Wednesday, March 02, 2016

The Fisherman's Net for IV Lent, Year C

The Lessons for Sunday: 

Breaking Open the Word:

Never there was a supper of crackers and oatmeal so good. After decades of wandering in the wastes, Israel has arrived in its new/old home. The deliverance promised in Egypt, secured at the Red Sea, affirmed in covenant at Sinai and confirmed with the tests and struggles of the wilderness has come to pass.

The sign? The manna stops. Where are the moments in your life, when having just a cracker and some parched meal has been the equivalent of an 8-course chef's tasting extravaganza? That is what it must have felt like in those days. To cross the Jordan, to be the people who were the first to step into the next chapter of Israel's walk with God. 

Where is your Gilgal? 

2 Corinthians:
The hardest part of being saved in Christ? Realizing that our whole being is now consecrated as a vessel for the unmitigated grace and love of God for the world. Paul is not holding back at all when he accuses us of being a new creation in Christ: we are now the agents of God's efforts to draw the whole world into God's reconciliation, God's loving embrace. 

The search for God's love is fulfilled in Jesus' death and resurrection, and if we are in Christ, then that resurrection is in us. 

We have no excuses to hold back, none at all. The time to embrace the call to bring love, hope and justice into the world is NOW. 

The parable of the prodigal is one of Jesus' masterworks. A man has two sons. One demands his inheritance, displaying contempt for his father and all his family relationships. Having secured it, he goes away and wastes it in excess. Having nothing, he resolves that slavery in his father's house is better than starving, forsaken by all (with the same dismissal he was so ready to extend not too long ago!).

What happens next is pure kingdom of God: The lost son is embraced, the father calls for a feast, the son who remained has his own avarice and resentments exposed...everyone's true face is revealed and ALL are invited into restoration and reconciliation in the Father's home. 

Sometimes, too often, we forget just how much God loves us, to embrace us even when we prove just how not worth it we are.

Forgiveness. How sweet a thing? The challenge the psalmist holds up is how oppressive God's judgment feels, like a hand pressing down on him. Then, with confession comes reconciliation and forgiveness. It's all about being willing to embrace the reality that we are too often the authors of our own errancy. We are the willful and capricious party to our own brokenness...and it's only when we willingly embrace seeing ourselves with true, open eyes that we are ready to embrace the forgiveness that God can't wait to pour out over us as a blessing.

How It all Links Up:
The call to life in Christ asks something pretty significant of us, something we struggle to offer up: a willingness to embrace forgiveness. Sounds simple enough, right? Yet, to embrace forgiveness is to also embrace what required forgiving in the first place, to recognize just how close to bottom we are in just our day-to-day walk in life. Once we've embraced that brokenness, we then are asked to let go of it and allow God to lift the pall of shame that covers us. Real forgiveness reminds us just how loving God us, and how unworthy we are to be party to that love. Real repentance means letting God lift us up, as the father did the prodigal, into restoration. It also means that we are then called to be conduits of that restoration to others. 

Taking Meaning:
Grace is not a passive experience, and it is a gift that is fulfilled only when we are willing to scatter what we have been given with abandon on others, on anyone we come into contact with in this life.

Don't hold back, be that agent of Grace. Embrace the call to strive for justice and peace on behalf of those who do not possess access to either. Embrace the person who wounds and invite them into healing. Cut off sin, anger, resentment, recrimination and forge from brokenness the unity of heart and love that God so freely invests in us.

Grace is a scarce commodity only when we attempt to horde it under the erroneous assumption that somehow if we let go of it, then it will depart from us never to return.

That is a false grace. The real thing is found in the readings above.

Rejoice and be glad. We are saved, and we are now tasked with proclaiming that salvation to the world!

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