Fortieth Day of Lent

Scripture: Romans 5:12-21 

This day between the cross and Jesus' resurrection, when His first followers cowered in uncertain grief, we can easily overlook in our longing for the celebration of Easter Sunday. Who enjoys a waiting room?

But this is where we live, in the liminal space, the borderlands of these last days, the overlap of God's kingdom that is already come and not yet fully here. As Van Morrison sings, “I'm a dweller on the threshold / And I'm waiting at the door / And I'm standing in the darkness / I don't want to wait no more.” Death has already been defeated, but we find brokenness wherever we look. The Spirit who raised Jesus is alive and on the move, within and among us, but we find injustice, greed and loneliness everywhere. Sometimes all we can do is to join the creation in painful groaning and pray, “Come, Lord Jesus,” and “Let your kingdom come.”

How do we wait with integrity, with intention and faithfulness to our King? And how might we join God in His work of redemption while living at the threshold? These questions are alive for me in coming to our text from Romans 5. I must confess that I am tempted to live in my head as I read Paul's legal expressions and over the top hyperbole in the passage. His sweeping comparisons of Adam and Jesus feel somehow foreign and I can let that unfamiliarity distract me from Paul's passion for his Lord and his invitation to my heart.

Verse 15 calls me to “just think what God's gift poured through one man, Jesus Christ, will do.” Verse 17 asks, “can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand setting-everything-right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides?” Perhaps by fixing my eyes on God's loving gift of life, by setting my mind on what He is up to. I can contemplate, day-dream and meditate on God's unfolding redemption. I can grab hold of Jesus ʻwith both hands', be fully engaged with longing for and seeking the kingdom of the One who provides everything.

Verse 20 reminds us that sin and death “doesn't have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace.” Verse 21 declares that, “because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah,” God's grace “invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end.” May we RSVP to that invitation now and each day, relying on Jesus and His aggressive grace to live the kind of lives right now that embody His beautiful kingdom yet to come.

Steve Waldschmidt
College Park Covenant Church
Saskatoon, SK

Thirty-Ninth Day of Lent

Scripture: John 19:17-42 

On the way to church one Good Friday, my then 4-year-old daughter, Mia asked me, “Why did Jesus have to die on the cross and why is it good?”  Dozens of things went through my mind as to how I would share the Gospel message with my eldest child. I thought, “Well, it’s because of the wickedness of human sin and the horrors of its consequences.” But that wouldn’t work for a 4-year-old. “Well because Judas betrayed Him, an angry mob demanded His death, then Pontus Pilate ordered it, the soldiers followed through and it was a fulfillment of a promise and a prophecy.” Umm, too complicated.

It was that dirty cup of sin that we served up to Him and sent with Him to the cross. In one of Jesus’ last acts before the crucifixion, He fell on His face and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).  But there was no other way.  He had to drink that nasty bitter cup so that you and I wouldn’t have to. That’s why Jesus had to die: for all of this and more. But we didn’t ask Him, we didn’t send Him, we didn’t choose Him.  God did.

Sin is that powerful, for it sent Jesus to the cross and only one thing is more powerful, the love of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). That’s why Jesus had to die.

Way too much for a four year old and to tell you the truth maybe too much for a 30 year old or a 60 year old.  I needed something simpler. 

Why did Jesus have to die on the cross?

“Mia,” I asked, “How much do you love me?”

She stretched her arms out wide and replied, “This much.”

I stretched my arms as far to the east and west as I could and said, “When Jesus died on the cross Mia, He was saying to the world, ‘I love you this much.’

Why is it good?  Because in this act he is telling me and you and the rest of the world that God loves us that much.  It’s good because He loves you.”

The truth is always simple! The Gospel message is that simple.  Let’s not forget it.

John Cho
Avenue Community Church
Toronto, ON

Thirty-Eighth Day of Lent

Scripture: John 19: 1-16 

Lent is an opportunity to reflect on how we live out our daily walk of emulating Jesus. It’s a time to ponder our daily decisions and how we express them in our behaviours, our relationships and our everyday life. Is every decision we make through each day a mirror of His example to us? 

In the scripture today, we read about Jesus’ final moments before Pilate. We can imagine the noise, the crush of people and the mass emotion. In our mind's eye, we watch the crown of thorns, the horrific flogging, the physical and psychological torture, then our Lord being sentenced to treason and crucifixion. It’s difficult to breathe through the pain in our hearts.

But, how did He respond? When berated and mocked, He responded either with silence or with a simple statement that glorified God rather than defending Himself. His deep understanding of this walk on Earth gave Him grace and courage. For us, these responses are truly astonishing!

Silence? Can we emulate Jesus’ silence in today’s world? Can we practice intentional stillness and quietude in our day? Without the radio, the iPod, the cellphone buzzing with e-mail and Facebook contacts, we may begin to face our anxieties, our true longings, ourselves. Conversation with God deepens. We simply pray more.

 So often, I’m reminded how busy our lives are. Our hands are so full that there is no room to embrace someone new, to welcome a fresh spiritual discipline into our lives, to simply go for a walk in creation within our day. What if, as part of our Lenten time, we empty our hands and our lives of activity, knowing and trusting in our Lord’s provision? With empty hands, perhaps we can take time to embrace someone or attend to the sound and sight of a bird who migrates through our valley. What if we stop, be still and attend to His nudges?

Time seems to expand with silence, providing a refreshed soul, a rested body and a listening heart. Jesus’ gifts to us are so many. His walk through Easter is His ultimate gift to humanity. Despite the enormity of His gift, He gives us choice, extending to us the freedom to decide how we follow Him.

May we choose to respond with silence, soul rest and gratitude in His gift.

Joanne Galius
Erickson ECC
Erickson, BC