When I was a little girl, I went to visit my aunt and uncle’s farm. Theirs was one of the largest pig farms in the area. They took me to the nursery area so that I could see all the piglets with their moms. When you have a barn full of nursing sows – it is quite an exciting place for a little girl! Piglets squeal at the littlest things, so the barn was very full of their cries as we walked through. We had to be careful not to get too close, however, because the sows were very protective of their litters and they were far more agile than their hefty size would indicate. As we passed through the barn, I remember my cousin sweeping up the body of a tiny piglet that didn’t survive its first week. It made me incredibly sad to see and I couldn’t understand how my cousin wasn’t more affected by it. In my childlike thoughts, I felt indignant that he didn’t care as much for that piglet as I did.
“Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow afterward.” (John 13:33-36)
‘Tis finished! the Messiah dies, cut off for sins, but not his own. Accomplished is the sacrifice, the great redeeming work is done.
One of the joys of ministry for me is getting to baptize new Christians, whether they are eight months old or eighty years old. The symbolism of baptism is so powerful, especially in this season of Lent. According to Paul in Romans, we are baptized into Jesus Christ and therefore baptized into His death. When we baptize, we are symbolically buried with Christ and raised into new life.
Forgiveness is a great gift to us from God and it’s also a great gift when we receive forgiveness from others. Forgiveness gives us rest and relief from the burdens we carry and brings freedom to our spirits. Forgiveness can help us to start anew. In our relationships with others, we can begin to build trust again, and find reconciliation. Sometimes we may have the hardest time forgiving ourselves. But when we forgive ourselves, we can find rest from the burdens we have carried and bring a new freedom to our life as well.
When I was younger, friends from our church in Colbert, Oklahoma graciously allowed my family to spend several summer vacations in a log cabin they had built in New Mexico. Every morning, I woke to the smell of coffee. I would snuggle up next to Mom, who was usually curled up on the sofa, reading. Dad, if not out fly fishing, would be sitting on the front porch swing, enjoying a cup, his pipe, and the cool mountain air.
“There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole; there is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul.” These words from the beautiful and well-known African American Spiritual paint a lovely image of forgiveness. The word balm refers to an ointment or salve to smooth dry skin or heal a wound. In the dead of winter, many of us rely on various balms to heal our dry skin.
St. John of the Cross was a Spanish mystic (16th century) who wrote a poem whose title is translated “Dark Night of the Soul.” It describes the journey the soul will take to be in relationship with God. Even though it was written nearly 500 years ago, it continues to have a strong influence and speak truths about the faith journey we must all undertake at different points in our lives.
Some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I go to the Father’?” They said, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he means.” Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him; so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’? Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is in travail she has sorrow, because her hour has come; but when she is delivered of the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a child is born into the world. So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name. Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
O sacred head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down, now scornfully surrounded with thorns, your only crown.O sacred head, what gloryand blessing you have known! Yet, though despised and gory,I claim you as my own.