gail song bantum

blog on identity, leadership, discipleship

Archive for the month “February, 2010”

lenten reflection: death does not have the last word

i always feel an enormous tension when it comes to the tradition and practices of lent, holy week and good friday/holy saturday. it is a tension that lies within the notion that this season must be marked by a certain posture of somberness in reflection of our own sinful state and in anticipation and remembrance of christ’s death. i often struggle with the idea that our mortality and christ’s death on the cross are somehow the focus of the entire 40 days and lived out in ways that make me believe that the resurrection is merely the “after effect.” beginning on ash wednesday as we are crossed with ash on our foreheads and reminded that “from dust we’ve come and to dust we shall return,” we begin a ritual of mourning -mourning our sinfulness and the burden that christ bore on our behalf.

why do we receive such words spoken over us? yes, we all do return to dust but is there not a redemption that specifically marks our faith in christ? an ashen state of being is not the final word. the death of this body is not the period at the end of our sentence.

i believe that our redemption happened not only when christ took our sin upon his own body, becoming sin on our behalf and died (it would be tragic if that were the culmination and seal of our redemption), but i believe that it is only in the resurrection of that death, the rising of our lives in christ’s body rising that we can know our redemption. this is a glorious event, a miraculous event. as i anticipate and ponder the magnitude of  christ’s death on good friday, i also take great joy in that death as the precursor to my resurrection and the resurrection of the saints. it is a time of recognizing what i am not in the realization of who god is. it is also a recognizing of who I am in the realization of who god says that i am –a joint heir, a daughter and beloved -forgiven and redeemed.

thus, as we now enter into this most somber season of lent taking a posture of humility and in anticipation of christ’s suffering and death on our behalf, i also choose to take great joy in the realization that christ did not have to, yet christ did. i take joy in christ’s death as it holds within it, the promise of resurrection, the promise of hope. for me, it will never be a season of mourning for i mourn those who have been separated from me, but in christ’s death, i have been brought near.

the greatest of these is LOVE

1 corinthians 13:1-8

if I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, i am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. if i have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if i have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, i am nothing. if i give all i possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, i gain nothing. love is patient, love is kind. it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. it is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. love never fails.

wow! i’ve probably read this passage a million times but today, i am struck with something quite convicting inside of these words. i have heard this message about loving others preached or taught within the context of marriage, relationships, within the scope of extending the depth of our desires, realms of possibility…basically, loving those whom we can comprehend ourselves loving -friends, family, those in the margins, etc. after all, we have a foundation of love for these people, or our love toward them is centered on human compassion. we leave the message reminded that we should stop harboring resentments, petty grudges and that we should begin coming out of ourselves enough to help those less fortunate, right?

however, i was challenged when i thought about a love shown through obedience….because doing something out of obedience is often more challenging than doing it out of desire or willingness. that all so famous phrase we like to quote, “love your enemies” is strangely more than a simple charge to make ammends. though it could mean that as well, i think this kind of love calls for a real and honest engagement of who we consider our enemy. for example, what about those people who are absolutely unlovable in our minds? perhaps those who have harmed us or those who have harmed others -murderers, traffickers, the unmentionables. to love such people is unimaginable! however, should love be a respecter of persons?

as valentine’s day (our culture’s dedicated day of love) approaches, as well as the first day of lent a few days following, i think about this word: love. as christian’s, we believe that christ came and bore all things upon himself on the cross because god loved, loves and will continue to love that which god created. the reality is that love means nothing unless there is a cost involved. this is what i believe 1 corinthians 13 is trying to convey. what is profound in loving something or someone that is already lovable? god did not send his only begotten son to suffer and die for those without stains, those who were blameless and without sin. no, christ died for the wretched, those deserving of eternal separation. christ died for all -you, me, child traffickers, and the murderer on death row…. yes, christ died for ALL.

the thought of this makes me cringe, if i’m being honest. in my mind, i am SO different than my enemy. yet, to know that christ loves the same. this is a truly difficult passage to swallow. somehow though, it challenges me that my faith has to be something more than talk and to continually remember that christ died for me just as much as anyone else. may my heart toward greater love begin with confession and repentance. if i cannot love the small offenders in my life, how can i possibly extend love to those that seem tragically unlovable?

i pray that as we ponder and prepare our hearts for the lenten season, may we be continuously reminded of the infinite and immeasurable love of our god and may our lives emanate with a costly love that the world would think incomprehensible.

faith, hope, love. but the greatest of these is LOVE.

~selah~

Post Navigation