Since January I’ve had a song driving me mad… or keeping me sane maybe. It’s been spinning around my mind and on my lips and I don’t mean “Daniel Tiger’s neighbourhood. It’s a song by Stuart Townend & Keith Getty -
“In Christ alone, my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ, I stand.”
“Here in the love of Christ, I stand.” Doesn’t that sound amazing.
I wonder if like me you ever find those words a challenge, and hard to focus on. It takes a lot of trusts and a lot of heart work – nor head work!
Today we heard the Hebrew scripture from the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah talking about things written on our hearts? What makes these verses so amazing and life-changing? What is God going to do and how do these words, these 4 verses affect the listener and therefore us? I love this passage I see in it not only steadfast hope but also promise – a promise which changes lives in an almost unimaginable way. It’s about a new covenant – between God and the people – a covenant which is God’s Law written where? Not on papyrus or in stone but on the heart.
God says”…I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
Of course, Jeremiah was writing at a specific time, to a specific audience – The first 29 chapters of the prophet were filled with accusations, and allegations – it was the people who had broken the old covenant – A covenant, an agreement between two parties. And now God offers a new covenant where God will go even further and will empower the people to uphold their part. Does this then sound oppressive or controlling? No, God acts with love, promising to be with the beloved – owning them and forgiving them.
The writer – Jeremiah or some other – offers consolations to dispirited exiles – this was like – dew – possibility - return home. God’s love and faithfulness will be made known, bringing prosperity and joy.
How life-giving and wonderful. Yet there is more, it’s not just about outward changes.
A new covenant between God and the people, written on the heart, comes with change from the inside. Through God’s law, God’s grace and God’s forgiveness. That’s big.
Sometimes I completely understand that “stubborn heart” that holds the people back, that separates those loved from the one who loves. It’s stuck in the head – struggling with love, grace and forgiveness.
During Lent, there is time to get lost – to be faced with our weakness and stubbornness. To be assailed by the temptations which draw us from God.
Rather than depending more on God, we try to be in control of ourselves…why not! We act as though we can make changes, that we can do it all on our own. In fact, we don’t need God…
I admit I sometimes feel like that. And for me, it’s a spiral, a downward spiral! The more I try to do things in my own strength, trying to control or feel I’m the one who needs to keep things together, the worse things become.
I know what Jeremiah says is written on my heart but actually, I think it’s written in my head! And I stay there, basically unwinding, thinking, catching my tail will be the answer.
Like those people to whom Jeremiah spoke, we need to remember and relearn – re-own & be re-owned by a God who loves us.
Finding this written on our hearts means we can respond to God’s love – it’s natural – in fact, it is what we were created to do. We were created for Love.
And it’s about identity – who we are and whose we are – and it’s so important these coming days, especially Palm Sunday through Holy Week and to Easter that we make time to hear and see again and be enveloped in the story which is all about our identity.
Jesus' friends wanted to cling to Jesus – after the triumphant entry into Jerusalem, we hear today's Gospel. Jesus shared with them so many times how he would die, yet the surge of emotions as they walked with Jesus into Jerusalem must have been tremendous – surely, surely this was going to end well with triumph and power, with the resurgence and even rebellion?
They wanted to keep the grain as it was – safe, real – they were in control of it’s destiny – clinging to it – Even Jesus appears to have been troubled in his soul…
Yet Jesus said “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
That is it – a grain of wheat; a candle flame; a beating heart; need to be transformed – to be offered…
Listening to Jesus, walking with Jesus during these last few days must have been really hard for his followers. All they knew about Jesus was so intimate, so personable, so good and life-giving in a creative way – But this was going to the next level – next millionth level…Discipleship is not just about seeing Jesus but about being with Jesus – standing with him, walking with him.
“Here in the love of Christ, I stand.”
The hour has come, the time is right for the final events, the final unfolding of God’s promise…the path, though hard leads to eternal life. Be ready to see and share, the same love that Jesus shares as he washes the disciples’ feet, the same love Jesus enacts in a holy meal - a new covenant as Jesus said “…Poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”… the same love that he shows as he lays down his life for his friends and the same love as he returns in joy and glory –
Jesus calls us to follow, to be disciples. To trust. We lose the life of fear and grasping, of thinking we can live in our own strength and instead we gain a life of freedom where love rules and where we can go with Jesus to Holy week simply because we can…we know who we are and whose we are and there we fall to the soil, to the ground before the cross, to the Gethsemane Garden, emptying our old self to bear the fruit of Love - God’s love written on our hearts – eternal words of hope and promise.
Jesus said “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
“Here in the love of Christ, we stand.”