Sometimes I think we are holding that word – saved – too tightly in our fists. Maybe we do that for some form of security we seek, for fear we will lose something otherwise, or maybe to keep it under our control rather than let it loose in the world.

I don’t know why but I have a deep sense that we need to let go and see what can come.

Maybe I am not making myself clear.

Those of us who grew up in Christian communities and congregations and those of us who participate in such can hear that word in a certain way and with a certain firm and often rigid understanding.

When we use the word in the context of our faith communities we think we know what we mean and what the other person means. After all, don’t we all agree on what “being saved” is about?

May I use some “loaded” theological words for a moment?

We often hear only the eschatological, or soteriological or theological meaning(s) of that word. That is to say in another way – it’s about “going to” heaven or hell, about “I’ve accepted Jesus as my personal savior”, or “I asked Jesus to come into my heart,” about “declared righteous by the grace of God through faith.”

Any of that sound familiar? Are you comfortable or uncomfortable with that?

But maybe we need not to hold onto that word – save – so tightly. Maybe it means something beyond our theological take on it.

Maybe it shouldn’t be compartmentalized by us “believers” into such a small sphere of use.

What else is there?

Let me offer a few examples.

When I was a college student I took part in a literacy program my congregation was doing in cooperation with the Salvation Army in our town. Several of us would get on the church van and ride to where children were waiting for us. I did the best I knew how to do but was amazed at what another college student was able to do. He was expanding the kids vocabulary by leaps and bounds. He was respecting the kids and acknowledging their ability to learn when others were writing them off as hopeless. Oh, did I mention they lived in a part of town that I once heard another young person at church say the “poor white trash” lived there?

How do we “save” a child by helping to learn to read? Were we there only to get them to “sign” the “I accept Jesus card” or were we there to bring something to them and learn something from them?

The other day I was invited to speak at a church up the road from where I live. On the way I passed by an empty motel. Empty as in it was closed and had been for some time. I could see it had deteriorated over time.

I wondered if the building could be saved?

Maybe some group could take ownership of the buildings and they could provide temporary (or even more than temporary) housing for folk in need of housing.

Maybe the motel has a kitchen and a place for a dining area and could be part of providing some meals for folk who don’t have access to decent meals.

Maybe the motel has some area for meeting rooms that could provide a place for any number of community services.

Could such a “repurposed” set of buildings be part of saving a child from hunger, saving a family from homelesness, saving someone from unemployment?

But maybe, the first thing is to find out what the town needs, not what someone bent on “saving others” thinks they need.

The other morning I was reading a prayer that in part said,

Help us also in our business and work.
May we have grace to be honest in all our dealings with others, truthful in all our life and conversation, and consistent in our conduct and behavior —
so that all who see us, shall see Jesus in us.

We desire to make this day one of loving ministry in Your name, to others.
Fill us with Your Spirit, so that wherever we go, our faces may shine with the brightness of divine love.
Help us to be as Jesus to those we meet.
Fill us with Your love, Your peace, Your grace, Your compassion —
so that Your life really shall be revealed in us.
May our wayside ministry be one of blessing.

Enable us by simple kindnesses,
by gentleness,
and grace of manner,
and by words of encouragement and comfort —
to be a blessing to everyone we meet today.

How are we to be a blessing to those we meet today and tomorrow?

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}
(my inexact translation = “where true love and passion abide, God is always present”)

After I had drafted the above, two items came to my attention.

First, I received a selection from the writings of Frederick Buechner which included the following:

… the Hebrew view of the human being [is] as a psychosomatic unity, an indivisible amalgam of body and soul in which if either goes wrong, the other is affected. It is significant also that the Greek verb sо̄zо̄ was used in Jesus’ day to mean both “to save” and “to heal” and sо̄tēr could signify either “savior” or “physician.”

You can find the entire reading at –

Second, one of the ministries of Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C., Recovery Cafe, has joined with other community groups to purchase a property which formerly housed a discount store, to be converted to a space for a cafe and mixed income housing.

You can find more information on this at –

And at –

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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