Slow Steps to Glory
by Kelli Shell
March 7, Saturday – Psalms 75, 76, 23, 27; Jeremiah 5:20-31; Romans 3:19-31; John 7:1-13
I recently watched “Ballast,” a film whose plot explores the relationships between three people dealing with a suicide. The dead man left his twin brother, an estranged 12-year old son, and an embittered ex-wife. Blanketed in wintertime blue and set in the Mississippi Delta, cradle of the Blues, “Ballast” is a perfect film for Lent.
We are simply dropped into the aftermath of the suicide. There is no superficial dialog to explain the backstory, and the action moves slowly. You eventually discover some of the backstory and gain insight into the conflict between the characters, each one deeply wounded. The wounds are due, in part, to brokenness inflicted upon each other. As the story progresses, each character begins to participate in the restoration of the others through simple, un-theatrical, glamorless acts of love. I found myself thinking, “Yes, that really is how things work out in real life – slowly, gradually, and without much theatrical flair.”
In the Gospels, Jesus is repeatedly prompted by followers, family and even satan, to show himself to the world and reveal His glory with great dramatic flair. He doesn’t do that. He mostly responds as He does in today’s Gospel reading. When goaded into attending the Festival of the Tabernacles, Jesus tells his brothers “My time is not yet here.” But yet, He is not inactive. He takes action and goes to the festival in secret… on His terms… at His pace. Most of us want so much to manipulate and control God. We strive to earn grace and force our own restoration, our own way, by our own willpower. We cannot push God.
One of the Psalm readings today includes an acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty in His timing:
I choose the appointed time;
it is I who judge with equity.
When the earth and all its people quake,
it is I who hold its pillars firm.
Psalm 75: 2-3
So, what do we do as we wait?
The other readings for today call us to consider our failings and confess our sins. Jeremiah reminds us of our stubborn and rebellious hearts. And, in his letter to the Romans, Paul writes that we use the law to show us our failings. Paul says no amount of law or human striving to abide by the law, can bring us grace and reconciliation to God. We are only forgiven of our sins, and set on the path to Easter, through faith in Jesus Christ.
Here’s the hope. We are not just dropped into the narrative of Jesus with no backstory, left to figure it out on our own. We know the story – the beginning and the end. God, in Christ, gives us the opportunity to experience His grace as we reflect and confess, and as He restores us. His glory unfolds through seemingly unremarkable acts of love, like offering Truth through parable and feeding us with the Eucharist, that lead to one incredible outpouring act of love on the cross.
Yes, we still want to arrive at Easter without going through Lent, but God walks us through – slowly, deliberately and often without theatrics – as we wait for His hour to come.
I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.
Image by Eddi van W. (used by permission via Creative Commons)