Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: BLESSED (03/07/19)
TITLE: A Glimpse Of Jesus
By Linda Lawrence
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Our church family is mourning together. We have just lost the teenage daughter of a gentle God-loving family, after a month spent in ICU—their own Garden of Gethsemane. We feel much like Jesus’ disciples on the day after He was crucified. Confused sheep, sad, not knowing what to think. We have no words to give the heartbroken mother and father and sister who cling to each other in their shared grief. We open our arms wide, then tightly embrace them. May we be to them the arms of Jesus, our Shepherd.
We wander into the sanctuary, our place of still waters, and rest at the foot of the cross to prepare ourselves for Lent—a season of pulling out the weeds in our hearts to make room for the growth of eternal fruit.
Lord, our sister was not a weed, but a blossoming bud in our midst, carrying with her the fragrance of Jesus. Why was she pulled from us before full-bloom, before time to wither and turn to dust?
“O Lord, make us know our end and the measure of our days . . .” The age-old prayer is fresh to us who asked and expected our sweet sister to be raised up and returned to us to grow old.
Our shepherd-pastor’s face lays bare his own weariness and sadness. “We begin our journey to resurrection life with the imposition of ashes. This ancient sign, speaks of the frailty and uncertainty of human life, calls us to heartfelt repentance, and urges us to place our hope in God alone.”
We line up, waiting our turn to kneel, in repentance, and in worship of the One who gave us life. I watch our pastor’s face. He is just thirty-three years old—the age of Jesus when He wrestled in Gethsemane. Seeing in his countenance compassion . . . grief . . . and hope . . . stirs my heart. He holds our faces, one by one, and with his thumb draws a gritty ash cross on our forehead, speaking over us words of sad reality.
“Remember that God made you from the dust, and apart from God, to the dust you will return.” Apart from God . . . but God we’re not apart from You—so we have hope . . . great hope that is also reality. You will restore our souls.
We return to our pews to confess our sins together. “Refine our hearts by the power of your Holy Spirit, that walking in your ways we may bear the fruit of eternal life.”
We sing of the Fount of every blessing. “. . . Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God. . .” I watch the grieving mother and father and sister clinging to each other, huddling in the fold. It’s not a well-attended service, but they have come. They are not wandering away. We have come . . . together.
And we who are there—surely I’m not the only one catching the glimpse of Jesus—are blessed. Pastor’s face is transformed, glowing, joy bubbling to the surface as he pronounces the good news. As our shepherd, he tenderly pours oil on the wounds of his discouraged, disheartened flock, who are lined up once again for words that heal. This time we are invited to remain upright; though many of us stand with bowed heads. But our shepherd, as the Good Shepherd’s servant, lifts our head and holds our face firmly in his hands, eye to eye. With his thumb he traces a cross with fragrant oil over the ash, calling us each by name, anointing us with these words:
“__________, beloved child of God—by the grace of Jesus Christ—God’s Spirit dwells in you—and you carry the life of God with you—wherever you go.”
I see such joy on his face that I can’t help drinking it in. I feel my face beaming. To my surprise, a tiny bleat of joy erupts from deep within. I’m embarrassed, hoping no one heard, but I have no desire to suppress the joy of glimpsing Jesus and carrying the blessed life of God within me.
Reluctant to leave, I linger to enfold and to be embraced by my fellow sheep who must now learn to live without the lamb our Good Shepherd carried home.
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