Breaking Open the Word:
In an age of bombast, anyone (even God) who speaks in the "first person superlative" seems like they are overselling. We are growing hard callouses over ears that hear when the media and airwaves are full of people saying that their produce, their candidate, their campaign, their own person is "the best ever." If you opt in now, then life will be better, easier, richer for the allegiance you place in that particular person, place or thing.
It would be tempting to put that on God as the prophet gives voice to God's confident invocation of God's own self. Granted, this God can make smooth, safe paths appear in the midst of stormy seas. This God can call out armies, chariots and soldiers, and make them lie down and submit to God's will. But as to the rest? This God promises to do a new thing, something that will light up the universe anew with confidence in God's primacy. That thing? It's no supernova, no celestial-grade vent. The miracle? To care for God's people, in such a way as to be like giving someone parched with thirst a cool draught.
Are we ready?
Oh, dear Paul! It is for this moment that I give you credit for altering my previous assumptions about you: that you were a bombastic and over-proud proclaimer....a "hype-man" for Jesus as the Son of God. It would be so easy to remind us yet again just how perfect and select you are (and the passage begins with just such a reiteration!). Yet, in the midst of that self- promotion something else becomes apparent. You are, in fact, humbled in Christ! Your witness, your gifts, your skills and pedigree....all by your own admission is in fact loss in Christ. In other words, without Christ as the true core and center of your being and your message....all else is just dust, motes drifting in sunlight, nothing of substance.
All meaning? It comes from Christ Jesus, as does ALL life and hope!
A humble act triggers a minor scandal. A woman gives something precious that she had been saving over to an act of extravagant love and by it brings honor to Jesus and to us. That simple anointing of Jesus' feet presages the women coming to his tomb with ointments and cloth to cleanse his body properly at the end of the Sabbath rest following his death. That expensive jar of nard gives testament that we can, honestly, hold nothing back from our willing giving of our whole selves to Christ. The real scandal is not the expense "wasted" but instead the wasted opportunities we all indulge in too often when we hold back from leaping deeply into the work of bearing witness to the Good News.
When was the last time, in the midst of an absolute sense of loss and grief, that you had however briefly a moment of joy, release and awareness of the amazing consolation of God? This Psalm tells of the very moment when the exiles in Babylon knew that their deliverance was real and that they were going home. We forget that kind of joy....at least until the next time we hear that call to home in God's loving embrace.
How It All Links Up:
"When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, then were we like those who dream...." Lent is winding down, and the pilgrimage of Holy Week is about to begin again. These readings remind us to pause and really, honestly remember just how much God loves us, home humbling that reality is and to what remarkable work we are called to as we seek to serve and proclaim a god who is living, present and active in our lives.
Remember. The most important action in Lent and during Holy Week, to remember. We have been given new live, and the assurance of resurrection in the glory of Jesus' rising from the dead. We have been given a message of deliverance that break every yoke, frees every slave and overturns every tyranny that seeks to overwhelm us.
Remember. Give thanks....and then, ACT. Now.