You are God’s Letter – a Holy Week meditation

During Holy Week, I am offering a series of meditations, writes Bishop Dorsey McConnell. They address a question that was posed at Synod, Who Are We?, and are based on six images used by Saint Paul to describe the Church in his second letter to the Corinthians (2 For. 2:14-5:21). Each is linked to a particular moment in Christ’s Passion and Resurrection, beginning with the Triumphal Entry, and ending with the appearance of the risen Lord to Mary Magdalene. Each concludes with an appropriate collect.

I invite you to use these for your own devotions as we move day-by-day more deeply into the Mystery of Mysteries. Please also consider the daily reflections and resources in our Lent Course already posted on our website.

I hope these may provide you with sustenance and encouragement as we together walk the Way of the Cross.

Wednesday 27 March – You are God’s Letter

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  And I will pray the Father and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him, not knows him; but you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.”  (John 14:15-17)

They are bewildered as they follow him, these original friends of Jesus.  Half the time, they don’t understand what he is talking about, any more than they had understood the law laid down by the scribes.  That doesn’t get easier, when they come to Jerusalem and he tangles with the crowd: I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all to myself.  They know, because the authorities are always reminding them, that they are simple, unlearned men (Acts 4:13), so it probably does not surprise them, that they understand so little.  It doesn’t seem to matter to Jesus. He knows that, even if his friends all had university degrees, they would still be bewildered.  So he continues to speak his mysterious Word.  They follow. They listen.  They are bewildered.  They have no idea what is already beginning to take shape among them, cannot feel the emerging work of the Spirit of truth who dwells with them.

Jesus, by his presence, is writing something in their souls.  Actually, he has been, since the day they chose to follow him. The Holy Spirit will complete this work, but it’s already going on: Christ inscribing in them the Father’s law of love.  Saint Paul puts it this way:  you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (2 Corinthians 3:3).

How can they possibly know that, as they stumble along, the prophecy of Jeremiah is being fulfilled in them: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts…. No longer shall each man teach his neighbour and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.  As they get closer to the Cross, the grace and mercy Jesus has always shown them continues to seep into their being.  He will seal it forever by his death, but the letter is already being written.

It is the best kind of letter, a love letter.  When lovers write to their beloved, they almost never say anything that the other doesn’t already know.  The words may be different, but the passion, the devotion, is always the same: the words simply confirm the love. So, with the letters written by Christ on our own hearts, in Christ’s Body we are a love letter to one another, always confirming the love of the Father, the love of Jesus for us, by our love for each other.

We don’t do this well.  We get easily bewildered by our sin, our pride, envy, and anger. These things harden our hearts, and make us resist all he wishes to write to us and in us. The Lord will show us the things in us he must erase, the hard places he must soften.  They will become more apparent as we get closer to the last supper, the garden, the Cross.  They will be difficult for us to face.  But Jesus is not put off.  He will continue to write in us his mysterious Word, until we are able to love.

O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we may truly love one another, and so obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, on God, for ever and ever.  Amen.