Saturday, April 16, 2011

Who will love a little sparrow?

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of humans and the seed of animals. And just as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring evil, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the Lord. In those days they shall no longer say: “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” But all shall die for their own sins; the teeth of everyone who eats sour grapes shall be set on edge.

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

- Jeremiah 31:27-34

Jeremiah spoke hopefully of a new era—of a time when God would not seem distant and removed, but present right in the hearts of each one of us. As Christians, we see Jesus as the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s hope: God became a human and lived among us, demonstrating a love so deep and internal that we can never run away from it.

Yet we still have trouble understanding how the God who created the universe could also be the God whose light shines in our hearts—the God of galaxies and the God of quarks—the God of grand concepts and the God of vulnerable feelings—macrocosmic and microcosmic at the same time. We get stuck in childish notions that imagine God merely as a powerful old man, or merely as a vague energy field, or merely as a harsh judge, or merely as an embracing parent. God is all of these things and infinitely more. We are who we are because of who God is—not the other way around.

We cannot know God completely, and yet, God wants to be known. And God will keep finding new ways to be known in each of us. Are we listening?

Brace yourself: it’s going to be a big week. Jesus has arrived in Bethany and is getting ready to launch a demonstration tomorrow: a demonstration of the power of humility, of rightful indignation at injustice, and of courage in the face of certain death. What will happen when that death finally comes?

On this last day before Holy Week begins, let’s go back to Ash Wednesday for a moment, where our whole Lenten journey began. God’s eye is on the sparrow, Jesus has told us. Really? Every sparrow? The mystery of death is deep and wide, and Jesus is about to plumb those depths.

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