Wednesday, April 07, 2010

themes and such

I'm up in Joe's and I should probably be working on homework. But sometimes I feel like that is all I ever do and I am fed up with it. So instead, in the next 30 minutes before work, I have decided to write.

First, I'd like to recap Lent before the season drifts by, forgotten until next year. Although, this year I dare say it will be a little harder to do because God has been serious in his teaching of me. So serious in quiet little ways. Why does God teach some of the most significant things to us in simple, hushed, seemingly "unimportant" ways? Pay attention to those little things, they just might turn out to be really important in the end.

There was a night oh so many weeks ago on which I lay in bed wondering how to enter the Lenten season. Worry was a theme of that week and I was tired of spending my energy struggling over things unworthy of so much thought time. So I gave up worry for Lent. Weird, I thought, because there is no way to "give up" something like worry. Without going into the meticulous details of the days and weeks that followed, I'll just say that they were a remarkable mixture of beauty and frustration. I learned a little bit more about myself--and humanity, even--and lived with the Lord the in's and out's of Lent learning in new ways what it means to 1. be human 2. be in relationship with God 3. be sinful.

I have a class right now on the healing ministry of Christ. It's been such an interesting study. I think we can approach a "topical" study like that with ideas of how it will turn out--what will be learned, discovered, and revealed. It's been different than I thought. I've been overwhelmed to discover in the Gospels (and through extra-biblical study) that Christ's ministry was, perhaps above all, so remarkable because of the rich themes of reconciliation, redemption, and restoration that evidence themselves in understandings of "the kingdom of God" and "Sabbath," etc. The significance of Jesus' words is inextricably linked to the beauty of his work. So when he teaches us to pray the Lord's prayer, then, the weight and richness of meaning is suddenly "new."

I don't know, this is hugely encouraging to me. It was, too, as I wrestled my way through Lent, increasingly aware of 1. his remarkable self 2. my need of that remarkable self.

Holy Week was exceptionally powerful this year. I know I've mentioned before that as I get older, these holidays gain in their lived importance for me. I went to a Good Friday service at 4th Presbyterian. It was a beautiful service and I remember sitting there in that rather uncomfortable and stuffy cathedral-style hall thinking about how much we need Him--how necessary his death was and how desperate the hope and belief that he would rise again. In fact, listening to the bells toll thirty-three times (one for each year of his life) felt like an eternity of thinking on this. This made Easter almost unbearable in its joy. This year I actually lived the newness provided through His death and resurrection.

Is the life of the world without death because he was "victorious over death"? Is there no more suffering because He suffered for us, to end it? Are our lives free of sin and shame because He died a shameful death and bore our sins for us?
What a painful mystery that we look around us and see/hear a resounding, "NO!" The life of the world still experiences death and it rips families apart, tortures people groups, and shreds nations. There is suffering every day in and through relationships, disease, lies, and violence (obviously there is a more extensive list). We are caught in webs of sin--systems of sin--that won't let us out. The result is often shame, discouragement, even despair.

So what, then? What about that death and that resurrection?

I've been thinking about those themes again. Reconciliation, redemption, and restoration. These themes are all over Creation and they stepped into Creation when Jesus walked the earth. The incarnation was God taking on our condition--stepping into the web and the system of brokenness from without, because that's the only way to stop it. We desperately need something from without to step in--break in. He did that. He provided a way that would make possible the reconciliation, redemption, and restoration of the world. And that's what He's doing--that's what we are doing in and through Him, agents of hope and compassion. One day this shall all be made right.

Giving up worry settled me into a place of realized need. It was an interesting place come Holy Week when I began to realize deeper and deeper why it was so necessary that He came and died--and now lives and works.

I've thought of Hopkins' words much this week,"The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out, like shining from shook foil..."

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