As we journey together through the second week of Lent, Christians throughout Columbia will be sharing their own beautifully written “letters from the heart.” Each will be accompanied by corresponding relevant scripture verse(s), and linked to sources for further study. If you would like to join us on Columbia’s Lenten journey, please send us your “letter from the heart” by email. Especially meaningful submissions will be printed. Let us continue our Lenten journey of repentance, meditation, and anticipation day-by-day, to its glorious culmination on Easter morning.
Reality teaches the harsh lesson that all things in mature move from a beginning to an end, from vibrant spring to dead of winter, from life to death.
The ancient literature of every culture includes mythologies, metaphors, poetry, fables, songs, epitaphs and lamentations that speak of ultimate loss, decay and demise. Our Ash Wednesday liturgy at the onset of Lent affirms this stark reality: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
Along with the call to remember, the appointed lessons for this second week in Lent have within them a wonderful message of a wondrous reversal of reality. From Genesis, we hear that there is coming upon the land a famine of seven years. It is part of the inevitable life-to-death cycle of nature. However, food unexpectedly becomes available at the hands of a dream interpreter, Joseph, whom God, in God’s own way, was destined for leadership in Egypt. The brothers of Joseph moved from death to life, from starvation to survival. (Genesis 41:14-45)
Then, in his letter to the Romans, Paul reminds readers that, “In baptism one shares in the death of Christ and his resurrection.” He tells us that we have already died in Christ and have passed from death to life. The resurrection is understood to be the ultimate reversal of reality. (Romans 6:3-14)
From John’s Gospel Jesus says, “The man [or woman] who hears my words and has faith in him who sent me possesses eternal life…and has passed from death to life.” (John 5:19-24)
These three biblical accounts of the reversal of reality witness to God’s affirmation of life. Let us consider that in our Baptism into the death of Christ, we actually have already died. We need not fear death at all. We are free in Christ to love ad He loved, free to love powerfully and specifically enough to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. In Christ we love without fear of ridicule, ostracism or persecution.
Reality has been reversed by God in Christ, so that fear of the many forms of death no longer keeps us from interpreting scripture with regard to justice, for caring for creation as God’s stewards, from comprehending human sexuality with reason and compassion, or from using the gifts of technology in response to human need.
All these things we do while continually seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit, all these are ways in which faithful people partner with God to reverse the world’s reality and to bring about God’s reality. Life from Death.
The Rev. Philip H. Whitehead
Rector Emeritus, St. Michael of All Angels’ Church
Columbia, South Carolina