May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be always acceptable in your sight , O Lord my strength and my Redeemer
Looking back over the last year I am sure we can all think of many examples where people have thought of the needs of others. Picking up a prescription, taking in a parcel for a neighbour, dropping off shopping or perhaps just giving each other a little more space on the pavement.
All of these are undoubtedly good things but in our reading today in Paul’s letter to the Romans, we are reminded that it is not our own actions but that of God’s love for us that restores our relationship with him.
If the Gospel worked by us having to get to a certain point in a test and examination of goodness before God acted, then frankly we would all have an F minor and be resitting on a regular basis. But that is not the Christ that we find in the Gospel, he is a God of action and infinite mercy.
We are justified and put right by our faith in what God has, out of love, done for us. Jesus is not simply dwelling among us, living as one of us, but giving his life blood. ‘While we were still sinners, Christ died for us’, not waiting for us to get better at life, but bringing us home to the father, offering the living water, in spite of and not because of, what we did and continue to do so.
There is a danger in this pandemic to over theologise the suffering that all are experiencing in many different forms. As though it is the duty of us all to suffer in silence. But Paul tells us that through suffering, we find hope. It is not so much that we need to suffer, but that in suffering we find through our darkest moments that Christ is stretched out on the cross in our agony.
Of course we don’t always feel that at the time, but in the broken bread, the kind word and the lit candle, we see God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit and been given to us.
As Paul says, ‘just at the right time as we were still powerless, Christ died’. But it was not a power as we know and understand it, but power in weakness in the frailty of a man stripped bare, chastised, taunted and tortured after three years of ministry on the road, and yet still choosing to put right our wrong with his life. That is action, that is love.
It is interesting how much, in today’s society, we talk of justifying our actions and words, whether it is falling out of relationships, criticism of others, just a little hurtful comment on social media, polarising thought, exploiting people’s suffering for money or power and insisting on division and difference. We seem to have lost sight of what it means to justify by action; to bring back together, to reconcile, to put right, to reunite, to re-establish. All of this seems to speak of the beauty of the creative new order, of a Kingdom inherited of love, not a world tearing itself apart with opinion, accusations and deliberate hurt.
As we continue to move through Lent towards the Passion of our Lord, my prayer is that we take some time over the next few weeks to reflect that God chooses to act out of love, because we choose not to. That we follow his example to act, not simply because it is a good thing to do, but because it is the right thing to do.