Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice! says Paul in Philippians. John’s Gospel speaks of being drawn into favor with God. Despite the dark themes that Holy Week offers, today is some REALLY GOOD NEWS.
In John’s gospel, Jesus begins: “And what should I say – ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.” Then later: “Now is the judgment of this world…And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” Despite judgments ominous presence, and despite our shortcomings, being washed in the blood of the lamb, we will be drawn into favor with God. And not just us….but all the other people.
Some see this as a declaration of universal salvation. Grace upon grace upon grace. That’s what I see. It is made clear that through Christ, the grace that will be showered on the earth is way more than people are expecting. All through Paul’s writing, we see grace open to gentiles as well as Jews. “Other people” seems to indicate that the flood gates of good news are open to “all the rest of the people”.
Those who buy into individual salvation never seem to notice that “Christ died for all.” I suppose the question is what happens then. But it is clear to me that way more than we expect are under God’s gracious welcome. (For a better understanding of how I see the concept of “individual salvation” as a heresy that the church needs to repent of, I refer you to the Very Rev. Katharine Jeffer Schori’s take on it, in her 2009 opening sermon as presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church.)
In Philippians we hear one of Paul’s famous exhortations: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice…. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
He says these things to a church that apparently has, not one, but two leaders: Euodia and Syntyche. These two women, in obvious leadership positions, attest to the truth that Jesus spoke of with grace coming to others. In a Jewish world where men ran the show, the church has opened its doors to the other half of the population.
This means listening to the Spirit, and trying to not listen to what society is telling us. That is why Paul insists, “guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” This is a battle! Coming to know and understand God’s gigantic YES in a world of NO is not easy.
If you still aren’t convinced, ask yourself who it was that discovered the empty tomb, and became the Church’s first evangelists.