The Pastor's Pen
The last time Ash Wednesday occurred on Valentine’s Day and Easter fell on April Fool’s Day was 1945, over seventy years ago. Lent 2018 is certainly unique, but it is repeatable; the next occurrence will be in 2029. But what is at once absolutely singular and at the same time universally, eternally repeating is grace; real grace that pours out of the open tomb. Absolutely singular, it occurred at only one time and in only one place, through one person and one event; and yet it remains eternally repetitious in the lives of all believers. More precious than gold, more common than water – baptismal water. Absolutely amazing grace!
April fools! That’s reason’s response to unlimited and unsolicited grace. You need to repent, mull over your sins, come up with a plan going forward and do some penance. Nothing’s free, this sin, that sin, every one of your sins has to stop! Otherwise there can be no real grace. Read the fine print. Make a commitment, live out that plan, and bring to God your candy heart – unamazing grace. But oh how sweet that candy heart tastes in our mouth. I’m doing something. I’m working with Jesus on the road to the kingdom. This is kingdom living!
Oh April fool… walk back to the cross and count the cost, not yours, His. There the price, the punishment for every sin was extracted from the flesh and soul and spirit of Jesus. Every sin, the little white lie you told as you got ready this morning. The covetous twinge you felt with a glance at the neighbor’s car, the adulterous look you suddenly realized was your own. Not so little at the foot of the cross. No less offensive than the bloodshed at Parkside School or My Lai or a thousand other atrocities of the last century, the bloodiest century in human history. There are no greater or lesser sins at the cross; they are all stamped PAID IN FULL. As Paul writes to Christians at Colossae, “…[Jesus] canceled the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (2.14). It is finished means precisely that, it is finished; the price for every sin has been paid.
April fools and candy hearts matter not at all; only faith that grasps the gift of grace. Faith clings to the foolishness of a crucified and resurrected Savior. It is not amazed by grace, rather it is comforted because it IS amazing grace. Hearts that have tasted the bitterness of sin revel in the sweetness of reclaimed souls. Not the artificial sweetness of candy hearts but God’s heart, a heart so filled with love that He gave the very best – not Hallmark, His only begotten Son. Even more, the bitterness of His death accomplished the justification of all sinners who would believe and now He grins, He cheers, God spreads His hilarious, irrational grace to all.
He’s here with us in Jesus. He enters into our dinner party and laughs with us sinners just as He did with Zacchaeus. He restores us as well at the apostles that stabbed Him in the back. He demonstrates in the absolution and the Holy Supper over and over and over again that grace truly is amazing because He did not leave us orphans but remains our friend, our feast, our brother, our paschal lamb, our Lord and our God. April foolishness? No! Amazing grace. Amen.