This is being posted in the middle of the night, because I actually forgot to post it earlier in the day.
We are heading toward Palm Sunday now, with the memory of Mary of Bethany, the danger Jesus faces, and the bewilderment of the disciples fresh from Gospel lesson for the 5th Sunday in Lent.
But we also remember, along with the sense of going into danger, the words of encouragement and comfort Isaiah and Paul left with us.
Press on, says Paul, for the heavenly call.
“I am about to do a new thing,” says Isaiah, in prophecy.
The promise of baptism, of living this Christian life, is the new thing God is always doing in each of us. Remembering that, each day is open, each encounter is vibrant with possibility. God will do what God will do.
We’ve been studying Luther’s catechisms in our bible studies during Lent. And he, as a good preacher, constantly reminds us of the power of God to make all things new, to transform our lives and our world. The kingdom comes by God’s will, “on its own without our prayer” , but we pray in faith “that it may also come to us” Luther writes on The Lord’s Prayer in the Small Catechism. And a little later, of baptism, daily we die to sin, and “daily a new person is to come forth and rise up to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” That new thing God is doing is happening right now, whether we can see it or not. It’s cause for hope, cause for joy, the water in the wilderness, the way through the desert.
This Lent, so far, for this writer at least, has been rich in the discoveries of Gospel comfort in all the readings, and with each challenge, each call to repentence, there’s also been in the same breath, the promise of God’s life-giving action on our behalf. Transformation is not something we do, by virture of holy living, it’s something that God does in us, so that we can live a holy life, loving God and neighbor.
Luther’s morning and evening prayer in the Small Catechism, include the petition: “Into your hands I commend my body, my soul, and all that is mine.” It’s a statement of what is already; freedom comes when I remember it. Freedom comes when I remember God is, indeed, doing a new thing, in you, in me, in the world, in the waters of rebrith and renewal.
Perhaps my favorite lines though, from this week’s readings come from Paul, when he says with passion and fierce love: “Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” That’s the devotion that Mary expressed when she anointed Jesus. It’s a kind of devotion that lies underneath what the disciples will do after the resurrection.
I can’t quite count everyting as loss, because I love life, the lilies of the field, the sparrows of the air, the grasses of the field, the things of this world, my family and friends, the church, my home, my life here in Lanesville, my dog and cats, the gorgeous beauty outside the door, the sea and its mysteries, sunlight and wind, people I meet, neighbors far and near. But I know that this life is a gift, this marvelous creation is a gift. They would be empty without the love of God, the grace of Christ, and transforming power of the Spirit. And if I care for them with devotion and commitment, it’s because God’s grace has first freed me to love at all.