Fourth Sunday in Lent

There is a building in Dubuque which can almost function as a metaphor for human life.  The Dubuque Brewery and Malting Company had occupied this building until it ceased operations there.  In 2017, the building was purchased by a man who thought it could be transformed into a commercial and residential property.  He was hoping for government funding, while initial efforts at renovation proved more difficult than foreseen.  The building has been deteriorating and falling stones are a danger to passersby. It is a question of whether it can be saved at all or if it should be demolished.  Is it worth putting more money into it?  Someone has to decide, has to make the judgment.

This seems to be the question God has addressed when he sees us dead in our transgressions.  This is seldom the perspective we have of ourselves.  Struggling, limping, defective – maybe. But dead in our transgressions is just hyperbole.  The old building is really pretty reliable and trustworthy.  A little paint and support work will get it back in shape.  Surely, the critical vision of 2 Chronicles depicting a people marching from transgression to transgression, from infidelity to infidelity, and finally to the loss and destruction of all that was precious is only of historical interest.  It can’t be describing the deterioration and collapse that are the consequences of freely chosen willfulness.  If God is compassionate, then He will surely ignore and wash away the results of the choices that have made us who we are.  This is our form of “government funding.”  We don’t have to live with the consequences.  Salvation is I’m o.k., you’re o.k.

Perhaps it is not too irreverent to say that God has come and bought the deteriorating building of humanity.  It is a creation that He loves.  God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.  Because of the great love He has for us… brought us to life with Christ   — by grace you have been saved.  No other power or force or energy is capable of redeeming and renovating the apparent wreckage that sin and evil have inflicted on persons, the society, and the cosmos. Their enemies burnt the house of God, tore down the walls of Jerusalem, … destroyed all its precious objects.  Was it worth putting any investment in this?  God’s answers by giving us His son.  It is an answer that we can hear day after day.  You are precious in my eyes.

God’s presence in our world through His son is a challenge for us to see the world as he sees it, to see life in light of the Light.  We can prefer darkness to light, not just to escape a spotlight being turned on personal shadows, but to escape investment and commitment to a world inhospitable to works of love and compassion.  When we come into the light, we are highly visible and vulnerable to hostility and humiliation.  We are raised up with Christ as disturbers of the peace.  The paradox and contradiction at the root of the foundation of a new creation is suffering love, the compassion of God incarnate in the gift of his son at work in reconstructing and redeeming that world he loves.  We are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus, for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.

The light and life that Christ brings and shares with us send us as prophets into our world, living already the eternal life of communion with God.  We live by a truth which can contradict the certainties and logic of a world seeking to save itself while it undermines its own health and well-being.  Whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.  Living the truth God is constantly revealing in Christ manifests that freedom which has its own reason for being in love, in the love which is the gift of the Father.  That is God’s judgment on the world.