We Are About Relationships
There were moments this past Sunday in worship when I was moved to tears. I’ve heard a lot of pastors say that it is hard for them to worship in their churches on Sunday mornings, and sometimes that is true for me. But most Sundays there is something—a hymn, a prayer, a choir anthem, a children’s message—that moves me to worship. Somehow, God finds ways to break in on my life, even when I’m worried about the sermon or anxious about visitors feeling welcomed.
This past Sunday, God was breaking in all over the place. Maybe it was because I wasn’t preaching and was in a better place spiritually to receive and be led. Maybe it was the cumulative effect of all of those powerful meditations from Henri Nouwen that we’ve been reading in our Lenten devotional guides. Maybe it was because the Sunday School lesson I had been preparing all week was focused on the crucifixion and all that Jesus endured on the cross. Maybe as I prepared to ask others what the cross meant to them, I was pondering that same question for myself. Whatever it was, I found myself moved over and over again as we worshiped together.
The Chris Rice song that Trish Kaberle sang during the Offering has been on my heart for days now: “Weak and wounded sinner, lost and left to die, O, raise your head, for love is passing by. Come to Jesus. Come to Jesus and live! Now your burden’s lifted and carried far away…Sing to Jesus! Sing to Jesus and live!” And the powerful anthem that the choir sang knocked me over: “My God, I love Thee; not because I hope for heav’n thereby, nor yet because who love thee not may eternally die. Thou, O my Jesus, thou didst me upon the cross embrace; for me didst bear the nails and spear, and manifold disgrace…Then why, O blessed Jesus Christ should I not love Thee well? Not for the hope of winning heaven, nor of escaping hell. Not with the hope of gaining aught, nor seeking a reward, but as thyself hast loved me, O everlasting Lord! E’en so I love thee, and will love…solely because thou art my God, and my eternal King.”
All of this emotion was gathered up as I stood at the communion table and said the words of the liturgy: “He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. He took upon himself our sin and death and offered himself…” For us. For you. For me. Sometimes we all need reminding that God did this…for each one of us.
The lyrics of the music and the words of the liturgy can so easily become routine and hollow for us. We can sing things and say things without really paying attention. But somehow all of these things this week reminded me of God’s love for us. Jesus offered himself up, he went through the worst torture that human beings have ever designed, because of love. He loves us that much. He loves you that much. He loves me that much. How can that not change us?
My prayer this week is that each one of us, at some point during this Holy Week, will remember that love. I hope we will feel it and know it. I hope we’ll recognize that this story—of Jesus’ arrest, flogging, crucifixion, death and resurrection—is about us. It is for us. Take some time this week to ponder the cross. Allow it to reach into your life. And may all of us allow the love of the cross to change us forever.