Need to be Saved?

I was reading Psalm 78 today, remembering the people of Israel’s history. Then I looked at the hashkedim web site, remembering the days of old. We don’t much do that any more. The past has no place in a world oriented to instant gratification by advertising and marketing.

Psalm 78 tells the history of deliverance. Israel actively remembered the history of deliverance; it was central to its whole culture. If we know no history of deliverance, we cannot envision any deliverance. Without that, we cannot even imagine any change in our lives. We are stuck in an eternal present. Things will always be the same for ever and all we can do is veg out, be entertained, and avoid any knowledge of captivity. Think fleshpots of Egypt.

And how can we relate to what we hear and do in church, to what we hear in the Scriptures and in the Liturgy? The Passover Haggadah and its ritual Seder preserve the memory of past deliverance and open up the possibility for deliverance from whatever in our circumstances oppresses us and limits our action. But if we know no story of our own deliverance, how can we understand and participate in the Eucharist?

If there are no tales of deliverance, how shall we know our need for it, indeed for any change. Last Advent, our Adult Education program included a session entitled something like “What Kind of Savior Do We Need.” This topic was assigned to the Men’s Group to plan and lead. When they learned that I had suggested this topic, they came to me to try to understand what it meant. I really tried to explain what it might mean to need deliverance, but they never did get it. I think it must have been hard for these men to see that. They likely live in a business and professional culture where it is toxic to see themselves as needy. Perfection and omni-competence are the hallmarks of that culture. Their culture says they must save themselves.

What hell, to be totally responsible for your own salvation. What hell, to have no one to depend on except ourselves.
What hell never to be able to see yourself as victimized by forces outside yourself.

How shall we know our need for god, salvation, deliverance, etc without an awareness of our own and our groups’ escapes by the skin of our teeth. Actually I bet these men have some such awarenesses, but to what agencies do they refer their deliverances? Anything but God, anything but agencies outside their control. And there it is. Fear of the loss of control shapes the world of our culture.
So where can we in such a culture as this see God in our lives? Not to know our need, to think that we have it all under control is to leave no room for God there. What hell.

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