holy week: a gift and an example


The older I get, the more I want to use my life to LIVE and to LOVE.  

I don't want to waste one single minute, one precious breath, on things that don't matter.

Sundial, Fort Worth Botanical Garden  (photo:  Andy Bruner)

Sundial, Fort Worth Botanical Garden  (photo:  Andy Bruner)

When it comes to my faith, I want to let go of the superfluous and hold onto what is real and true.  The author of Hebrews puts it this way:  Look at Jesus, and let go of everything that holds you back.  (Hebrews 12:1-2)

I look at Holy Week ahead, and I see two real, true things I can cling to in the life of Jesus:  a gift and an example.

A Gift

John tells us that God loved the world so much that he sent us Jesus, so we could turn from darkness to the light, and receive the gift of eternal life.  (John 3:16, 17)

Paul says that God's great plan in sending Jesus was to bring us all together--Jews, Gentiles, slaves, free, male, female--and to give us the endless treasure of his welcome.  (Ephesians 3: 6-13)

In our world of gift registries and wish lists and gift cards, we're SO in control of all the gifting that comes to us.  

When it comes to faith, we've spent a lot of time in the past 2000+ years getting things all figured out and squared away.  Like the Pharisees, we have a very specific idea of what Jesus should look like, who he should hang out with, and how exactly he should behave.  

The older I get, the more I find myself opening up the box and going, "Wow.  That was NOT on my list."

I KNOW that God is God, and that he loves me beyond what I can possibly imagine.  And yet, if it wasn't on my wish list, I still want to ask if there's a receipt somewhere in the box so I can return it.

Holy Week reminds me that the price that Jesus paid an incomprehensible price to show me what real Love looks like.  A lot of times it doesn't look like I expect or want, no matter how hard I've tried to figure everything out ahead of time.  But it's Love, even when I don't understand it.

And I wonder this.  What would it be like for me if I just received the gifts of God this week, without trying to control them?

An Example

The Gospel writers are pretty clear that Jesus knew what was ahead when he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  (Matthew 20:17-19, John 12:20-28)

Most of us don't know that clearly what's ahead of us, and Richard Rohr defines suffering as any time we're not in control.  As a trying-to-recover control freak, that feels really true in my life.

So maybe receiving the gifts of God (out of my control, by definition) will always involve suffering?  That feels like it might be true, too.

So what is the example of Jesus as he faces the reality of suffering during Holy Week, and what can that mean to us in our own pain?  Three things in particular stand out to me.

Love for his own

Jesus knew that the our had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father.  Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.  John 13:1  

When life gets hard and painful, Jesus keeps loving his own.

And I want to do the same.  I want to love with everything I've got, because at the end of the day, when it's really, truly crunch time, there is no better use of my time than love for my own.

Honesty about the pain

He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, "My Father!  If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me."  Matthew 26:39

In my own times of suffering, I want to be emotionally honest.  I don't want to repress or deny.  I want to follow the example of Jesus and be real.

Trust in the Father

"Yet not my will, but yours."  Matthew 26:39

No matter what happens, I want to remember that God is God and I am not, that God IS Love (I John 4:8), and that nothing can separate me from that Love.

Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:31-39

So those are my challenges to myself this Holy Week:  receive the gifts, even though they are out of my control; follow Jesus into love and honesty and trust.

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