But God show us his secrets

1 Corinthians 2:7-12 The wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our Glorious Lord. That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit shows us God’s deep secrets…so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.

In the 1950s or 1960s, if you climbed into a Jeep or Carryall and drove for hours over rutted, one-track muddy roads over two ranges of mountains and then down into a verdant valley and wound through a Mayan village with dogs and half-naked children chasing after your vehicle–one of only two in that village–you would reach a small adobe house which by local standards was a mansion.

A view of the valley last time I was there (2008), the village now a small city

Inside that house, on a designated evening before Christmas, the children were put to bed early in the single bedroom which cradled them all. Under the narrow door into the living room a sliver of light shone, and mysterious sounds tantalized the children’s imaginations. For their father had rolled into the living room from its resting place in the garage the Christmas barrel, that round bastion of steel opened only once each year, on this night. Who knew what treasures were hidden inside?

Every child’s ear strained to detect some clue to what wonders were being wrapped on the other side of that door. Sure enough, gifts nested beneath the Christmas tree when they awoke, two for each child. They knew one would be something practical: socks, or underwear. But the other could be anything—a toy, a game, a puzzle—selected from the barrel especially for him or her. Those gifts were shaken, prodded, examined from all angles. The tension of anticipation grew with each day until finally, on Christmas morning, with a fire roaring in the fireplace (the only time each year Dad kindled it in the daytime), the secrets were revealed, one by one, in order of age of the four—then five, six, seven, eight children.

I can still feel the tingle of wonder at receiving something brand new, chosen just for me. My name on the package. Gifts selected (or donated to our family) years ahead of time, loaded onto the trailer we pulled behind our vehicle from Illinois or Kansas, through the agony of customs at the Mexican border, all those long sweaty miles south through Mexico and over the mountains into that Mayan village, finally to be sealed into the waterproof Christmas barrel to await their wondrous revelation.

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him. … For who can know the Lord’s thoughts? (v. 16)

Because of Easter, we can know. His secrets are all about love.

But Christ is wisdom

1 Corinthians 1:20, 23-25, 30 God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish … So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. But Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength … For our benefit God made Christ Jesus to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.

Church of the Ascension 2021 Station of the Cross 6 by Amy Foster. See them all.

I had read it before, for another Zoom discussion on racial reconciliation. But when my small group decided to read and discuss Jemar Tisby’s The Color of Compromise and I read it again in the context of Lent, Jemar’s comments at the end of chapter six on the cross as the lynching tree, I felt punched in the gut. Jemar’s point is that lynching could not have continued had the white church not kept silent. I feel like Nehemiah, crying out to the Lord on behalf of his people and their sins. Thousands of people cruelly tortured for the slightest of offenses, real or imagined, their ravaged bodies hung on trees for anyone to gawk at. And the Lord’s people either participating, viewing the lynching like a spectator sport (think of the ancient Roman’s and the Coliseum), or simply doing—nothing. Oh God. Have mercy on us, your people. Sinners.

I am overwhelmed by the wisdom of the cross. I’ve often thought about it in relation to survivors of sexual abuse, for Jesus too was stripped, mocked, violated, shamed. By choice. Out of love. For us. He knows.*

He knows, too, the horror of lynching. He was lynched by an irrational, prejudiced crowd led by people wanting desperately to preserve their power. Tortured. Ravaged. Stripped. Shamed. And hung on a tree.

The wisdom of God is humility. Sacrifice. Powerlessness.

Forgiveness.

Love.

The enemy thought he had won. BUT . . . !

Understanding more about the cross makes Jesus’ resurrection even more precious. As I seek with Gerard Manley Hopkins (thank you, Elaine!) to “let him Easter” in me, “be the Dayspring to my dimness,” I don’t want to be silent about the enemy’s assaults in my own generation. Even while longing for the day when there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain, the day when every tear will be wiped from our eyes, I want to use my voice to say “No!” to injustice. And to say “Yes!” to the healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation the cross makes possible.

 *Diane Langberg writes eloquently about the meaning of the cross in Suffering and the Heart of God and other books and articles. The work of Be the Bridge is based on the cross. Check it out. The “colors of compromise” in Tisby’s vision are green for greed, red for blood shed in every kind of suffering, and white for complicity. Read his book. It will change you. It will Easter you.

But God answered, by Elaine Elliott, Antigua, Guatemala

Job 30:20; 38:1-2, 12-13 I cry to you, O God, but you don’t answer. I stand before you, but you don’t even look. … Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind. “Who is this that questions my wisdom? … Have you ever commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to rise in the east? Have you made daylight spread to the ends of the earth?” [KJV: “Hast thou commanded the dayspring to know its place?”]

Luke 1:78-79 Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven [KJV “the dayspring from on high”] is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.

My sister sent us home from San Diego in mid-March after my husband Steve and I had helped her recover from a health crisis. Though we had heard of Covid, arriving in the Guatemala airport to a temperature check and instructions to self-quarantine for two weeks seemed surprising.   The next day we heard that all air travel to the country would be suspended, and we went into lockdown two days later.  We arrived home just in time.

Our daughter suggested a weekly Zoom call, a lifeline to anchor our family.  Having this connection allowed us to hear about their lives, to share ours, to watch the three grandchildren grow, and to be present as our son adopted two boys.  My Bible study group started a weekly Zoom meeting, and several friends and I talked frequently as well.  On-line books, magazines, newspapers, and documentaries expanded our world. Thank you, God, for technology!

Covid confinement became my sabbatical for writing. I sent scripture reflections to family and friends, then wrote a novel about recent events in Guatemala.  Sharing my drafts became a way of connecting with friends as readers helped me with my story. 

When two close Mayan friends died, and another friend shared her grief over not being with her husband in the hospital as he died, the Covid tragedy became personal. We saw the economic devastation as people on the streets waved white flags to indicate they needed food. Added to the pandemic, two tropical storms devastated communities, making more food relief necessary. 

Our patio garden with its lavish flowers, hummingbirds, butterflies, bright fountain, and fresh grass made a welcoming outdoor space without leaving the house.  Thanksgiving dinner had all the trimmings and none of the guests.  Similarly, we spent Christmas home alone. However, the brilliance of this year’s conjunction of planets shone in the clear evening sky as a hopeful sign like the first Christmas star.  Zoom allowed us to connect with extended family, all socially distanced in my sister’s back yard.

When I gained confidence to hike outdoors with friends, we enjoyed soaking in trees, sunlight, and landscapes. Prayer, music, devotional reading and encouragement from family and friends kept us cheerful, and when tempted to become gloomy, habits of gratitude lifted us up.  I felt grateful for our good health, survival of Covid for several in the family, and for my 91-year-old mom’s vaccination.

Even in a pandemic, Easter Sunday celebrates resurrection, and I set a cheerful spring table with bright flowers and delicious food.  I had read an appropriate line from Gerard Manley Hopkins that referred to Christ in a time of shadows: “Let him Easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us.”

Thanapon: Shutterstock

But Jesus said, “You would have no power”

John 19:10-11 “Why don’t you talk to me?” Pilate demanded. “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?” But Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above.”

Words. There have been so many words. Jesus’ last words to his disciples take five chapters to record.

John 13: You will believe that I am the Messiah…The one who eats my food has turned against me…I will be with you only a little longer…Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.

John 14: Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me…I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me…Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father…the Holy Spirit will teach you…I am leaving you with a gift—peace. The ruler of the world approaches. He has no power over me…

John 15: I am the grapevine, and my Father is the gardener…Apart from me, you can do nothing…Your joy will overflow…I will send you the Spirit of truth.

John 16: Your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy!…Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

John 17: Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son…Holy Father, protect by the power of your name all who are mine, so that they will be united just as we are…I protected them…I guarded them…Now I am coming to you…Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them not the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth…May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me.

Yesterday Rev. Mark Stevenson presented for us dramatically, by memory, in a sanctuary stripped of all adornment, the whole of John 18 and 19. You can watch it here. Cross of Jesus, cross of sorrow, where the blood of Christ was shed, perfect Man on thee did suffer, perfect God on thee has bled! (Wm J. Sparrow-Simpson, 1887). And by Christina Rosetti, set to music by Chris Massa, Am I stone and not a sheep That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy Cross, To number drop by drop Thy Blood’s slow loss, And yet not weep? Not so those women loved…

Tomorrow at 6:00 a.m. we will enter the sunrise service in darkness. At one magical moment, the organ will pour forth glorious praise as the lights explode the darkness to reveal the church no longer stripped, but bursting with flowers.

And for the first time since Lent began, we will once again say “Alleluia, Alleluia.”

From Wikipedia