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An old Cherokee was teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside of me,” he said. “It is a terrible fight between two wolves. One is evil—he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you and inside every other person, too.” His grandson thought for a moment and then asked, “Which one will win?” The grandfather answered, “The one you feed.”

What does a Native American legend have to do with today’s scripture?

There’s a lot going on in the world that might make us angry. Choose one: poverty, disease, war, terrorism, the refugee crisis, politics, abortion, sexuality, human trafficking, corporate greed, general violence, the list goes on and on. Getting angry is not necessarily a bad thing. Anger can spur us to positive action. It can unite us against evil. On the other hand, anger can divide us. We take sides and go to war against one another, sometimes with words and sometimes with action. Either way, we might feel justified to speak or act out against any who disagree with us. There’s our side and there’s the wrong side. Civil disagreement is rare because clearly we are right, so what’s there to talk about?

“How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in unity!” Is unity possible when there’s so much in the world that divides us? Here’s the thing: all that stuff happening in the world is not what divides us; our response to all that stuff is the issue. We can all agree that nobody should have to live in poverty. No child deserves to grow up in a violent neighborhood or an abusive home. Nobody really wants war or other conditions that result in people fleeing their homeland. We can all agree on the basics. Where we disagree is on how to solve these problems, and our disagreement only results in gridlock. How can we attack the world’s problems when we’re so busy attacking each other, posting inflammatory memes on Facebook and coming up with snarky Tweets?

The church has a duty to set an example of peacemaking and reconciliation. We the church should be the model of unity, a beacon of light and hope for a very dark and fractured world. Even if we individually don’t see eye to eye on something, we can still keep those eyes on Jesus and live out his mission together: to share the good news of salvation in all the world, to feed the hungry, heal the sick, care for the poor, and show kindness to the outcast. Speaking of seeing eye to eye, do you know where that saying came from? “The voice of your watchmen—they lift up their voice;  together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see  the return of the Lord to Zion” (Isaiah 52:8, ESV). Together they sing. In unity. Because they all see the Lord’s return to Zion. One day our Lord will return to this earth. Will we be singing in unity, or will we be arguing with our brothers and sisters?

How can we be unified when there’s so much in the world that divides us? Getting back to that Cherokee legend, which wolf do we feed? Do we go looking for a fight? Do we saturate ourselves in news that provokes us, that which confirms our bitter opinions? Do we fill our eyes and ears and minds with discord, hatred, and violence? Or do we take Paul’s advice to the Philippians: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” For the church there is only one side: God’s side. We can choose to be with him, fixing our place there by feeding our souls with truth, nobility, purity. Or we can oppose him. Which wolf will you feed? Whose side are you on?

(reflection on a sermon by Pastor Josh Van Leeuwen, preached Feb. 26, 2017; listen to the sermon podcast here: http://www.westview.org/unity/)

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“They crucified him, and with him two others.”  John 19:18

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?

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Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?

(African-American spiritual, public domain)

It’s been a long winter.  Okay, I know I say that every year, but this winter has been a record breaker.  True, it hasn’t been the snowiest, but our number of sub-zero days has been impressive.  The Midwest isn’t alone, either:  winter has hit hard in nearly every corner of our country, and in most of the places in between.  Everyone is weary of winter.  Where is spring?

Despite the continuing Arctic cold, there is hope.  Robins are returning, and the days are noticeably longer.  Such small signs whisper a promise that winter will eventually move along to the southern hemisphere, and warmer weather will rush in to take its turn.  The ice and snow will melt, green shoots will emerge from the thawing ground, flowers will bloom, and gardeners who have been fighting the urge to get out and dig in the dirt will finally be able to plant their seeds and seedlings.  I can already see tulips and daffodils in my mind’s eye!

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When we look around, we find that the state of our world can seem like an unrelenting winter.  Evil is rampant, and people are suffering.  War, rebellion, disease, and violence are so pervasive that we run the risk of becoming numb to them.  But movies, games, and television shows are also full of such things, and although many people look to entertainment to escape the unpleasant realities of the world, they might find themselves becoming saturated in them instead.  Where is God?

Despite the chaos and evil in the world, there is hope.  At the local food pantry, volunteers are serving those in need, helping them to feed themselves and their families.  Donors are financially supporting organizations that help people pay their heating bills so they aren’t stuck in a frigid house.  During the snow storm in Atlanta, fast food servers were taking food and other supplies to motorists trapped in their cars, and businesses opened their doors overnight to allow people who couldn’t get home to sleep in a warm safe place.  International aid organizations can help the desperate around the world because enough people give their money to make it happen.  Everywhere you see the evidence of God at work.

Why would I say that the good deeds of people reveal the hand of God?  Some say that the abundance of evil and suffering in the world proves that there is no God or that if there is a God, he obviously doesn’t care about us.  They dismiss altruism, saying that people do good only because it gets them something in return, even if that something is only a warm fuzzy feeling.  But let’s look at human nature for a moment.  We are essentially self-centered.  Our biological imperative is anything that ensures our survival.  As individuals, we should be competing for resources for ourselves and our families; we should be guarding our territories and making sure that our genetic line continues.  Sharing with others outside our families makes sense only as long as it preserves the security of the community we live in and allows us to survive and prosper.  Giving to strangers, especially strangers on the other side of the world, goes completely against human nature.

Let me say that again:  caring for others outside our own families goes against human nature.  So why do we do it?  Because we are so much more than just our own humanity.  Genesis tells us that when God created man, he breathed life into him.  Although our bodies are flesh, the spirit of life in us is divine.  That is what moves us to care for others.  That is what brings us to tears when we see need and suffering.  That is what spurs us to action when we see injustice.  The Spirit of God in us can elevate us above our humanity if we let him.

After a long, cold winter, or a long period of pain or bitterness, our hearts might need some thawing before we’re able to notice and respond to the need all around us.  The good news is that Jesus is a heart specialist.  He is able to thaw a frozen heart or even break and restore a heart of stone.

A winter like this can make us lose hope for spring.  A world like ours can make us abandon hope for God.  But look around:  spring is not far away, and God is already here.

Have you ever seen a sun dog?  I hadn’t until we moved to Iowa, where the winters can be extremely cold.  The first time I saw one, probably eight or more years ago, I was driving home after dropping my daughter off at school.  Although I’d never seen one before, I immediately knew what it was!  Sometime in the past I must have read about them or seen photos, because the minute I saw this strange triple sun in the sky, I thought, “sun dog.”  Wow.

If you’ve never seen a sun dog, picture the winter sun, low in the sky.  Then imagine an arc half-encircling it, sort of like a rainbow but not really visible.  Now place another bright sun at each “end” of the arc, and you have a sun dog!  Also called a mock or phantom sun, this event is caused by light refracting off a certain shape of ice crystal in a particular kind of cloud, creating a prism effect (that’s why sometimes the “false suns” are multicolored, like a rainbow, but more muted).  When conditions are just right, you can even sort of see the arc or halo around the real sun, but the refractions also look a lot like the sun.

sun dog

I don’t think any of us would confuse a sun dog for the real sun, but if you’d never seen a sun dog before and woke up one winter morning to this strange sight, you might wonder whether something had changed overnight in our solar system (or you might wonder if you’d woken up in a science fiction movie).  But you would have known instinctively that the sun in the middle was the real sun, and the others were imposters.

Do you think you would ever confuse a false god for the real God?  I’ll bet all of us are pretty confident we can tell the difference.  But think about what you spend your time and money on, and ask yourself what holds the place of greatest honor in your life.  I like to think that I’m a pretty “good” Christian, yet sometimes when I’m lying in bed at night, and my brain is still percolating over ideas, I realize that I have given God hardly a thought all day.  How can that be?  I am certainly aware of who God is, and I don’t think I would ever confuse some imposter for the real God, but if that’s true then why do I so often give God so little of my time and attention?  Sometimes I treat Him more like a faraway friend than my sovereign Lord.

When we think about idols, maybe we picture statues or other physical objects.  There are lots of stories in the Bible about people worshipping false gods and keeping idols in their homes and temples.  But what is an idol, really?  When I look up the word on dictionary.com, I find these definitions:  “an image of a deity other than God” and “any person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion.”  When I look around my home, I don’t see any images of deities other than God, but I do see a lot of other things that I might regard with devotion, for instance, my book collection.  Now, I’m not saying God frowns on recreational reading, but when I neglect His Word to read other books, that’s a problem.  When I compare the hours I spend watching TV or working on art projects to the time I spend in prayer and meditation, I start to feel convicted.  When my relationship with God gets out of balance, it’s time for me to work on my priorities.

God sent a rainbow after the Flood to remind us of His mercy and faithfulness.  Maybe He sends sun dogs to remind us of His sovereignty.

Watchman, tell us of the night,
What its signs of promise are.
Traveler, over yon mountain’s height,
See that glory beaming star.
Watchman, does its beauteous ray
Aught of joy or hope foretell?
Traveler, yes – it brings the day,
Promised day of Israel.

Watchman, tell us of the night;
Higher yet that star ascends.
Traveler, blessedness and light,
Peace and truth its course portends.
Watchman, will its beams alone
Gild the spot that gave them birth?
Traveler, ages are its own;
See, it bursts over all the earth.

Watchman, tell us of the night,
For the morning seems to dawn.
Traveler, darkness takes its flight,
Doubt and terror are withdrawn.
Watchman, let thy wanderings cease;
Hasten to your quiet home
Traveler, lo! the Prince of Peace,
Lo! the Son of God is come!

Words: Sir John Bowring, Hymns: As a Sequel to Matins, 1825; public domain

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,
In ancient times did’st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

(public domain)

Over the years I’ve tried a number of art and crafting projects.  One thing I’ve just dipped a toe into is making jewelry.  Until I took a beading class, I was not really aware of how big the world of jewelry making is:  wire, beads, resin, glass, precious metal clay, shrink plastic, paper, fabric, beads.  And that’s just scratching the surface!  Unless you’re into jewelry, you might be surprised at all the materials, techniques, and trends out there.

My last jewelry project involved wire and beads.  Now, wire is a great material, especially for beginners, because it is so easy to bend and manipulate.  Expert jewelry makers also like it because it can be formed into very intricate patterns and designs.  My friend Kat makes some unbelievably beautiful wire pieces.  But the very attributes that make wire such a great material also make it a challenge to use; because it is so flexible, it can be flimsy, especially when beads or stones or anything else with some weight is added to the mix.

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So how do you strengthen wire to make it sturdy?  You pound it flat with a hammer against a steel block.  No, seriously.  Jump rings, those little wire circles that hold charms and other pretty things on a necklace or bracelet?  Those you make stronger by repeatedly opening and closing them with pliers, twisting them back and forth, back and forth.  You might think that would weaken the wire and break it, but it doesn’t.  Working it in this way, called work-hardening, actually changes its molecular structure.  And if you accidently overwork the wire, making it too stiff to manipulate, you can restore it to its former malleability by heating it, called annealing.  See?  Lots to learn about making jewelry, and that’s only wire!

We can be just like that wire.  Subjected to adversity, to the equivalent of being hammered on a steel block, we can become stronger.  Our faith matures when we endure life’s challenges.  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:1-5).  God is completing us, perfecting us, through the trials we endure.  Matthew 5:48 tells us, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”    If you’ve always thought those words mean we have to do everything perfectly, this is good news!  Our perfection is a work God is doing in us, not something we can accomplish ourselves.

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Of course, being overworked by life can harden our hearts.  Perhaps you know someone, or perhaps you are someone, who has endured so much pain and suffering under the hammer of life that you felt you had to protect yourself.  Your heart might be locked in a fortress behind stone walls and a moat (with alligators).  But life in a fortress is lonely.  Yes, a tender, open heart is more easily hurt, but it can recover from that hurt because love comes in to repair and strengthen it.  A hardened heart might be able to resist pain, but eventually it becomes a rock, a weapon that hurts us and others.  And no amount of isolation can protect a person from life’s troubles—it just means that person has to face adversity alone.

A hardened heart is not a permanent condition.  Like the overworked wire, we can be returned to our living, growing, malleable selves by the annealing fire of God’s love.  No matter how hard and inflexible we become, love has the power to restore us to tenderness.  Love strengthens us and enables us to persevere, to continue growing toward maturity and wholeness.  As we allow God to do his perfecting work in us, we can more clearly and brightly reflect his glory to people who have been seriously overworked by the hammer and steel block of life and desperately need to experience the restorative power of God’s annealing love.

Have you ever had a project go terribly wrong?  Many times I have had a great idea for an art or craft project, but once I got going on it I found that my mental picture was somewhat idealized, and the real thing didn’t look nearly as good as I envisioned it.  In fact, sometimes I discover midway through that everything is going sideways, and as I feel the frustration and disappointment building in me, tempting me to throw the whole mess in the garbage and sulk, I remember that the best thing is to walk away and do something else for a while.  Occupying my mind with something completely different will allow my project to simmer on my brain’s back burner, and either I’ll have an “aha” moment that gives me a new direction to go with it, or I’ll realize that nothing can save it—for now—and I should just put it away for another time.  Then, later (sometimes years later), I’ll discover this old failure, and I’ll be struck with a new use for it:  paint over it, cut it up and re-piece it a new way, break it apart and re-join it differently, whatever.  Because I hate to throw away anything that has potential (and for me, that is pretty much everything), I always have lots of material to work with.

Some people enjoy the challenge of rethinking and remaking a project that went astray on our first attempt.  We can turn a cake wreck into cake pops, a failed sewing project back into fabric for something else, a clay mess into a mosaic, wonky glass into a stained glass masterpiece.  We also enjoy taking a discarded or unneeded “treasure” and turning it into something new and useful and beautiful.  That really bad novel that I stuck with reading because I just couldn’t believe it wouldn’t get better eventually, the one I would never foist upon another innocent reader?  Yes, that one will become a piece of book art once I get to it with my craft knife and glue.  Those beautiful pillowcases from my friend, the ones that don’t match any sheets?  They are becoming dresses for little girls in Africa and in other places where girls are so tragically undervalued.  In my view, there is nothing so useless, so ugly, so worthless that it cannot become something wonderful in the right hands.

pillowcase dress

Isn’t that how God deals with us?  We are free to make our own choices, and in doing so we sometimes go wrong.  A bad financial decision can leave us not only broke but also angry and resentful.  Poor judgment can have disastrous results.  One thoughtless word can destroy a relationship.  A moment of carelessness can mean a lifetime of regret.  But even when we have dug ourselves in pretty deep, even when we can’t see a way to repair the damage, we can trust that God is able to use our mistakes for our benefit.  Romans 8:28 tells us that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Our God is a God of redemption:  in redeeming us, he redeems our mistakes, our moments of weakness, our questionable choices, our lapses in judgment, our youthful indiscretions, our willful acts of disobedience, our failures of imagination, even our good intentions.  If we allow him, we can be more than forgiven.  We can be remade into something better, not for our own glory but for the glory of God.

If he can take our wrongdoing and make it into something good, we don’t have to be imprisoned by guilt and shame.  We don’t have to constantly relive those awful moments or hours, trapped in the cycle of punishment and regret.  Instead of always looking back to that time we messed up, we can look around for what God is doing, how he is converting the raw materials of our sin and pain into something useful and beautiful.  But only if we allow him to work in our lives, because he never insinuates himself into a place where he isn’t wanted.  Some people have to hit absolute bottom before they will call on him, and he is always standing by, probably shaking his head and wondering why we wait so long, why we are so proud and willful.  But he is just as much a God of Last Resort as a God of Imminent Rescue, and whenever we cry out he will answer.  We still have to suffer the consequences of our bad choices, and those can be heartbreaking, but we can be freed from self-reproach and humiliation.

In God’s loving, forgiving, creative hands, even our ugliest sins can be remade into something worthwhile, useful, and beautiful.  To God be the glory!

One Sunday evening last month, when my husband and I returned home from a weekend trip, we found grass and debris on our front porch, right on the welcome mat.  Strange, we thought, because the pet sitter had been there a few hours before to look in on our cats.  By the end of the next day, it was clear what was going on:  two robins were building a nest in a corner of the transom window above our front door.  It’s a great, if a bit precarious, location, protected from rain and wind but perched in a pretty narrow space.  And every time someone goes in or out the front door, the robins go on high alert to guard their nest, and the human offender, whether resident, visitor, or delivery person, is forced into a hasty retreat.

When I was a very young child, I believed that birds lived in their nests all the time.  For this misperception I blame at least one childhood song, story, or poem that spoke of birds returning to their nests at day’s end.  To me, a bird’s nest was its home.  But as I grew up and learned more about birds, I found that a nest is really a nursery, a birthing room.  Some birds, such as eagles, return to their nests year after year to bring the next generation into the world; others construct a new nest each year late in the winter or early in the spring.

nest

Compared to many of my friends in Iowa, my family has relocated a lot.  Whenever we move into a new house, I resist the urge to make it my own because, so far, I haven’t lived anywhere that I would consider my permanent home.  Every house is just a way station for us.  My husband dreams of retiring back in the southeast, and maybe that will happen.  But for the past nine years, we have felt at home in Iowa.  My daughter teases me a little bit about not getting the pictures onto the walls or painting any of the rooms (except hers) to get rid of the standard Realtor Off-White, but my thoughts are always on resale.  The kitchen will need to be redone, and the walls will all have to be neutralized anyway, so why put a lot of time and money into the décor when it’s all temporary?  Our houses have been more like nests for us, places that have sheltered us while we’ve lived and worked and raised our daughter.  Then we’ve moved on.

Environmentalists like to say, “Tread softly on the earth.”  We shouldn’t be bad tenants, marking up the walls, damaging the appliances, and destroying the furniture.  We should be good caretakers of the planet, not abusers.  As followers of Jesus, we might modify that saying to “Live lightly in the world.”  By that I mean that we should remember that the world is more like a nest for us than a home.  Scripture tells us that although we live IN the world, we should not be OF the world.  This is not our final destination, so we should not get too attached to worldly things.  We can think of the world as our nursery, a place for us to be born and grow and practice living by the example of Jesus.  We can build relationships and love others, show kindness and compassion, and share what we have with other people.  Then, one day, we will fly away from this nest to our real home with Jesus, where we can live out everything we’ve learned.

There’s a lot of talk in the Christian world about legacy.  How should we live our lives?  What will we leave behind?  How do we want to be remembered?  While I agree that we should be thinking about what we do that will outlive us, I’m not sure I agree with the whole legacy thing.  My purpose on earth is to reflect the glory of God, not to try to bring glory to myself.  Should I even be thinking about whether anything I do will keep the memory of me alive?  We frequently don’t know the impact our words and actions have on other people, especially long term.  If we focus too much on how the things we do will build up our legacy, maybe then we focus too little on whether those things glorify God.  If we give up the idea of how, or even whether, the world will remember us and instead consider how God thinks of us, maybe living a life that reflects God’s glory can become simpler.  Liberating, even.  There’s no projecting into the future, only loving and serving in the present.  “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 29:10-12).

We are promised a future.  But we live only in the present.  It’s not impossible to make a name for ourselves while serving God, but it’s got to be difficult to keep an eye on both goals.  Which is our priority?  I want to start living a life that honors God, even if I am forgotten by this world once I’m gone.  What about you?  Consider whether it is more important when you leave this earth that an eloquent obituary touts your accomplishments or that God smiles at you and says, “Nicely done.  Welcome home.”

Have you ever owned anything you really couldn’t afford?  Maybe you’ve bought a fixer-upper house (or any house) and found that no matter how much time and money you pour into it, there’s always something else to fix or replace.  Or maybe you’ve bought a classic car, intending to restore it to its former glory, and everything you do just leads to something else that needs to be done.  We invest so much into maintaining and improving our investments, sometimes we wonder if they are worth what they cost.

Perhaps you’ve received a gift you couldn’t afford.  Has a well-meaning friend or relative given your child a puppy or kitten, thinking only about how much the child would enjoy the pet and not about how much time and money you will have to spend feeding and caring for it?  Or maybe someone has given you an expensive family heirloom, and over the years you have had to move it, find a place for it, dust it, insure it.  Sometimes a gift can be a burden.

When we consider the gift of salvation that God has offered us, we surely experience joy and gratitude.  This is truly a gift that we cannot afford; yet, it is a gift that we must accept if we are to embrace life and overcome death.  God’s grace is freely given:  it cannot be earned or bought and, just as importantly, it cannot be returned or lost.  It is the gift we celebrate at Christmas by giving presents to one another.  It is the babe in the manger, the offerings of the magi, the miracle of God becoming human and living among us.  It is the wonder of a young girl who gave her own life, her plans and her future, to God to use as He pleased.  How many of us would make such a sacrifice?

If you have children, you have probably heard them say, “I wish it could be Christmas every day!”  Indeed, we are urged to keep Christmas in our hearts all year.  Doing so might make us happier, more generous, more loving people.  But as followers of Jesus, isn’t it even more important to keep Easter ever in our hearts?  The love of God demonstrated by the incarnate Word is a complex love.  It is generous, kind, compassionate, and joyful.  It is also sacrificial, demanding, and loaded with expectation.  It is the warmth of a stable full of animals making quiet sounds over a newborn baby dozing in the protective arms of his mother.  It is the agony and solitude of the cross and the bitter chill of a tomb.  It is the impossible truth of a risen Lord.

angel-prayers public domain

What does it mean to keep Easter all year long?  To me, Resurrection Sunday is like New Year’s Day.  It is a new beginning for everyone who has accepted this incredible gift of salvation.  It is a day of ecstatic joy preceded by three days of darkness, mourning, and despair.  We would do well not to forget those days of hopelessness because they remind us of the despair Jesus felt on the cross as first his friends and then his Father turned away from him.  Christmas is God’s perfect love poured out on creation; Easter is God’s pure love tempered by sacrifice.  It is love that through the tormenting fire of ridicule, abandonment, cowardice, selfishness, abuse, jealousy, hatred, and murder became . . . grace.

How can we respond to such a gift?  Saying “thank you” is a start, but it’s not enough.  Unless our hearts are changed by this extravagant grace, God’s love is wasted on us.  When we are tempted to be proud of our new status in Christ, we might remember that he, not we, paid the price for it.  When we are provoked to righteous indignation, we might consider the many accounts in scripture of his dealings with provokers and respond the way he did, with quiet confidence.  When we are angry, we might remember how an act of sacrificial love was what it took to satisfy the wrath of God, and we might offer love instead of a clever word or hurtful retort.  When we see those in need, we can reach out beyond our own small circles and offer help.  When we don’t know what else to do, we can love.  And if love costs us something, we can be grateful for the opportunity to make the sacrifice.  It is so little compared to what we have been given.

We must keep Easter in our hearts always, lest we forget that the babe in the manger was also the lamb on the altar.

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