"That we might lovely be."
The path of Lent takes a decisive turn toward Jerusalem this week. Traditionally, the Fifth Sunday of Lent was the first Sunday of Passiontide, and that's how we keep it at St. John's. We look at the big picture of Jesus’ journey to the cross as we reflect on his last days -- his agony in the garden, his arrest, his trial, the betrayal of his friends, his suffering, his death on Calvary, his burial in the tomb of a friend.
Two-thousand and more years after these events, why do we still remember them? And perhaps more importantly, what do they mean for your life and mine? As Christians, we not only say that Jesus' sacrificial love is an example for us in giving ourselves for others, but is the pathway by which we enter the new creation. The story we begin to recount this weekend tells us not only of the suffering of a human being, but that this man was God in the flesh. That truth makes all the difference.
If Jesus was only a hero who defied oppression and spoke out for the way of non-violence, then he would be a good man and possibly an exemplar. If he is God in the flesh, then he is our Savior. He is the one who undoes death. He is the one who opens up the possibility of transforming this old creation. He is the one who overcomes the evil powers that enslave human beings. He is the one who restores the goodness of creation and brings God's shalom. He is the one who shows us "that we might lovely be," as the words of a hymn put it.
If he is both fully human and divine, he knows the grief and sorrow and fear and pain we all experience. And if he is divine, I know that all those things are not the last word. We will all be restored, redeemed, made new. If Jesus is both human and divine, and we believe he is, then he also is the Lord of history, the Lord of the new creation and the Lord of our lives. As C.S. Lewis wrote: "You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon, or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."
So, we come this weekend and hear again the story of the man of sorrows, but also the Son of God who gave his life so that we might have life abundant. That is the story we tell again:
Here might I stay and sing,
No story so divine; Never was love, dear King, Never was grief like Thine. This is my Friend, In whose sweet praise I all my days Could gladly spend.