Hebrews 10: 16-25 Rev. Dr. Galen E. Russell III
Psalm 31: 1-5, 17-18, 24 March 30, 2018
Prayer: Into your hand I commit my spirit; for you have redeemed me, O God, O faithful God. Amen.
The Lenten season is almost at its end. Ever since Valentine’s Day which was also Ash Wednesday, we’ve been praying to God that God would create new things in us during Lent this year… things that would help us grow closer to God… things that would assist us on our faith journeys. And, if you recall, I suggested at our Ash Wednesday worship service, when all this began, that perhaps giving something up for Lent makes good sense—it would help us make room for the new thing God is creating in us during this season.
So, we started praying that God would create in us first a clean heart. Then our prayers asked God to create in us a deeper sense of reverence for God and all that God values. The third week of Lent we prayed that God would create in us a life with justice, and the fourth week, our Confirmation youth and Pastor Fred helped us ask God to create love in us, no matter what!! In week five, our thoughts and prayers went to God creating in us a delight in the laws that God upholds, and last week, our prayer was that God would create in us a deeper sense of trust that God is at work in our adversities and our circumstances.
Last night, we heard about the importance of God creating the cup of salvation in us. And, this leads us up to tonight. All these parts that God can create in us are just the tip of the iceberg of what helps a deeper relationship with God to develop, and a more rich and meaningful spiritual life to grow.
Ironically, tonight our journeys come to a new starting point, even as our worship series ends. Tonight we pray for God to create in us a revived spirit. A spirit within us that is energized… a spirit that desires us to go forward on newly revived faith… a spirit of confidence that all these parts that God created within us during Lent, are able to help us in navigate life’s journey day to day.
Also ironically, even as our spirits are revived within and our faith journeys come to a new starting point tonight, we do so we recognizing Jesus’ earthly life coming to an end.
How can this be? We get revived as Christ dies?
It’s the mystery of mysteries that we’ve only begun to understand, and we won’t know it fully until our resurrection day. What we do know is that for weeks before his crucifixion, Jesus not only predicted his death, he taught about it, too. He said that when grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (John 12: 24). Jesus was one grain of wheat that died, but his death bore much fruit for all others to share in.
His death opened up the opportunity for everything that is valuable and good and of God to be replicated through us, his followers. His death, says the author of Hebrews, gives us the confidence that God’s law of love IS written on our hearts and minds. That we ARE forgiven. That we ARE welcome in God’s holy sanctuary. That clean hearts ARE created in us. That our consciences are made new without evil. That love IS worked into us. Christ’s death means that the redemption of our whole lives is worked into us by Christ, and we are made new in God’s sight.
I believe, friends, that God works all that into our inner spirit and revives us right there. It is up to us, then, to work out what God works in. All that is valuable and good and of God lives in us and can be replicated in us, and worked out from us, especially if we willfully pray as the psalmist prays… “Into your hand I commit my spirit, for you have redeemed me, faithful God.”
Yes, these words are associated with words from a deathbed; indeed, they were among Jesus’ last words from the cross. But what if we pray these words tonight, not from our deathbeds, but from our life-beds, from our new starting points on our journeys of faith with a revived spirit? I wonder if that means we can identify with Jesus’ death so much that we willfully decide that everything NOT of God is to die out within us? And, conversely, everything that is valuable and good and of God lives in us, and we work it out in our lives?
Kind of reminds me of when we hear stories on the news of genuine heroes—like the two fire fighters who lost their lives trying to save lives, putting out dangerous infernos. And the response from
firefighters all over our nation. They’ve come to York respecting the lives of those firemen—I feel a fair bit of faith restored in humanity, through those efforts, don’t you? When people act so selflessly and others honor and cherish their sacrifice? Maybe that’s an example of people working out what God has worked in, what God has created within us—salvation, redemption, and a revived spirit. A sense that we are created good. We are valuable. We are redeemed.
God works these into us. What we need, I think, is space within our inner lives to let them grow. I encourage all of us… please pray to God well beyond this Lenten season, “Create in me, O God… space… space in my inner life to let the things you’ve created in me during this Lenten season grow… grow to fruition. Grow to new life.
May God bless all of us on this new part of our journeys of faith. Amen.