Speak Lord: Strengthen our hope

Slave, LouvreThe responsorial psalm that is set for tomorrow (though it may be replaced by one of the seasonal psalms – see p 950 of Lectionary I) speaks of freedom from bondage.

What marvels the Lord worked for us! Indeed we were glad.

When the Lord delivered Zion from bondage,
it seemed like a dream.
Then was our mouth filled with laughter,
on our lips there were songs.

The heathens themselves said: ‘What marvels
the Lord worked for them!’
What marvels the Lord worked for us!
Indeed we were glad.

Deliver us, O Lord, from our bondage
as streams in dry land.
Those who are sowing in tears
will sing when they reap.

They go out, they go out, full of tears,
carrying seed for the sowing:
they come back, they come back, full of song,
carrying their sheaves.

Psalm 125:1-6

Israel was enslaved at various stages in her history – in Egypt before she was fully a people, in Babylon, enduring persecution in years since. Israel serves as a type (and anticipation) of all people everywhere. Again and again we know oppression – and again and again we may be source of oppression for others.

The Lord offers us freedom and urges us to offer to be agents of freedom for others. The challenges to both of these things are of course enormous. Our own faults and the attitudes and actions of others militate against the promptings of grace.

Yet the psalm reminds of the goodness of freedom, and the joy. Advent encourages us to hope and try, despite everything.

Slaves by Michelangelo. Louvre, Paris. (c) 2011, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: the gift of newness

slaveOn the 5th Sunday of Lent in Year B, the readings focus on renewal, newness achieved in the fulfilment of the purpose of the ‘old’, the seed germinating and producing its promised harvest.

As we enter the last stage of Lent, looking to the Lord, mindful of our incapacities and his readiness to make good for us, there is great hope and encouragement here.

The sequence of readings for Year A culminate in the great story of the raising of Lazarus – a powerful iteration of the theme. This sequence is available for use in any Year of the 3-year Lectionary cycle, and is required to be used when the 3rd scrutiny is celebrated. (The first reading of the sequence appears at the end of this post.)

See, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks – when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel (and the House of Judah), but not a covenant like the one I made with their ancestors on the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant of mine, so I had to show them who was master. It is the Lord who speaks. No, this is the covenant I will make with the House of Israel when those days arrive – it is the Lord who speaks. Deep within them I will plant my Law, writing it on their hearts. Then I will be their God and they shall be my people. There will be no further need for neighbour to try to teach neighbour, or brother to say to brother, ‘Learn to know the Lord!’ No, they will all know me, the least no less than the greatest – it is the Lord who speaks – since I will forgive their iniquity and never call their sin to mind.

Jeremiah 31:31-34

The love and the trust of the Lord is betrayed again and again. And again and again he shows love and trust by extending his mercy and forgiveness and inviting us back to wholeness and communion.

  • Where is your communion with the Lord weakest?
  • And with your brothers and sisters, your neighbours most fragile?
  • Pray for healing and wholeness as you continue, by the Lord’s grace, to travel to Easter glory, Easter joy.

Photograph of carving of slave/prisoner by Michelangelo, Louvres, Paris. (c) 2011, Allen Morris.

– – –

The Lord says this: I am now going to open your graves; I mean to raise you from your graves, my people, and lead you back to the soil of Israel. And you will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and raise you from your graves, my people. And I shall put my spirit in you, and you will live, and I shall resettle you on your own soil; and you will know that I, the Lord, have said and done this – it is the Lord who speaks.

Ezekiel 37:12-14

Speak Lord: Of your love for us

Creación_de_Adán_(Miguel_Ángel) 1

The second reading for the 4th Sunday of Lent in Year B comes from St Paul’s letter to the Church at Ephesus.

It is supremely encouraging, assuring of God’s treasuring of us.

God loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy: when we were dead through our sins, he brought us to life with Christ – it is through grace that you have been saved – and raised us up with him and gave us a place with him in heaven, in Christ Jesus.

This was to show for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how infinitely rich he is in grace. Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it.

Ephesians 2:4-10

The image from the Sistine Chapel, of the creation of Adam, reminds of the beauty of creation. It also reminds of the marring of creation by sin, and its recovery and restoration by grace,  God’s gift.

As we make our way through Lent, perhaps struggling, let us know afresh that we do not journey alone.

The Lord is with us, or maybe more accurately yet, we are with him as he works for us. Our striving after good is an attempt to keep company with the God who – strange to say – loves us and works for us!

Rejoice and give thanks!

Sistine chapel

 

– – –

The second reading for the sequence of readings in Year A – an option for this year, and a required set of readings for when the second scrutiny is celebrated – is also from the letter to the Ephesians.

You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord; be like children of light, for the effects of the light are seen in complete goodness and right living and truth. Try to discover what the Lord wants of you, having nothing to do with the futile works of darkness but exposing them by contrast. The things which are done in secret are things that people are ashamed even to speak of; but anything exposed by the light will be illuminated and anything illuminated turns into light. That is why it is said:

Wake up from your sleep,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.

Ephesians 5:8-14

Frescoes by Michelangelo from the Sistine Chapel, Vatican City. Found here and here