Below is an article from a classmate of mine from seminary, the Rev. Alexander “Mac” MacPhail, rector of Beckford Parish in Woodstock, Virginia. This article from their parish newsletter was found by Nancy Snoots, who forwarded it on to me, and Mac gave me permission to share it. I did not learn Hebrew in college or seminary (I was a Greek man), so Mac’s insight was helpful to me in learning more about the concept of salvation, and our Episcopal resistance to other views and concerns about “being saved.” Feel free to add your opinion in the comments below!
Space for you…Space for all
In Hebrew, the word for salvation עשי (pronounced “yasha”) means “to be open– broad, spacious, roomy.” The idea is that someone who has been “saved” is someone who has been given space, freedom, room to breathe. In most Christian circles, especially in the Southern Baptist or non-denominational churches, “saved” means “going to heaven.” And though it does ultimately, I would not want to see the Hebrew meaning disappear altogether.
Anglicans/Episcopalians understand that the devout life is meant to bring about salvation— space to breathe, space to think, space to move. People need space. They need salvation. Space apart (salvation) from sin in which to be more fully united with God. Space apart (salvation) from suffering, which hinders our enjoyment of the life we have been given.
We need space, and we have been given that space by Jesus. I think—and this might sound a little crazy to you, but I think I’m right—that Jesus intended us to understand salvation and evangelism in these terms. A person who has been given space (salvation) by God, who then offers space (salvation) to others. This is evangelism: from the Greek ευαγγελιον, which means “good news.”
The good news is that there is space. Space for you. Space for all.
One of the alternative names for God, among the Rabbis, is “the Place.” So God is “the place” who offers “space” to others. I like that.
This may seem too conceptual to be useful! But stay with me a moment. Whenever you feel most anxious or worried, does it not feel as if space has been taken away? And is it not true that the holy disciplines of prayer, study, and meditation require “making space” both in your schedule and in your soul?
Whenever fear or anxiety begins to swallow up the space around you, take some space. It’s yours. Christ has created it, and offered it to you. Space to consider, to ponder, to rest. And that will save you. It will save you now, and when you die, it will save you then. Salvation. Space. It’s all yours. Enjoy it. Offer it to others. Everyone could use some extra space.
Do you need some space? How have you found such space? What practices do you engage in that allow you to find salvation?
This week, I am going up to the mountains of North Georgia to reflect, discern, learn, and create some space/salvation for myself. I’ll let you know what I find!