Tuesday, February 4, 2020

What Will Our "Salvation Story" Look Like?

Joe and Rachel at the "Fiery Furnace" formation in Arches National Park, Fall 2017.

If we get out of this mess, will it be through our own doing? Or will it be through salvation by God?

Each year, on the day before Easter Sunday, many churches hold an Easter Vigil which includes stories of people's salvation throughout the ages with the help of God.

My favorite of those stories is always the one about the "the fiery furnace" -- and God's protection of the faithful Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the wrath of King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3:1-68). Of course, I also like the one about the Noah finally finding dry land after the flood; and I like the one about Jonah getting spit up by that whale after three days; and I like the one about the Jewish people escaping across the Red Sea with the Egyptians in hot pursuit.

But I think the reason I like the fiery furnace story so much is that it is simultaneously so surreal and so direct. It's a story of unbelievable horror -- and also of a horror that we have all faced every day since August 6, 1945.

I went through a different sort of fiery furnace experience, myself, during the summer of 2017. I was diagnosed with lymphoma and had to start immediate chemotherapy. I kept telling myself that it might feel like they were putting fire in my body, but I was going to come out the other end alive. 

Baptism by fire: first night of R-CHOP, June 2017.

Within six months, the lymphoma was under control and I was able to go to a reduced treatment regime. We even managed to go on some trips. I was struck by how far I had come in a short time when we we posed happily in front of a rock formation called the "Fiery Furnace" in Arches National Park, in Utah.

And I wondered: did I owe my salvation in that time of trial to God? Or to people? Or to both?

World nuclear arsenals are currently estimated at over 14,000 warheads. Will we achieve salvation from this existential threat? Are we waiting for God to do it for us? Can we do it without God? How are we imagining this story of salvation -- if there is one -- will go?

These are some questions that I will be thinking about on Easter Eve, April 11, 2020.

More: See Want to "Save the Planet"? What Might We Learn from the Way of Jesus?

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