Scripture Reflections

March 21: Fifth Sunday in Lent

Posted by Campus Ministry on Sunday, March 21, 2021 at 8:00 AM PDT

pink blooming cherry blossoms

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In today’s first reading we hear God’s promise of a renewed world: an irrevocable covenant, written upon the heart, which binds God together with God’s people, so that “all, from least to greatest shall know” the Lord, and live in reconciled relationship.  

God’s promises of renewal seem far off for me this week. I’m caught up in the gravity of our messy present reality: the pain of violence, death, racism, homophobia, economic inequality, poor leadership, and so many other intersecting injustices, weighing down on many folks in our communities. My heart is broken by the pain and suffering of the world.

This Sunday, as I turn to God in prayer, I ask: How do I respond to the crushing weight of sin and injustice? What does it mean to be a Christian, a disciple of Jesus, in this world?

As I consider Jesus this Lent, I meet someone who deeply encountered the love of God inscribed on his heart, who was willing to let his heart be broken in compassion which led to loving action. The love Jesus knew led him into a life of teaching, healing, reconciling, feeding, and prophetically proclaiming God’s dream for the world. Jesus did not deny, ignore, or numb himself to the cruelty and pain of this world – instead, he acknowledged their impact and challenged the status quo with action. This life of love and prophetic action led to condemnation, betrayal, suffering and death for Jesus, as it does for prophets in every age. Jesus proclaims this reality to us in today’s Gospel, and calls us to follow in his way.

“Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.”

In today’s Gospel Jesus calls us to a life like his. I don’t believe this means that Jesus wants us to be martyrs, but rather to live a life that allows our encounter with God’s love to shape our whole life.

So on this day, when I am brokenhearted as I read the news, and I can’t quite imagine God’s promise for the world, I instead imagine Jesus, kindly smiling, arms flung open wide, saying “welcome, I’ve been waiting for you to allow your heart to break like mine.” I sit beside Jesus, and ask him to help me to continue to follow in his ways, to find courage to live like he did, and to keep dreaming and acting for God’s promise of transformation in our world. I imagine my heart is like that seed Jesus spoke about in the Gospel, breaking open with vulnerability and compassion so that new life may emerge for me and for the world.  

A friend recently told me this story of wisdom from the Hasidic Jewish tradition:  

A disciple asks the Rabbi: “Why does Torah tell us to ‘place these words upon your hearts’? Why does it not tell us to place these holy words in our hearts?” The Rabbi answers: “It is because as we are, our hearts are closed, and we cannot place the holy words in our hearts. So we place them on top of our hearts. And there they stay until, one day, the heart breaks and the words fall in.”

What is breaking your heart today as you consider this world, and your own life? What words of God's love and promise of transformation do you notice falling in? How does God’s love invite us into new action in our world today?