this generally is accepted intellectually as a given - that God has the power to redeem all.  The real question is my second one: Are all worth redeeming - and, more pointedly, do we live in such a way that provides "evidence" that we truly believe they are? 

c) Am I redeemable?  (Discuss issues of self-worth and how our view of ourselves affects how we treat not only ourselves but also others.  Explain that it is harder for some to believe this, especially when issues like clinical depression, bi-polar disorder, post-partum depression, etc. are present.  Mention the issue of arrogance and pride - believing that we will be redeemed because we deserve to be redeemed.) 

d) Are others redeemable?  (Discuss idea that it's easy to believe others are redeemable the further removed from us they are.  Start at the furthest from us [the person born in China 1,000 BC] and move up to our own friends, family, fellow congregants, neighbors, etc. - especially those who have hurt or let us down in some way.  Mention specifically and by category those within our own church family who struggle to feel of worth, acceptable, redeemable, appreciated and/or loved - the single, the divorced, the gay, the politically different.)

e) How we treat two groups of people reflects most clearly our faith in the redemption of Jesus: I) Those who are most different from us; II) Those who are closest to us - of whom our "natural man" has (often unrealistic) expectations - who are different from us in ways that we deem to be important. 

f) Quote from "Where Can I Turn for Peace?" (Hymn #129): "Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish?  Who, who can understand? He, only one."  Explain that I believe this is NOT the ideal - that I hope all can pray and find comfort and calm, but that the ideal is that there be someone in the here and now, flesh and blood, who can be, as Pres. Uchtdorf said so eloquently in his General Conference talk, "His hands". 

g) Quote "Lord, I Would Follow Thee" - the entire song without the final repeated phrases at the end of each verse.  Emphasize, "In the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can't see."  Explain that over 10% of all our hymns deal directly with consolation and comfort as a major theme and that MANY more include that theme secondarily. 

End with a request for each member to consider those in their lives whom they naturally see as lepers, Samaritans, publicans and sinners and ask them to live their lives so that it is obvious they believe that those people are every bit as "worthy" of Jesus' redemption as they are themselves - that they act as God's hands in both the redeeming and saving of those people - that they create among themselves as a congregation their own "kingdom of nobodies" as a friend once described Jesus' earthly ministry. 

Ask point blank that they each consider what their initial reaction would be if a man staggered into the chapel in the middle of the administration of the sacrament muttering and reeking of alcohol - or if two men walked in holding hands and sat in a pew with their arms around each other - if a young woman entered in a mini skirt, visible tattoos and a nose or eyebrow ring.  Would that immediate reaction be, "Ooooh, get out of here.  You're interrupting our worship service" - or would it be, "Thank God you found us!!"  Would they recoil or embrace? 

Until we can embrace all, especially those who are rejected and seen as irredeemable by others, we can't say honestly that we are exercising faith in the redemption of Jesus.


Clean Cut said...

Wow. Wonderful, wonderful message. That made my Sunday and I haven't even been to sacrament meeting yet.

I especially felt this was powerful:

"Until we can embrace all, especially those who are rejected and seen as irredeemable by others, we can't say honestly that we are exercising faith in the redemption of Jesus."

Thanks Ray.

Anonymous said...

This is one thing I am grateful for in my ward. I guess because we ALL have a "story" we all understand most of what you wrote.
I am the one with a mini skirt and a piercing.
Ok I never wear mini-skirts cause I just don't wear skirts at all. I always wear jeans and boots for church AND I have a piercing. The reaction to it in my ward?
They laughed.
The reaction to my jeans and boots?
I have three callings.
And when I wear a skirt because eventually I have remembered to prepare my clothes for Sabbath is that I get compliment on the way I am dressed.

I love my ward.

We have a brother who is an alcoholic. He shows up to church about twice a year and seems to be there as he would be in a movie theater. It is hard to go and talk to him because he has burnt his neurons really bad and has a very hard to follow talk, beside he most of the time has a very strong smell of body odor and alcohol. But I have NEVER heard anyone saying anything wrong about him or being mean to him. the only time something happened was the last time when he came absolutely drunk and badly disturbed sacrament meeting. Two brothers helped him out the room very kindly.
We also have someone who can't be a member because she is schizophrenic and really doesn't understand what we're talking about. A few weeks ago she had a break down during Sunday School. Members helped her out and to my BIG surprise managed to calm her down. I did not know it was possible without drugs.

The members in my ward are far from being perfect (look at me) but my ward is, according to your post, exercising faith in the redemption of Christ.
I don't think they would react well to any situation, specially if a gay couple was to come in the building but I know because I experience it each sunday that we work as group to improve and...

Oh Oh

Oh my Gosh!

So this is what they actually talked about in the scripture when they had time when they taught each other?

Papa D said...

backandthen, thank you SO much for sharing that. It is great to know that the Church works and changes hearts and creates Zion in some corners of the vineyard - even if there still are ways to improve in those places, as well.