Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Bethany Bullet-May 27, 2008

My grandma was a faithful member of CAL-VAR-Y Lutheran Church, and my grandpa was a devotee of the Cowboys and Indians film genre; the CAV-AL-RY was his hero. Whether or not this was the cause of my confusion, I do not know, but one thing is for sure: in my childhood I conflated those two words. They had, for me, become one word. Come to CAV-AL-RY’S holy mountain is a song I had sung on occasion. Playing with my little army men I might make a bugle sound and cry, “CHARGE! Here comes the CAL-VAR-Y.” For the longest time those words were interchangeable to me.

Now, if I had been tested as a child, this might have been explained through clinical diagnosis and identified as some particular learning issue. I, however, prefer to think that instead of being the result of any particular learning disability, it can be traced to a theological aptitude. While the two words CAL-VAR-Y (the hill on which Jesus died) and CAV-AL-RY (the equestrian branch of the armed forces) are distinctly different, what they bring is the same gift – be it as proclaimed from the pulpit, preacher wielding the sword of the spirit, or manifested in John Wayne leading the column, saber in hand – CALVARY & CAVALRY = rescue.

In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul presents a clear picture of rescue and deliverance. Aristotelian logic, basic human nature, deduces that “we become just by doing just acts.” Paul presents the opposing case. He declares that we are by nature unjust, that our righteousness is worthless and we deserve nothing but God’s wrath. However, God in His grace and goodness has granted us His own righteousness through faith in His Son.

No wonder ‘Romans’ was a foundational text for the Reformation. John Wesley, after he read Martin Luther’s preface to Romans said, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He has taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

Luther himself gained his hermeneutic (meaning, his approach to Scriptural interpretation), from Romans, “Here the door is thrown open wide for the understanding of Holy Scripture, that is, and that everything must be understood in relation to Christ.” The book of Romans was also instrumental in his grasping of the Gospel, as his words record, “I was altogether born again and had entered Paradise itself through open gates.”

Romans 1:16-17 grants us a view of Calvary’s

“It is the power of God for salvation.”

“Saved” for us is an all too common word. Pitchers do it at the end of a ball game. It is something we do for retirement or vacation. Our mementos, our children’s work, that stuff in the “junk drawer” in the kitchen, all fall under the theme of saved.

For Paul it meant a sharp image and clear deliverance. It meant a radical deliverance out of a desperate situation. What Israel had experienced at the Red Sea, when all help before and behind them was cut off, ONLY a vertical miracle from on high could save. When a wagon train had gotten itself into a pickle, formed itself into a circle and was then surrounded by hostile enemies…they had no hope other than the Cavalry. This is Paul’s picture of salvation.

The message of this salvation, the Gospel, is news of that decisive victory that sets people free and liberates those who hear and believe it. This news NOT ONLY informs and teaches, it grants what it reports. It is the channel through which grace reaches us.

The weapon of this power that swoops in to save is the righteousness of God. It becomes ours by faith. The verdict is reached. We are declared innocent and delivered, not only from the enemies that surround us, but also from the enemy within us. We are even delivered from ourselves and from the need to deliver ourselves.

This is the CAVALRY of CALVARY – Christ Jesus crucified. (No army, nor columns of countless soldiers; One man battling the inhospitable environs of a fallen world, the hostile natives of his own people who forsook him; the black-hat villains of power of this world; and our own propensity to wander from the trail and go astray.) We’ve been rescued from all our foes and restored unto God by the work of Christ Jesus through the gift of faith.


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