Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Devotional for the Twenty-Ninth Day of Lent, the Fourth Sunday of Lent

I will sing of loyalty and of justice;
 to you, O Lord, I will sing. 
I will study the way that is blameless.
 When shall I attain it? (Psalm 101:1-2)

Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. (Jeremiah 18:6b)

Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. (John 6:37-38)

A man once explained to me, at length, the benefits of a workout routine. He spoke of muscle tone, cardiac health, and mental clarity. It all sounded glorious and disciplined. It was the life of one who had attained a heightened state of physicality. I marveled at what he appeared to have attained, and despaired at my own lack of devotion to health. After a while I asked the man how long he had been participating in such a rigorous program of exercise. He said, “Two days.” It appeared that he was describing his hopes and intentions more than he was describing his reality.

Psalm 101 describes a life that is fully devoted to God and that shuns all evil. The psalmist claims, “I will not set before my eyes anything that is base” (v. 3a), and “A haughty look and an arrogant heart I will not tolerate” (v. 5b). It all sounds so righteous and sinless, until you return to the opening line of the Psalm: “I will study the way that is blameless.
 When shall I attain it?” The Psalm is a reflection on hope and intention rather than on a reality that has escaped all sin.

God, through the prophet Jeremiah, seems to wonder about the hopes and intentions of the people of Israel as well. He describes the work of the potter, who forms a pot out of clay, then seeing its imperfections, tears it apart and reforms it again. God says that he will do that with any nation of people, including Israel. As they turn from him and engage in destructive and oppressive ways, he will tear them down. If they turn from those ways, then God will reform them in his own design. God is not willing to allow sin to reign, but he is also willing to reform those who turn to him into people after his own heart.

Jesus claimed to do only that which was the intention and desire of his Father. When Jesus said, “. . . anyone who comes to me I will never drive away,” he was revealing the heart of the Father. Any who come to him will not be driven away. God does not take injustice, oppression, and—in general—sin lightly, and will not allow them to have the last word. God’s last word is “. . . anyone who comes to me I will never drive away.”

As the Lenten season turns into Easter, we will reflect on the resurrection of Jesus. In his death, we will see that sin and death does indeed win the day when Jesus is killed. But that day is not the final day. When Jesus is raised from death, God shows that he has the last word about who wins the day. And all those who have lost hope, will come to him. They will never be driven away.

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