E-pistle April 3

Sold for Salvage:  Why the Gospel is Good News for Ford Owners
 
I bought a new car. It’s the Honda Civic parked in the back corner of the lot on Sunday mornings or somewhere near the office most weekdays. I’m an American male. Obviously I love having a new car.
 
But there was something sad about getting the new car. I had to get rid of my old car, that rusty 1993 Ford Escort wagon. We bought the Escort sixteen years ago as I began my ministry in Menominee, Michigan. It was the car I drove across the Upper Peninsula and over the Mackinac Bridge to presbytery meetings. A lot of long trips in the Escort.
 
But more than a business car, the Escort had a special place as a family car. It was our Christmas tree car.  Low to the ground and with its roof rack, it was the perfect car to haul a Christmas tree home from a u-cut lot. Sixteen Christmas’ worth of trees came home on the top of the Escort. A lot of good memories connected to the Escort. 
 
Frequently the Escort was our back and forth to college car. It made countless trips from our home in Beaver to lower Michigan, where our two oldest children attended Hillsdale College.  278 miles, 4 hours and 30 minutes depending on stops. You can have some great conversations with a college son or daughter in 278 miles. A lot of good conversations had in the Escort.
 
(By the way, you parents who will be sending kids off to college in the next few years, don’t give them a car too soon. Trips back and forth to the campus can be a hassle, but the hassle is well worth the opportunity to spend time just the two or three of you. Especially just the two of you.)
 
So, yes, I had a kind of emotional attachment to my old Escort wagon. Plus, it still got 40 MPG on the highway and I never had to do much but change the oil and buy new tires once in a while. It never did me wrong. 
 
So why did I sell it?  Rust. Ten years of Pittsburgh road salt did it in. I had learned to ignore the body rust, but then I took it to the best mechanic in Pennsylvania and he told me about how bad the rust underneath was. Rust in the frame and corrosion on the brake lines and fuel filler tube.  Rust that made it unsafe to drive.
 
The Honda dealer gave me $100 for my Escort and told me they’d sell it for salvage. Someone might want the tires and the upholstery was in great shape and would be a great deal if you drive an old Escort with less rust but lousy seats.  After sixteen years of faithful service hauling Christmas trees and college kids, crossing the Straits of Mackinac and getting me to hospitals and nursing homes, $100 for salvage.
 
Salvage, of course, is a theological word. It comes from the same root as salvation. The Gospel is the story of God’s great salvage operation. You and I have a rust problem, corrosion of heart, mind, soul and strength. The Apostle Paul describes our corrosion problem in Romans 7 when he speaks of his inability to do what he knows is right and, instead, his doing what he knows is wrong.  Jesus knew about the rust that eats away at our hearts and our denial of its deadly effects. He called us “faithless and twisted” (Luke 9:41).
 
The salvage God has in mind, however, is not selling us off for cheap, keeping the parts that still have some useful life and scrapping the rest.  God intends to restore us, to make us as good as new; actually better than new.  Body and soul he loves us and body and soul he saves us.  Amazingly, not even our worn out bodies will go to the junk yard. They get an eternal makeover.    
 
The salvage God has in mind is not just a sweet bye and bye thing, either.  He’s not going to wait until the rust renders us unsafe at any speed.  The minute he sees corrosion in our relationships, decay in morals, deterioration in our ethics, oxidation in our love for justice and mercy he calls us to repent and believe the good news of the gospel, to be new people in the here and now.
 
Sixteen years is pretty good for a car.  And even now someone may be getting a really good front seat for their old Escort from the salvage of my car. But thanks be to God that he’s got a better salvage plan for you and for me. In fact, instead of us being sold to salvage for $100, God sent his son who was sold to death for 30 pieces of silver that we might live life abundantly and eternally.  That’s good news for Ford owners and everyone else. 
 
God’s great salvage operation.  It’s what we celebrate this coming week!