12 March 2009

Lenten Devotions: On Jesus, Healing and Freedom

During this Lenten season, our campus ministry has been asked to worship with a local congregation and to have our students provide reflections on the daily lectionary for midweek prayer services.  Last week I neglected to get a digital copy of the excellent reflection one of our students gave; I remembered to do so this week, and so I offer this to you today - thoughts on Jeremiah 30.12-22 and John 12.36-43.

The young woman who wrote them is a strong member of our campus ministry community.  If you want to feel good about the body of Christ, especially regarding the younger members of our church, read on:

In this reading from Jeremiah God is punishing the people.  We hear over and over again about the absence of hope.  "Your wound is incurable, your injury is beyond healing."  When it seems like there is nothing left, God comes back with a completely different message, saying that God will restore us to health and heal our wounds.  When I first read this passage I was very confused as to what God's intention was.  Why would God punish his people so harshly and create such despair in them only to turn around a few verses later to give them hope and a promise of healing?  God's actions seem so confusing, and maybe even cruel.

This despair and hopelessness in the first few verses is a description of what our lives are like without God or Jesus to heal us and save us from the sadness and sin of this world.  Our deepest wounds aren't able to be healed by anything we or anyone else in this world can do.  These are the wounds created by our sins against others and ourselves.  These wounds can be made by hurtful words and actions of others or the wounds we inflict on ourselves when we tear ourselves down and forget how much our heavenly Father loves us.  Only God is able to heal us from these wounds and only God can give us the compassion to forgive others.  God's love and God's grace are what set us free from our own sins; there is nothing we can do to heal ourselves.  

Believing in and trusting in Jesus' ability to heal is what the crowds in John 12 don't want to do, or aren't able to do.  Some of them even believed Jesus and the messages he preached, but for fear that other people would reject them for their true beliefs, they turned their backs.  They traded being freed from their sins and their guilt for human glory.  Jesus offered them salvation from their sins and they traded it, for what?  We've already seen in Jeremiah that people aren't able to heal their own wounds or the wounds of others.

When we are truly freed by the love Jesus gives us, not only are we free from our sins but we are also freed from needing approval from other people.  Jesus has given us his approval, his love, his life.  If the creator of the Universe deemed us worthy of these things, what else is there to prove?  When we follow Jesus we're free to love others and to accept love from others, knowing that we are worthy of giving and receiving that love.  

During Lent we remember the sacrifice that Jesus made for us and the sins which would plague our lives if they were not swallowed up in his love.  This can be a time of darkness while we wait for the day we remember the cross and how it sets us free.  But just as we have been waiting for spring this past week, especially with all of the gloom and cold and rain we're receiving right now, we're also waiting for Jesus:  waiting for his love, the fresh air of his grace and the freedom his forgiveness brings to us.  Amen.

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