Philippians 3: 7-21
Take a moment to be still and to pray ‘Come, Holy Spirit’ before reading the scriptures. If you are in the company of others, invite someone to read the text aloud.
If you are gathering with your family, invite someone to read this reflection aloud.
As the air warms and new life begins to bud, you can tell that this wrestle is in its final rounds. Spring is strengthening its grip on winter. Renewal has the upper hand. Yet as we squint into the low lying sun during the day, we are still lighting fires in the evening.
We are not there yet.
Truthfully, I want to be done with Lent. Everything within me wants to sprint towards Resurrection Sunday with its empty tomb and mistaken Gardener. I want to be there already. My favourite stories are ones that are resolved, hence my longing to skip through the stations of the cross and avoid the hard parts.
However, if we are to echo Paul’s desire to truly know Christ, we must know both the power of resurrection as well as His crucifixion. For only as we rehearse Lent’s lament, we can unashamedly rejoice on Resurrection Sunday.
As we look ahead to Palm Sunday, Holy Week, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, we are invited to hold out that little bit longer. In our Lenten reflections, we are now turning towards the cross and readying ourselves to gaze through the surest, truest window of the heart of God. By staring into His eyes we only see mercy and love, drawing us beyond the veil into the embrace of His presence.
These next few days of solemn preparation are to shape our loves and our longing. You can’t rush and wonder at the same time. Lent’s last days may slow us down, but they leave us captivated by the One who gathers up all that is lost, the One who loved us first, the One who brings to life all that has died, the One who is stronger than death itself.
Some of my earliest memories as a child involve showing up to church fifteen minutes early on a Sunday evening, where a grey man in a grey suit would stand at the pulpit and ask us to turn in our hymn books to “The Old Rugged Cross”. I would join the chorus of faithful saints singing of a hill far, far away, and a cross to cling to.
Since then, I’ve carried the cross of Jesus with me. With time though, familiarity has kicked, domesticating Christ’s death, as I reduce it down to one thing: my Jesus saving me. Of course, the cross is about that, yet of course there is more to it than that.
With the passing of time and my short-circuiting of the seasons, my grip of the cross has weakened as I often rush prematurely towards the resolution of resurrection.
What if we took the next few days to stick around the wilderness that little while longer and prepared ourselves to ascend Calvary’s hill? What if we came to see that the cross is not about one thing, but about everything. For the cross of Jesus is inexhaustibly rich. It is kaleidoscopic.
To recapture the wonder of the cross, we will need to embrace its paradoxes. There are parts of the tree that can only be noticed as we cling to it, not rush past it:
Life everlasting demanded a death.
Sin is shattered by the Sinless.
Shame is covered by the shaming of a Messiah
Great violence was met by the greatest act of non-violence.
Through abandonment and loneliness, Jesus establishes a community of millions of people around Him.
A criminal was forgiven in an instant.
With one act of great injustice, the justice of God prevails against all evil.
In defeat comes victory.
The cross is full of tension. For as His wounded, broken body is lifted up on a tree to die, in that same moment, a crucified God is lifted above all people, all stories, all histories, all powers, rulers, governments, systems, and structures as the Lord of lords, the King of kings, the Ruler of all things. Jesus’ death became a wrestling match where the hold of sin was broken, injustice was defeated, powers and principalities were brought low. While the evil one did his worst, the Lord of Hosts rose.
May you not rush through the last days of lent.
Take your time, walk the last leg slowly.
For in beholding both crucifixion and resurrection, you will know Christ.
Depending on which time of day you are practicing this office, you can use the morning or evening prayer. All to pray the following words aloud.
I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need,
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
I bind unto myself the name,
The strong name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same,
The three in One, and One in Three,
Of whom all nature hath creation;
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation.
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.
If you are gathering with your family, wait a moment and listen for the voice of God. Prayerfully share any words, pictures, encouragements or scriptures with each other by the laying on of hands.
Whether you are by yourself, or in the company of others, take time to pray for others that the Holy Spirit brings to mind, blessing them in His name.
Close your time by singing or saying aloud the Doxology.
“Fight back the dark with doxology. Doxology can detox the day.”
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, you heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
Amen and Amen.