...What are human beings
that you are mindful of them?
What are mortals that you care for them?
I’m not used to talking about my bodily functions, even with pretty young nurses. However, I realize it’s a daily occurrence for many Atonement members, especially when we wind up sick or in the hospital. But I give thanks to God that the pain in my belly and the irregular bathroom habits I’ve had of late have turned out to be only a minor infection.And yet my mind goes off on its own and wanders into the nooks and crannies of those other possibilities—what if it had been something major, chronic, malignant, life threatening? To be ill, to be dis-eased, upsets the whole structure of your life. You walk around as if tilted at an angle, with everything a little more uncertain and difficult due to the needs and weaknesses of the body.
On top of that, Lent brings a whole new layer of dis-ease into focus. The crabby, selfish, irritable, prideful, pleasure-hungry, domineering, wasteful, grudge-bearing, two-faced, manipulative, ungrateful tendencies of our nature are just as certain indicators of internal problems as belly pain or a worrisome x-ray. The lessons and themes of Lent turn our attention towards our own human-ness, our embodied state, our weakness and our flesh.
Our Savior knew the weakness of this flesh, knew temptation, and knows our pain. He came, not with some fancy plan to rehabilitate the human race, but to encounter weak and dis-eased people one at a time, face to face. He came to know us first, and to help us climb out of this physical and mental trap where what is broken about us is all we see. He reached out and healed broken bodies, touched the dis-eased and disrespected, and straightened out the tilted lives of those who were estranged from God’s love. Through his life, he left the imprint of wholeness on this world; in his death, he hands that wholeness over to us.
This month, on our way from ashes to Easter, we make our way from our disease to God’s perfect health. We have prescriptions and remedies from our Great Physician: Scriptures that remind and spiritual disciplines that strengthen. We get our checkups checking in with one another in worship. We even have our elixers and medicines as we take bread to nourish and wine to cleanse our souls. But in it all, we are receiving the one cure for our sickness unto death. In it all, the one God is giving his greatest gift to us, our only real need. In it all we receive the presence, life, and love of God himself.
In Psalm 8 the singer is amazed that God who is majestic and mighty, big and beautiful beyond our brain’s ability to know would care for us. And yet, like the chicks under a hen’s wing, like the apple of a new father’s eye, like a prize rose or a pearl beyond all price our God has zeroed in on us to shower us with honor and glory. He gave us this world, the animals and plants for food, the vast vistas of beauty and fields of stars in the night, minds to think with and abilities to shape the world around us.
After all that giving, God gave the best that He had and came among us Himself as Jesus Christ. And what did we give that Greatest Giver of all — the One we owed everything to? Only a hard and lonely death, abandoned in disgrace. But O how blessed we are he did not stop giving!
Today he gives us new life and a community of people committed to live in gratitude to the God who never stops blessing us. He sees beyond our dis-ease and teaches us to forgive so we can experience healthier relationships with one another. He delivers our daily bread and puts the grace in the grace we say.
William Tyndale, the great reformer who lost his life in an attempt to translate the Bible into English, said that through scripture God’s people “may stand fast, endure, and merrily maintain their soul’s health, with which the lusts of the flesh are subdued and killed and the spirit made soft to receive the imprint of the image of our Savior Jesus.” I hope and pray this season finds you in renewed health of body, mind, and spirit, remade in the image of our merciful and gracious heavenly Savior, Jesus Christ.