“Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens,
and your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the strong mountains,
your justice like the great deep;
you save both man and beast, O LORD.
How priceless is your love, O God!
your people take refuge under the shadow of your wings.
They feast upon the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the well of life,
and in your light we see light.”
These words are found in Psalm 35, the appointed Psalm for today. (You can hear this proclaimed tonight at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake at 7:30 PM) The psalmist here offers a cry to God of thanksgiving for the unwavering and immeasurable love that God offers to the people. This love reaches to the heavens, is higher than the mountains, deeper than the sea. It is a love that is extended to humans and to animals. It is a love that shelters and protects as a mother hen protects her brood under wing.
On this Monday of Holy Week we ask ourselves if we have come to grips with the expansiveness of God’s love. Can we acknowledge how very broad and immense God’s love for us is? Now it may be hard to do. To be fair, if life is less than good at the moment, seeing the love of God may be hard. Having said that, sometimes it is our darkest hour that gives us the greatest glimpse of the Loving Light.
This Psalm also reminds us of the abundance of what God provides for us. This is an abundance of sustenance, abundance of forgiveness, abundance of embrace and an abundance of love toward us in the midst of all manner of life. With God is a well of life from which we can drink when all is swell and from which we can drink when we are weak and weary. This is a beautiful and a wonderful promise. This of course if a promise of an abundance of love and presence that is in contrast to prosperity gospelist who insist that passages like this one promise that God gives the best to ‘his own.’ This brand of love is cheap and is only offered if the individual offers the right kinds of attitude and the right kind of prayer. This brand of thinking has become all the more prevalent with the popularity of people like Joel Osteen who are peddling prosperity gospel light. (My apologies here to those who might love to read his books. But his words speak volumes about what God is to him). In his book YOUR BEST LIFE NOW, Osteen asserts, “If you develop an image of victory, success, health, abundance, joy, peace, and happiness, nothing on earth will be able to hold those things from you.” A little later he declares, “You were born to win; you were born for greatness, you were created to be a champion in life.” These images of success are not in keeping with the Christian Gospel that we hold high during Holy Week.
This week we are given the story of the One, who assumes the position of the vulnerable. As surely as God came in the vulnerability of a weak child to refugee parents who had no place to be, He now takes the place of a criminal and assumes the death of the shamed. This week we are given the story of the One who says, if you are hurting, if your life is incomplete, if you feel tormented, cast aside, forgotten, left out, lost, rejected or a failure, I am with you. This is in stark contrast to the message offered by those who sell us an image of God which is tidy and full of prosperity.
Those who have prayed for years in places like Haiti and have struggled to enjoy any wealth, health, or peace no matter how much they willed it are brought to life and are comforted by the Passion of Jesus. Those who have been afflicted with Cancer, HIV/AIDS, Mental Illness, MS, Cystic Fibrosis, ALS, etc and have been the praying and worshiping faithful can take heart in the Holy Week account of a Saviour who journeys away from power and/or influence and embraces weakness unto death. Any of us, who have faced a struggle in life should take heart in the Holy Week account of the Journey of Jesus. We take heart because we know that God loves us so very much. We take heart because God sustains us with so much love and support. We take heart because God’s love is so immense for us that God would take on suffering to know our suffering completely.
Come this week and join us at church. Come if you are weary and carrying heavy burdens. Come if you are feeling broken and alone. Come if you are grieving. Come if you do not have it all ‘together.’ Come if you have been rejected elsewhere. Come if you suffer scarcity. Come if you feel judged or mocked or beaten down. Come and know that Jesus walks this road with you. Come and know that the road that we journey together is toward an empty tomb. Come and take refuge under the shadow of God’s wing.
The Schedule looks like this:
MONDAY 7:30 PM
TUESDAY 7:30 PM
WEDNESDAY 7:30 PM
THURSDAY 7:30 PM (BISHOP BENNETT WILL CELEBRATE)
GOOD FRIDAY 10:30 AM
SATURDAY 8 PM (GREAT EASTER VIGIL)
SUNDAY 8 AM AND 10:30 AM (EASTER SUNDAY)
Stimulating reflections. Martin Luther made a distinction between the “Theology of Glory” (the “promise’ that to become a Christian would result in the life of a winner–health, wealth and success), and the “Theology of the Cross” (to follow in the path of the Suffering Son of God). Bonhoeffer said that “when Christ calls a man/person, he bids him/her come and die.” Jurgen Moltmann wrote about the “Crucified God”–the antithesis of a glorious and splendid God far removed from human contact and experience. As you point out the Christian God who is one with us in joy and suffering–a complete life and a God that we can identify with.
Indeed a God who knows us completely… such a great time of year for that this conversation. It was good to be at church tonight reflecting on Mary of Bethany and her willingness to offer her treasure for her greatest treasure. Holy Week is the richest time of the year.
Great to read your comments. Keep them coming. I have heard so much a about you I feel like I know you already.