For those of you just jumping into this Lenten devotion series with us, our theme for this Lent is, “Loving God, Loving Neighbor.” Jesus is explicit in the gospel when he says,
“Hear O Israel, the Lord our God. The Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this. Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29, Matthew 22:37, Luke 10:27)
We come to this space to wrestle with what this means. So far, we have talked about Jesus giving us a new place to center ourselves, connecting us to God, keeping our eyes toward the one who created us. That these words he spoke are a sweet invitation giving us space to enter into a rooted relationship, defining us not just as humans, but as human beings who are involved in a relationship founded on love.
Today however we take a shift, and start wondering how these words, these commands, effect not just who we are in relationship to God, but who we are in relationship to our neighbor. Yes we are called to love them, but what does that look like?
Author of “The Jesus Creed,” Scot McKnight brings us valuable insight to the conversation. He says, “It is quite easy to see the normal intent of Jesus’ healing miracles. Any glance at the many records of Jesus’ miracles in the Gospels reveals what the miracles normally do: They restore people. Miracles are performed by Jesus out of love and are done to restore humans to God and to others. Miracles are what happens when the Jesus Creed becomes restorative.”
McKnight is offering us a new way of understanding miracles. He is inviting us to see that miracles are not simply an act that brings about a good consequence, but their performance is rooted in a deeper meaning. The miracles performed by Jesus are all about restoring relationship. Relationships to God and between people.
Maybe this is a new way to understand the cross. It is a miracle of restoration – bringing people into relationship with God through the life of Christ. The foundation of the miracle being God’s love for God’s creation and for God’s people. This is the miracle of the Gospel, the good news that we are restored because of Christ.
If then a miracle is a part of the gospel story, how does our loving God and loving neighbor become the outward expression – miracle- of bringing restoration inside of damaged relationship? How are we called to live to be the expression of the miracle of restoration for others?
As cheesy and uncomfortable as it may sound to many, the act of restoration, begins first with the invitation to be in relationship with God, through Christ. (One way to understand grace.) Then we respond to that grace with the act of confession. Confessing what we believe, who God is, and confessing the acts which weigh on our hearts; those things that have led to broken relationships in our lives: both things done to us and those things we have done. We are being asked to give our whole selves to God, and to our neighbor: being vulnerable to speak the truth about our own selves, allowing the miracle of restoration to be part of our lives in that confession.
So this is our Lenten challenge for the day, to hear the miracle of restoration, as you take time to, confess your faith and confess the truth of your heart.
If you are unsure what this might sound like I offer you these prompts.
Dear Lord, I come today knowing that in love you offer grace to me and all of creation. In Christ you offer restoration, you show mercy to us. Thank you, dear Lord, for the generosity you continuously show to us, loving us not because of our perfection, but loving us even in the midst of our imperfection.
Today dear Lord, I give to you the burden of my heart. The things that keep my heart feeling heavy and keep me from enjoying the freedom of your love. I specifically offer to you….
Take these confessions dear Lord. Hear the depth of my love for you. Hear my acknowledgement that you are my creator and savior and hear the offering of self into your tender mercy, forgiveness, and grace. Amen.