Freely Offered – 4-19-24

You can listen to this reflection here. Sunday’s gospel reading is here

We are doing the “Being With” course at my churches this Lent and Eastertide. Being With is a 10-week exploration of Christian faith and practice, meeting weekly with a talk and discussion. This past week the topic was the Cross, which gets to the heart of what Jesus’ crucifixion meant and means for us. There are many ways of interpreting this event, depending on which of the four canonical gospels you’re reading and where you sit on the theological spectrum.

There are also no answers to so deep and unsettling a mystery. Did humans operating out of sin and evil kill Jesus? Did God have his own son killed? Was Jesus’ death due to politics, paranoia, personal feuds? Could it have been prevented? Was it simply the inevitable consequence of human choice, or a divine plan?

Perhaps a combination of all of these. Jesus predicted his arrest, death and resurrection often enough that it seems to have been a plan he was enacting. Yet that plan required human beings to make choices that could have gone in other ways. And any notion that Jesus was a passive victim of either human or divine operation is contested by these words attributed to Jesus as he talks about being the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep: “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”

Laying things down, things that we call life, is a constant effort in the life of a Christ-follower. Jesus demonstrated a self-giving love that offered everything, including his life, including separation – if even for a moment – from his Father and the Spirit. Where are we called to sacrifice our comfort or convenience or resources so someone else might have more room to live?

Like many Americans, I am more often in conversations these days about racial reckoning and reconciliation. I’ve heard someone say it’s not enough for those of us born into privilege to say we’re sorry for the historic and current injustice that limits access to the wealth and security we enjoy; we may actually need to get up and out of the chair, to make space for someone who hasn’t had our advantages. That’s a way of laying down of our lives at a high level. There are also smaller scale choices we can make – to lay down our insistence on being right, or knowing better, or having more. What comes to mind for you?

It is our privilege to make a choice to yield our privilege. Like Jesus, we have power to lay down our lives and to take them up again. In fact, when we lay them down, we truly find a richer life to take up. As we lay down those things to which we cling so tightly, we make room for God’s life to expand in us. As we give our life away, we find ourselves living that abundant life Jesus promised.

© Kate Heichler, 2024. To receive Water Daily by email each morning, subscribe hereHere are the bible readings for next Sunday. Water Daily is also a podcast – subscribe to it here on Apple, Spotify or your favorite podcast platform.

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