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4th Sunday of Lent

  • 2 Chronicles 36:14-16,19-23
  • Psalm 137:1-6
  • Ephesians 2:4-10
  • John 3:14-21

The Old Testament readings tell of a people who were exiled, enslaved, and dispossessed of their sacred and ancestral lands. The people have been granted emancipation and a decree has been issued calling on them to journey home. The diaspora may return. The people now have control over their own lives, can shape their own future, escape from their past and judge themselves by the choices they make for themselves, and the standards they attain, or aspire to. Sentence is no longer pronounced by others. The evils of exile are over and the demands of freedom are challenging.

This is the story of the Hebrew people, the pilgrimage of the chosen ones and the story of everyman on our pilgrim way through the desert of life. It is a journey into freedom, a journey homewards, an exploration and adventure into the nature of ourselves and that of God, if that is what we choose.

God’s side of the story is given in the New Testament. We are told that we are God’s work of art, that God has created us into life and love and re-creates us into eternal life in Christ. God has constantly taken the initiative, sent yet more messengers, re-made yet another broken covenant, opened up another possibility and choice and freedom, when we seem to have clearly seemed to indicate that we prefer the ways of the world to the ways of God, the privacy of darkness to the judgement of light and the security of slavery to the uncertainty of a long trek through uncertain terrain, into a future which is only a promise, albeit God’s promise.

 

God’s story is also written in the face of Jesus – the crucified Jesus. As the Hebrew people were asked by Moses to lift their eyes up to the saving standard, so we are invited to look up to see God’s initiative, God’s generosity, and the depth of God’s feeling for his scattered and battered people. For God, this is a love story, a freedom story, a life story. The cross is not simply history. It is the living reality of a loving relationship pushed to its limits. In the passion, Jesus gives himself, pours himself out in generous commitment to the will of the Father and the Father gives as no-one has been asked to give before. Jesus submits to suffering and to desertion and death while his Father submits to watching his Son die. He watches his only Son praying to him for relief, calling to him in despair, and dying dishonourably as a common criminal. Jesus is deserted by his company and feels deserted by the Father, yet in this separation there is communion and intimacy. God’s work is done. Jesus has made his choices, travelled his journey homewards, fulfilled his purpose and can say, ‘It is accomplished.’ Our journey continues. Our work continues.