Bread – Being

September 15, 2015


Readings for Tuesday, September 15, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Kings 21:17-29; 1 Cor. 1:20-31; Matt. 4:12-17; Psalms 61,62,68

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There are many rich topics in today’s readings … sin, judgment, contrition, deferral of judgment, wisdom, the world, the cross, salvation, election, foolishness, boasting, prophesy, fulfillment of prophesy, forgiveness, Jesus Christ … but I having to pick one, so I pick “being” as in “being saved” from this verse: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Cor. 1:18

When we think of the word “being,” what may come to mind immediately is that a “being” (noun) is something which is in existence, for example “I am a human being.” Because the word “being” is usually associated with higher order intelligence and self-awareness, it sounds strange being applied to other forms of life (it would be unusual, but not necessary inaccurate, to say “dog being”).

If we think further, we may ask ourselves what constitutes the status of “being.” Is it autonomy – I am a being because I have a choice, and maybe even “the” choice? Is it in community – I am a being because my spouse, friends, family, etc., consider me so? Is it because I was made so – I am a being because God made me so? These are deep questions, but they are also fundamental questions. If I am autonomous, I am not dependent upon God or man for my being. If I am defined by others, I am dependent for my being on them (the world) and not on God or myself. If I am made by God, I am dependent upon Him and not upon others or myself. I stand alone (autonomy), with (community), or because (God).

And the problem is, our “being” throws off signals which can be confusing. If I am autonomous, I am lonely. If I am dependent on the community, I float on the shifting sands of public opinion and worldly temptation. If I am dependent upon God, then I am in need of mental adjustment (according to the world).

But then there is another sense of the word “being,” and that is as the English “participle.” Now I have studied English and I write it, but I have to confess that I have never understood participles. I use them all the time, but I still don’t understand them. And so looking up the participle “being,” I find in the dictionary that it is the participle of the word “be” (which is accurate but unhelpful). And then when I look up the word “participle” that it is “verb form having the qualities of both verb and adjective. So both action (verb) and description (adjective) are brought together in one place. But one thing this research did tell me is that, if the word ends in “ing”, then it is a “present participle,” meaning that it is acting and describing today, now.

Do we have a headache yet?

So what is the meaning then of the phrase “are being saved?” In the Greek, the “are being” is a “present passive participle.” The verb “save” and the adjective “saved” are being applied in the present, right now, to “us,” passively, meaning that we are not doing it … we are merely receiving both the action (save) and description (saved). In case we miss who is then doing this “saving” to us, Paul is clear that it the power of God. Not the power of the individual and not the power of the collective but the power of the Infinite.

But, wait a minute, in the sense of Christian salvation, wasn’t I saved at a point in time in the past and not the present? So what is this “am being saved” routine?

Which now is where the deeper question arises, the question of what is “being.” If I am autonomous, then I chose God and there is a point in time when I uttered the magic words and took the ceremonial washing. If I am a being defined by the community, then they chose God for me and there is a point in time when they uttered the magic words on my behalf. But if I am dependent on God, then at what point in time has God not saved me? If I am dependent upon God, then I was saved, am being saved, and will be saved … all at the same time and at different times.

What is the nature of our being? Is it with God, with man, or with self? The answer depends upon which wisdom you believe. And that, too, is a gift of God.

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© 2015 GBF

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