Grace to you and peace, from God who always makes the first move and reaches out to us, in peace. AMEN.
If one takes Lent seriously, if one takes church seriously, then Lent can be a very active time, a very reflective time. But it’s really up to that individual. I’ve said a few times here this Lenten season, that to the rest of the world, these are just more busy spring weeks. The practice, the discipline of Lent has gone out the window for many in our world and our culture. But to those in the church, it is an opportunity to mark the 40 days before Christ’s passion and death, to set aside disciplines and practices – as benign as wearing purple or trying not to say Alleluia (Micah yesterday); or as profound as connecting with the estranged, getting out of your comfort zone, completely changing your exercise and eating habits, or coming to terms with an hard truth about your life and emerging in a new way albeit painfully. Being reflective, and contemplative during this church season, is actually quite involved activity. It’s tiring. And then we’ve talked and seen resources these 40 days about the Laws of God – some challenging topics: the 10 commandments, money and faith, about serving in the world, about tough issues, like the trafficking of young girls. Maybe some of us have had a meaningful and involved Lent; maybe some of us have not. My point is…you’ve got to make Lent happen for yourself; you’ve got to take Lent seriously; you’ve got to grab it by the horns; it doesn’t just happen to us.
Today is the last Sunday of Lent. Next Sunday, we remember the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem with the palms, and we read aloud together the entire story of Jesus’ passion and death. And so today is, in a sense, a transition Sunday…from Lent to Holy Week. It’s still Lent, there’s still time to take it by the horns, but something is shifting as the days pass.
And the move and the mood from Lent to Holy Week might be characterized as simply “letting go”. That might be a good word whether you’re a Lent practice or not. Letting go. Letting go of the charge we’ve been taking. Rather than making it happen, rather than taking it by the horns, we are shifting now into the high holy days, where all we can do is sit back and let God happen to us. Sit back or stand up, in awe, as a cross comes sharply into view.
Let Christ happen to you, among you as we transition together as a body of faithful followers. (Do you see the difference?)
“Catch a little neutral.” (Jimmy Buffett)
From this [clenched fists/fast at prayer] to this [open hands/receiving].
We have this beautiful image today from Jeremiah, of God, “writing the law on our hearts.” No longer will it be a matter of gaining and teaching and “insert-your-action-verb-here” the knowledge of God’s forgiveness. “No,” God says in Jeremiah, “Now it will simply be written on our hearts.” I was trying to find an image of that for the cover of our bulletins, but I couldn’t. And then I saw this image of the cross being made on our forehead. It’s an Ash Wednesday graphic, so that’s nice and reminiscent of where we’ve been.
But I also realized that to the ancients the heart was understood as the place of our thoughts. “I will write my law on their hearts” then could mean “I will write my law on their minds” today.
Sit back, “catch a little neutral”, not in a lazy, hedonistic way (as fun as that might sound)… but in a worshipful way. We are shifting from a posture of action to a posture of wonderment. We are coming in from the garden, from the world as Holy Week draws closer. We are about to marvel and revel and take in the powerful images and stories of God, being lifted up on that glorious tree…
The cross is being written on our hearts. We no longer take it by the horns, force ourselves to observe it; it simply is. God is. Present and now.
[Micah and the licking his thumb before he puts the cross on my forehead at bedtime.]
Why do you do that, Micah? “Because no one can ever take that away, and you can feel it and remember.”
Ah, "catching a little neutral". God’s got you. The law and the gospel is written on our hearts [crossing my forehead]. Deep within. The seed that gives life, this day and always. Amen.