I have filled this space with thousands of words regarding Lent. Still, I manage to become distracted between writings. Early this Lent, I shared that we sometimes make Lenten plans which unfold precisely as intended. At other times, our circumstances disrupt our efforts and send us in other directions. We find that the best we can do is to manage the situation at hand and to do what we must to survive it. For me, Lent 2015 has been a combination of these scenarios. I have often focused more on the events unfolding around me than on my Lenten observances. Though these distractions brought about much good, I felt compelled to recapture my original intent to spend time up close and personal with God.
I knew my dear husband would be gone for a few hours, so I grabbed my Bible and settled into my recliner. Though I have other copies of Mark’s Passion reading, I decided to thumb through the Bible to find it much like I thumb through my scrapbook in search of favorite memories. After all, I have written a good deal about God’s love and the scriptures are the source of much of my knowledge on this topic. The Old Testament teems with stories of God’s people who too often failed to recognize God’s love for them. Nonetheless, every time the Israelites ran the other way, God coaxed them back. The prophets and other brave souls risked life and limb to remind all who would listen of God’s unshakable love for them. Finally, in an effort to dispel any confusion in this regard, God sent Jesus to reveal through his life among us this Divine Love which does not run dry. With this in mind, I settled in to read the Passion of Jesus from Mark’s gospel (14:1-15:47).
The truth is that I treated that Bible more like a scrapbook than I had intended. As I searched for Chapter 14, the headings of the sections which precede it filled me with memories of numerous encounters between Jesus and those he met along the way: A Leper… A Paralytic at Capernaum… A Man with a Withered Hand… The Mercy of Jesus… The Storm at Sea… Jesus Feeds Five Thousand… A Possessed Boy… Jesus Blesses the Children… The Greatest Commandment… The list went on and on. Though they do not appear in Mark’s gospel, I recalled my favorite parables as well: The Prodigal Son, The Wedding Feast, The Good Shepherd and The Lost Sheep. Before turning to the Passion, I considered the kindness and acceptance which Jesus brought to those he met along the way. I considered the many suffering souls whom Jesus comforted by offering them both physical and spiritual healing. When I finally turned to the Passion reading, gratitude for God’s love filled me.
As I read, a chill ran down my spine. For just a moment, I could not read further because I knew what was coming. I looked away from the page and out the window which overlooks our backyard. Bright sunshine poured over bushes which were hidden under mounds of snow just a few weeks ago. Their bent and broken branches pointed every which way. I wondered if they will ever return to their former beauty. “This imagery isn’t lost on me, Dear God,” I whispered. “Even when I’m bent and broken, you love me.” With that, I took a deep breath and turned back to The Passion. I poured over every word of this love story which God authored for you and me.
Only a few days of Lent 2015 remain. As I consider how to proceed this week, I cannot forget the images I encountered as I thumbed through my Bible. That book proved to be as much of a scrapbook as my own albums which are filled with mementos and photos of my children and grandchildren. Of all of the memories I rediscovered in that Bible, the life and death of Jesus offered the clearest illustrations of God’s love. When we focus upon The Passion today, we must remember that it is the culmination of God’s pursuit of us before Jesus’ birth and the culmination of Jesus’ life which was spent loving God’s people, one soul at a time.
This Holy Week, you and I are invited to take God’s love story very personally. Will you join me in spending some time up close and personal with our God whose love does not run dry? Please, join me in revisiting our family memories by walking through Jesus’ Passion with your faith community. Whether you can attend or not, know that God’s love story was written for you and that there is always a place for you in God’s church and in God’s heart.
©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved