We are more than half of the way now through the season of Lent. In my newsletter article last month, I said that Lent is a time for paying attention to the uncomfortable things about ourselves, with a particular focus on how they intertwine with the lives of others and the world around us and make us complicit in the complex web of sin and brokenness that we humans have been weaving throughout our history. That will continue to be our task for the first half of April. But then in Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday on April 14, our attention will turn more fully to how God is at work to address our plight through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
At On The Way we have been talking in recent weeks about how we understand this work of God, and particularly how Jesus’ death accomplishes our salvation. We have delved into how this is connected to the way ancient people understood the world and made sense of things. One area of significant importance is connected to blood, which is equated in much of the Old Testament with life. When Cain killed Abel early in the book of Genesis, it was Abel’s blood that cried out to God from the ground. Later in Genesis, it was the blood of the Passover lamb that protected the Israelite firstborn from the angel of death. Throughout the subsequent history of the people of Israel it was the blood of animal sacrifices that sanctified both the places of worship and the worshippers themselves and made them acceptable in God’s sight. Out of respect for the sacredness of life that blood represents, the Israelites were forbidden from consuming blood. That is the reason behind Jewish Kosher laws to this day. Animals must be drained of their blood before their meat is eaten. Their life belongs to God, and not to us. (See Leviticus 17.)
In the Gospel of John, in the very first chapter, Jesus is identified as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” John understands Jesus to be the new Passover lamb, whose death saves us from the power of sin, death, and evil. However that works – however his death saves us from those powers (and I don’t pretend to understand the mechanics of it) – it is the central affirmation of our faith that it does work. And Jesus’ resurrection is the first indication that he has accomplished his mission. Death no longer has power over him. By the grace of God, his victory becomes ours as well. We make this connection personal through Baptism and Holy Communion, through confession and absolution, and through the Good News of God’s saving love for us. All of this comes together in the great Three Days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Vigil of Easter. Our worship on those days is conceived of as a single service spread out over three days in which all of those elements are included.
I invite you to immerse yourself in the mystery of the faith as we finish out Lent and turn the corner towards Holy Week. May God grace us in these seasons with faith, inspire us with hope, and activate both our faith and our hope in love.
+ Pastor Chris Repp