March 31, 2011
Lessons: Psalm 83, 42, 43, 85, 86, Jeremiah 10:11-24, Romans 5:12-21
Restore us again, O God of our salvation,
and put away your indignation towards us.
Will you be angry with us for ever?
Will you prolong your anger to all generations?
Will you not revive us again,
so that your people may rejoice in you?
Show us your steadfast love, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation.
I move into Lent this year holding the creative tension of knowing that “I am dust and to dust I shall return” and the knowledge that the Source of all Life sees every speck of dust and ash, including my particular dusty and ashy self, as precious. “Restore us again, O God of our salvation…will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your mercy, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.” (Psalm 85:4-7) In the season of Lent, we as Church remember that our dusty selves need restoration. And we remind each other that not only can God restore us, God is eager to restore us. Again and again.
But how does God restore us? The psalmist speaks to this. “Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other” (Psalm 85:10). I love that image. I imagine unconditional love locked in a passionate embrace with righteousness. Those two have become one. Righteousness, which means living in right relationship, makes love tangible. We cannot be restored by the thought of God’s love (It’s really not the thought that counts!). We are people of the Incarnation. We can only be restored by an experience of God’s love. And an experience of God’s love comes through people who are trying to live well, or at least well enough. My dusty self trying to live harmoniously, equitably, justly, mercifully with your ashy self will bring us both into whole-i-ness. God restores us through each other.
We are sealed in this covenant of mutuality through our baptism. It is a huge mission that is generally lived out in very small, very ordinary ways. I am reminded of a tradition from childhood. On Ash Wednesday, my family used to put the porcelain baby Jesus from the Nativity scene on a little wooden pedestal. Each time we did something kind for another, we put a little piece of straw under baby Jesus. We worked really hard at being kind so that baby Jesus could sleep comfortably on lots of straw. And in the process we made life a lot more comfortable for each other. Sometimes our actions seem like insignificant pieces of straw. But all those bits and pieces of straw, all those acts of kindness and decisions for justice, really do bring comfort. And peace. And God continues to walk among us.
Source of all Life, revive us again and again. You who are Mother and Father, help us to live in right relationship with everyone and everything you have created. May we meet You as we meet each other in the kiss of steadfast love and righteousness. Amen.
Sonya J. Reichel