April 8, 2017
by Barbara Dilly
Creighton University's Department of Sociology and Anthropology
click here for photo and information about the writer

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Lectionary: 256

Ezra 37:21-28
Jeremiah 31:10, 11-12abcd, 13
John 11:45-56

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The last reflection I wrote for March 9 focused on allowing ourselves to be changed and renewed through a new heart and a new spirit as an act of humility and repentance.  Seems like an appropriate theme for Lent.  It is back again today in Ezekiel 18:31.  “Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed, says the Lord, and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.”  This verse is a bit different, however, from the ones we read in Psalm 51.  In that passage we pray “create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me” asking God to do something for us.   This time, the Lord invites us to take action ourselves.  We are invited to cast off our sins instead of asking God to take them away.  We are invited to make for ourselves a new heart and a new spirit instead of asking God to create it for us. 

What happened?  Does God get tired of doing all the work of fixing us up?  Or do we finally figure out that we can be part of the process in which we can be restored to the joy of our salvation and the free Spirit of God?  We know God never gets tired of fixing us up.  And we know God never stops inviting us to be part of that process.  So, if we take God at his word, I think we can certainly be an active part of the ongoing renewal process of our lives.  The Lord God says “I will make with them a covenant of peace; it shall be an everlasting covenant….my dwelling shall be with them….my sanctuary shall be set up among them forever.”  We are redeemed!  We can come streaming to the Lord’s blessings, shouting with joy.  Jesus is with us!  We have seen what Jesus has done and we believe in him. 

To me, to believe in Jesus is to have the confidence to cast off all the crimes I have committed with confidence, believing that I live in an everlasting covenant of peace and that my sins are forgiven.  But that is not enough.  That covenant gladdens me despite the sorrows of my sins.  They are bad enough that even though I know they are forgiven by God, they cause me and other people pain.  They are not just little secret thoughts of envy, pride, frustration or despair.  I act them out and actually utter words of disrespect and demonstrate feelings and acts of indifference that are hurtful to others.  I mourn those sins.  But Jesus says that I can cast those crimes away if I am willing to make for myself a new heart and a new spirit and move on to a higher place.  Even when I drop backwards, and I do, the Lord guards me as a shepherd guards his flock from despair.

I do believe in Jesus, the good shepherd who gathers us all unto him.  We are his people and he redeems us.  During Lent, I appreciate the extra mid-week Lenten service where I can be in the sanctuary to express this faith.  But being IN the sanctuary is not nearly so blessed as knowing that the Lord has put his sanctuary AMONG us and that his dwelling is WITH us.  Because he is IN me, I can make for myself a new heart and a new spirit.  And because he is IN all of us, we can celebrate the new hearts and spirits in each other as we go about our lives.  We can all go streaming to the Lord’s blessings!  I pray that Lent is a time when all Christians are renewed in spirit to take the Lord’s invitation to heart and can cast off our crimes and that we will recognize that in each other!

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