Reflections on the Readings for Sunday 18 March 2012
2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23; Psalm 137:1-6; Ephesians 2:4-10; John 3:14-21
Gracious, generous, giving – this is the God revealed to us in Jesus. During Lent, as we prepare to enter the mystery of Easter, we learn again who we are and we reflect on the One who is Easter. Holding these two things together gives us reason for hope. Without the grace of God, we are a comic-tragic mix of arrogance and insecurity – laughing at any challenge to our lifestyle and yet afraid to step out of the darkness. If we stand condemned, it is not because God is angry with us and threatening to destroy us, but because we hide from the light and refuse to come to the source of all life.
It is by grace that we are saved. To be saved is to be rescued from danger, to be freed from captivity, to be found when we are lost and brought back home It is to be gifted with the fullness of life for which we are created. Paul describes us as God’s works of art, carefully crafted for a life of goodness. To be saved is to be lovingly restored to our full glory as human beings in the image of God. It is to be released from the selfishness and fear that keeps us from doing the good works that allow us to participate in God’s own life of gratuitous love. The Evangelist speaks of salvation in terms of ‘eternal life’, not so much life that goes on and on, as sharing in the life of the Eternal One.
Salvation is the overcoming of our sense of alienation from God. The Old Testament reading tells how the people of God were exiled from their land, a traumatic national event which the prophets interpreted as punishment for their sins. Psalm 137 is a psalm of exile. Its dilemma is summed up in these words: “how can we sing the Lord’s song on alien soil?” Where is God in this bleak place? And especially if this darkness is of our own making, how do we continue? The role of the prophets in the exile was to encourage the people to look forward with hope and to help them discover that God was with them even in this foreign territory. The story of their journey with God had not come to an end, not because they could make things right, but because of the generous mercy of God. The time of exile was re-interpreted as a sabbath for the land, a time of resting by lying fallow so that it could regenerate and be fertile and fruitful when God re-planted them there. The rise of Cyrus in the political arena with his radical approach of returning the exiles to their land and supporting their ancestral ways is a surprising example of salvation as gift not reward. God had not forgotten God’s people, but was working for their restoration. The people returned, the story continued.
How do we enter into the life that is offered us in Christ Jesus? We accept the gift. It is ours already.