The passages in the Lectionary this week which inspired this post are Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 40:1-11, 1 Corinthians 1:1-9, and John 1:29-42. I hope you will read along and share the ways these scriptures spoke to you.
I have this picture in my head of God concocting a plan that went above and beyond anyone's wildest dreams, with a gleam in his eye and a conspiratorial whisper to the prophets and his own Son about his plans for redemption of the whole world. Isaiah 49:6 says, "It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth."
After baptizing Jesus, John proclaimed that Jesus was "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." Even before Jesus' ministry began, John caught a glimpse of God's grand scheme, a plan that had been in the works since sin first became messily twisted into human nature.
It was too light a thing to simply bring hope and salvation to his people, Israel. God decided to go even further than that, to bring hope and salvation to the world.
The first chapter of 1 Corinthians declares that recipients of God's grace and forgiveness will stand guiltless before God. Of course, this is not because we are naturally without sin on our own, nor are we suddenly incapable of sin in light of our salvation. No, we are guiltless before God because Christ sustains us. Our guilt has been covered, is being covered, and will continue to be covered.
This is what inspires me to worship, and to speak of what God has done; I stand in awe of of the grace that has been given to me. I certainly do not deserve it on my own. I have another picture of God in my head, as a loving parent stooping down to gently wipe the dirt away from a small messy child who has stumbled and fallen yet again. My hands are dirty, yet they have been cleansed, and they continue to be cleansed.
And in the process, my heart is continually transformed. God's law has been written on my heart-- a law that can be summed up with the directive to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. And while this law does not do away with the propensity to sin that has been entangled in my very nature, the spirit of God himself whispers it to my heart daily, pointing me toward a different path and enabling me to choose it.
I don't always choose it. No, sometimes I choose poorly-- and boy, have I messed up over and over. And yet there is God again, holding out a loving hand, cleansing and forgiving me, pointing me always toward love, hope, and grace. He has a hold on my heart that the propensity for sin cannot undo, and for that I am grateful.