May 18, 2010 | 10:02 am

Tuesday – The Boundaries of God’s Presence

Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus is a catchy Latin phrase that means “outside the church there is no salvation.”  It was first penned by St. Cyprian in the third century, and it has been used ever since to express the essentiality of the Church for salvation. This simple phrase has created endless debate. Does this mean only those who are part of the visible Church are saved? Or does this refer to the invisible Church of which people are a part even though they may not belong to a local congregation? The debate is about more than the role of the Church. It is about the boundaries of God’s presence.
Enter this week’s text, Romans 8:14-17. The opening line says “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” We can be quick to confine those “who are led by the Spirit” to those in the Church. Yet this would place limits on the Spirit that by very definition cannot be placed. Yesterday we said that the term “spirit” means “wind.” And in the Gospel of John it says that like the wind, the Spirit blows where it wills (3:8). It is because God’s Spirit knows no boundaries that there is any hope of healing and reconciliation. How often does the pain of our personal histories and the anger of past hurts limit what we think is possible? To be led by the Spirit is to open ourselves to something, someone, beyond ourselves so that we can move past these limits.
By saying this we are not diminishing the value of the Church or the uniqueness of the Christian faith. But by staking claim to our faith we are not restricting the presence of God. We are sharing how it has been our source for the life-giving, life-animating presence of the Spirit. It is too good not to share, and yet we do so without presumption about what the Spirit is doing and where the Spirit is doing it.
Random thought of the day: To claim the Spirit is not to confine the Spirit. We will find signs of God’s presence everywhere—if we are still looking!