St. Alban’s Episcopal Church
October 10, 2021
Who can be saved?
Who can be saved? After hearing Jesus’s comment about the camel and the needle’s eye, we, like the disciples, might well be asking. I, for one, do not feel rich in the context of the Bay Area, but I know that in the context of the world, I am rich. I have choices that not everyone has.
But Jesus’s answer, that for God, all things are possible – especially, taken with Paul’s assurance that we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, gives me hope. God loves us, and God knows us, and God doesn’t give up on us.
So, I imagined a conversation, in which I asked God, earnestly, to help me become a better person – less self-absorbed, more giving and forgiving. Somehow, it led to God suggesting that I give up some of my electronic devices.
Suddenly, I was more sympathetic to that rich young man. It’s hard to give up the things we enjoy. Do we really need to? I don’t know.
I knew, when I was working on this, that my grandchild would almost certainly be born before I gave this reflection. I wondered whether that would affect what I wanted to say.
Long story short, it did. A few hours after being introduced to Isaac via FaceTime, I found that my thoughts had taken a different direction. I still think it’s important to examine my attachment to things, and if not to give them up, at least to keep them in their place.
But, I have also been thinking about how my family has changed over the generations. Specifically, about how each generation reacts to the previous one.
My parents wanted to be better parents than theirs had been. And, as their only child, I know that they succeeded, and I am profoundly grateful for that. I know that I had a more secure and less stressful childhood than either of them. I give them full credit for good decisions, and for giving me the freedom to make my own decisions, as appropriate. But there are lots of things that even the most thoughtful and loving people can’t entirely control. Illness, accidents, natural disasters, death. God’s protection from such things must certainly have been part of the equation.
What my parents didn’t give me was a feeling of fitting in in the world outside our front door.
I wanted my children to be more comfortable socially than I was, all the while fearing that I was just too weird to produce gregarious children. I made plans that I hoped would help, but again, God gave me a big boost. 7 or 8 months before our son was born, we happened onto a small, affordable fixer-upper in Albany. We jumped in because of the school district, and soon found ourselves in a community where we felt as if we belonged. I’m sure that my children sensed the comfort we felt here, and that that had far more to do with their social ease than any play group we put them in.
Focusing on one thing, of course, always leads to overlooking, taking for granted, and neglecting other things. Obviously, if we were all just getting better with every generation, we’d have been perfect a long time ago. It’s a big, complicated, messy world. Progress is never unchecked. I see this – reimagining? – across generations as one of the mysterious ways in which God works. God lets people learn from bad examples as well as from good ones. I don’t know what all my children would like to have been different (although I do see some things they do differently, and better than we do). It will be interesting to see what kind of parent my son will become. It makes me happy to think that I made a positive difference without having to do everything right. And I wonder if this isn’t one form of salvation: we love, we do our best, trusting that God is with us. And we all learn from each other, by our strengths and by our weaknesses.