LENTEN CONNECTIONS 2017: Going Against the Grain

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

(Colossians 1:11-14, ESV)

God seems to specialize in obscurity.  This creator of galaxies who knows each star by name and knows the number of hairs on our heads and cares for inexpensive sparrows doesn’t use our math:  the lowest will be the greatest; the last will be first; he esteems the poor; he blesses the poor in spirit.

This King of Glory himself was despised, rejected.  He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.  He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.  (Isaiah 53:2-3a)

This carpenter was fashioning his own cross, going against the grain.  Wood: stained, marked, pierced.  For in the beginning, before the beginning, God had it in mind to do this before we had even begun.  Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.  This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.  (Ephesians 1:5)  We say the blessing in Numbers 6:26 to each other,  . . . May the Lord turn the light of his face toward you, and give you peace.  God turned away, it seems . . . away from himself . . . and turned his face toward us.  (Matthew 27:46)

We were dead in our sins.  No pulse left.  The New King James version says, And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him.  (Isaiah 53:3b)  It’s as though God rejected himself and made himself nothing at his own expense . . . for our sake.  He was crushed for our sins, yet he won’t let us be crushed.  We are troubled, perplexed.  We suffer.  We fail.  We are poor.  Those nails of fear build up cages of iron, rusting out our hope.  Those thorns of pride rip deep, hidden under our skin.  When we had no hope, when there was nothing we could do to make things better, when our best efforts were still a death sentence, when we were caught and identified-—he stamped himself as the “King of the Jews,”  identifying himself with us.  In death, by death, he stamped out our death.

He brought us peace for all people.  The demand for all injustice was satisfied, declaring a unity of all believers carefully joined together in Him.  (Ephesians 2:20)  We can share in his riches and grow in our understanding of him, and of his love for us, as we become imitators of God; Christ’s perfume to God.

God’s math is a math where one plus one doesn’t equal two.  God’s math is where the world, in sin and error pining, plus Christ equals life.   When you need it badly, when you’re but a floundering and vulnerable sparrow, God’s math equals everything.  When you step into this temple built up by God himself, this eternal communion with all the saints where God’s own Spirit dwells-—it’s nothing but flat-out outrageous.

Even Jesus committed his Spirit into God’s hands.  So as we step into his care, defying our own math, may we discover gift and grace and the provision to live.  Our molding seems slow, sometimes faint or non-existent.  But we hold these splinters of grace close, as we work out our hopes and fears, in Christ who fashions a cross that saves and unites us.  These nails of the cross hold us up, and hold us steady, putting air back into our lungs.  And we find Christ beside us, going against the grain.

And that, my friends, is the Good News.

Prayer:  Lord of all, Lord of Life, Lord of our lives, we come in humility and awe for the beauty given as your plan for our lives.  All praise to you and you alone, our King of Glory, now and forevermore.  Amen.

Submitted by Karen Stelter