Entering the story

If I've learned anything from this Lenten season, it is that Lent isn't about getting it right.  It's not about what I did or didn't do, or earning anything by merit.  Those trails lead to self-righteousness.  Today I find myself somewhere in the middle of holy week, lagging behind, again.  I catch up to find Jesus slowly and purposefully walking toward the cross.  His eyes have turned steadfastly toward Jerusalem.  He's already wept for the city that will scorn Him.  His friends are making plans for what He knows will be his last meal.  Judas and Peter will both turn their backs on him, each in their own way.  Knowing this, Jesus will wash their feet anyway.  He will cry out on the cross (that's the polite way of saying what that word really means: shriek).  He is alone in the knowledge of how His story ends.  

He walks through his last days in obedience, just like every other, but this week is different.  This week is everything.  And if this week isn't everything, than all the other weeks mean nothing, because our entire faith rests on what will happen in these last few days: Jesus dies and rises from the dead. He lives the life we should have lived and dies the death we should have died.  

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.  We must not rush through Holy Week.  Easter is the end of the story, but it's not the whole story.  It's hard to follow the path which we know leads straight to death.  But if Jesus' death means anything to me, it should undo me, because He calls me to take up my cross with Him.  His story is now my story, and I enter into it.  I trail behind Jesus, just like the crowds did, when he rides into Jerusalem.  I might even wave a palm branch or two.  I sit at his table and drink the cup, his blood and eat the bread, his body.  I argue with my friends at the table about who is the best, and let Jesus wash my feet.  I will fall asleep in the garden and then I will forsake him - at worst, betray him like Judas, and at best, abandon Him.  I did it yesterday, I'll do it today, will do it again tomorrow.  Harsh sounding, yes, but it's true.  Without Him, I'm hopeless.  

But because of Easter, Jesus rising from the dead, I am hope-full.  He bought me that day that he died, and demonstrated his how far He was willing to go to love me, just as I am, when he overcame death and the grave.  Death is good news for those who are shaped by this Gospel story, especially for sinners like me.   Jesus took my wrath upon himself.  He died so that I could live.  He thirsted so I might drink living water.  At the cross He set me free, taking my scarlet sin and making me white as snow.   I hope to spend the rest of my life being undone by the choice He made for me.  

Beneath the cross of Jesus 

I long to take my stand,

the shadow of a mighty rock 

within a weary land,

a home within the wilderness, 
a rest upon the way,
from the burning of the noontide heat
and the burdens of the day.

Upon the cross of Jesus, 
my eye at times can see
the very dying form of one 
who suffered there for me.
And from my trite heart, with tears, 
two wonders I confess:
the wonder of his glorious love 
and my unworthiness.

I take, O cross, your shadow
for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine
than the sunshine of his face;
content to let the world go by,
to know no gain nor loss,
my sinful self my only shame,
my glory all, the cross.

-Elizabeth Clephane, 1868

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