Wounded for Us

Many years ago, my then pre-school son and I were watching a news report on efforts to save wild animals traumatized in a coastal oil spill. We watched as volunteers struggled to wash by hand rare birds, otters, and other animals caught and covered in that black, deadly sludge. As the workers scrubbed, they had to contend with the frightened, panicked animals pecking, scratching, and biting their rescuers.

My young son asked, “Why are the animals hurting the people trying to save them? Why won’t they stop fighting them? They are just trying to help!”

I explained that the animals were scared and did not know better. I told him that those people were willing to be hurt to save those animals.

Isaiah sang of a Savior who comes to us as a Suffering Servant: He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

Then Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man [this long-awaited Savior], must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the leaders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. (Mark 8:31)

In order to heal us, to restore us to wholeness, to save us from sin’s power, Jesus bore a number of afflictions. But first, Jesus comes to us in our sludge.

Like those endangered animals, we are trapped in an oozing, inescapable, sludge. Unlike those creatures, we humans suffer from a disaster of our own sin-filled making. We wonderful human beings, created in God’s image, taint ourselves and this beautiful creation. We make a mess, caught by our selfishness, self-serving actions, and self-interest. We wound ourselves and others.

But on the cross, our Savior suffers, bearing the wounds we inflict in our fearful ignorance.

The cross is the sign that God will not give us up to the muck. God will not stop loving us. God’s love is mediated by the passion, the wounds, the suffering of Jesus Christ.

Christ has the wounds, we have new hope.

 

 

The Call: Love

This doesn't make you think of love?

This doesn’t make you think of love?

In these Lenten days, we know to listen for the call to dedicated faithfulness, to serving others, to being intentional in prayer. We expect tasks during this time, things we can do or schedule or work on- at least things that can be penciled onto sticky note. But, what about the other things? The elusive things… what about love?

Our primary and our clearest call by Jesus is to love. “Greater love has none than this,” “Love the Lord your God,” “Love one another as I have loved you.”  In his death on our behalf, he expressed a degree of love for us than we can’t even fathom. As recipients of this love, our willingness, our need to love- should be the strongest pull in our lives… and when we’re ‘on our game’ with our faith, it is.

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord” –Romans 12:10-11

Tasks and practices came second, love and honor came first for Paul and for the Roman Christians, as they should for all of us. Their idea of love wasn’t romantic. Love was (and is) mutuality, respect, concern, prayer and care.

I was in a minor car accident yesterday. I’m fine, the driver of the other car is fine. At 6:30 on a Wednesday night (when it happened), 6 different members of our church happened by and each pulled aside to check-in. Their faces spoke volumes and expressed great love.  Tense and pale they each asked, “Are you ok?  Was your child in the car?” and when told that I was and he was not, each responded with a sound or phrase akin to “Thanks be to God!”  The next line, “Can I help?”

Sometimes a scary situation re-reminds you how much you are loved, how much you love someone else, how real and tangible love is. In times like that, love is written on faces and heard in quavering voices. Luckily, love is shown in many more ways that that.  It can even be simple, direct. “I love you,” “I’m so glad you are part of my life,” “Thank you for your help.”

As people of faith, we have to take seriously Christ’s directive to love as we remember that we are to be loved, too.  What does, what can love look like?  Are we loving enough?  Are we loving well?

As Holy Week approaches again this year, may our Lenten discipline be more than what can be scheduled or planned. May we express love.  Show brothers and sisters in Christ, show total strangers what love is and what it means.  Prayerfully consider the call of the one we worship: Jesus Christ, who embodied love.

love-like-jesus1

John 13:35 “By this they will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

What A Joke

Even in the Lenten solemnity, most Christians have to feel a little bit of bemusement.  After all, we are an Easter people.  We know how this story goes.  “Jesus is dead. It is terrible; all is lost… April Fools!”  It sounds like the silliest thing in the world, and it absolutely is.  We worship a God who died, completely and fully as any man or woman can, went to hell, and then experienced resurrection.  He woke up, rose from his burial-place, spoke, walked, talked, and then rose all the way to heaven, to be our eternal advocate.

Is it any wonder that some think that we who have faith are a little bit ‘off?’

Perhaps we are.  Is that going to be a problem?

“For Jews demanded signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” -1 Cor. 1:22-24

It trip completely senseless to think of God (GOD!) being willing to come down to earth, live, teach, and accept a horrible and finite death on our behalf… but that is what happened, and that’s why we celebrate, even as we walk together toward the cross.  The senselessness is why it is such a big deal, and it is also why it is called ‘faith.’  We sometimes fear that someone is going to jump out from behind us yelling, “April Fools!” but it hasn’t happened so far…

…and it isn’t going to. We are God’s beloved, you know, as silly as it sounds.