Sunday Reflection for April 26, 2020
Our Father Knows What We Need – part 2
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
During Easter, we spend a lot of time encountering the failings and failures of those around Jesus as he completes his vital journey to Golgotha. But, as with the Old Testament, God did not inspire the writers of the Gospels to record what they did in order to arm us with criticism for the Jews – as sadly many have decided throughout the centuries. Far from it. Easter is most definitely not about the Jews being bad and Jesus, as well as those of us who follow him, being good. In the Jewish people of Jesus’ day, we get to see ourselves and are given the opportunity to realise just how easily their mistakes can be our own.
It seems like such an impossible turn around, doesn’t it? On the Sunday, Jesus comes to the packed city of Jerusalem during Passover, on the very day the Passover lamb is set aside, and he is greeted like a conquering hero. The people lay down Palm branches and cry out in praise. Then, just a week later the crowds are bellowing to the authorities, ‘Crucify him!’ (And they say a week is a long time in politics!) It is only in grasping the wider context that are we able to understand.
Without doubt, this great turn around in Easter’s story shows us that we can be just as disappointed with God’s plan for us. But it also shows us that God’s intention to bless us can never be derailed – even by our most determined foolishness. He is committed and determined to lead us to the freedom that we truly need. The issue is never whether we deserve God’s freedom or not, the issue is whether we will receive it or not. It still comes to us in a vastly different way to what we would have expected. Jesus continues to conquer in our lives, but he does so through weakness. Jesus continues to deliver us from all that would harm us, but he does so through sacrifice. Jesus continues to empower and strengthen, but he brings these things to us through submission and servanthood. In every generation, this paradox of being asked to stoop like Jesus in order to be raised like him, to give up our lives in order to find them, to take up the Cross in order to discover true freedom, sounds its strangeness all over again. Yet, as God has demonstrated so powerfully in that first Easter week, and throughout all the centuries that led up to it, we need never fear the giving up of our own plans. The one who watches over us is always at work and knows exactly what we truly need even before we begin to ask.
A prayer by John Merton:
‘Father give me the strength that waits upon You in silence and peace. Give me humility in which alone is rest and deliver me from pride which is the heaviest of burdens. And possess my whole heart and soul with the simplicity of your love.’