PR. TOM’S EPISTLE
There are some rather interesting connections this year with the start of Lent and the festival day of Easter!
Lent begins on February 14, which is the day associated as Valentine’s Day— the symbol of the heart is generally connected with this day. Lent begins on a day known as Ash Wednesday, when ashes are traditionally used on the forehead of disciples of Jesus along with these sober words from Genesis, ‘You are dust and to dust you shall return.’ So you put both of these days together and you get the Heart with a Cross tattooed in the center, (like the one above!)
Could it be that those stark words from Genesis reminding us of our mortality, can only be heard in the context of a God who loves us with an everlasting kind of love? No, it’s not a Valentine, sentimental love, but a rugged, fierce love, that takes Jesus all the way to Calvary, to show us God’s love. So, maybe more than we realize, the Heart and the Cross do go together in some great mystery of God’s desire for us to be reconciled with God’s self.
Jaden (not his real name) was a young man in his thirties, who simply longed to belong. He had been abandoned by his birth mother before he began school, and later adopted by a single father, whose wife had died. Both of them needed each other. That was evident to anyone who knew them.
But life never was easy for Jaden. His high school years were marked by bouts of depression and isolation, by abusing drugs and alcohol, truancy and continued bad attitude toward all who wanted to help, including God.
But still he managed to be one of the first ones to greet me as I began life and ministry in this small town years ago. He had questions about the faith, questions about the boundaries of God’s love and whether or not God could love him.
“Don’t I have to do something?” he would ask, clearly thinking it was ‘too good to be true.’
We drifted apart over the years until his father called one night to tell that Jaden had been in a severe accident, leaving him on a breathing machine. There was little brain activity. The family would be put in this horrific situation of making a decision about his future. His father remarked, “Jaden is a organ donor. We have to decide when they can harvest his organs.’ No family ever wants to be put in that situation, and yet Jaden had made it easy for them, in a sense. He wanted to pass on whatever he could to someone else, if it ever got to the point where he would not be able to live. Unfortunately it had come to that.
We gathered around his bed that day, to say goodbye, and to thank him for what he was doing. We talked about all the things he liked to do himself, how much of a clown he was in his short span of years. And even though he had struggled, there came to be a sense of calm and a purpose in what would be his legacy of love - gifting other lives with a second chance.
On his forehead was traced the mark of the Cross, telling us that Jaden had been loved by Jesus, who went the way of the Cross, and that he was God’s beloved child now and for eternity. We commended him into God’s most gracious arms that day.
These were the words that sealed for me the Heart and the Cross;
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5: 8
How foolish it is for us to believe this truth; that there is One whose arms reach out to us, even and especially when we are most unlovable. When we turn our backs and reject this divine offer. How crazy to think or to believe that we can still be in the Father’s grace, even when we do everything possible to deny, ignore and avoid God’s gaze upon our lives. Jaden had done enough in his life that convinced him that he was beyond mercy, beyond love. But that’s just not the case, not for him and not for us.
Oh, by the way, did I tell you that Easter Day is April 1st -April Fool’s Day!