Monday, 14 March 2016

Leaning Into Lent: Day 29—There Will Be Blood

The Church of England’s Daily Prayer in Lent has a set of prayers and canticles which resonate with the penitential feel of the season. At first they are fresh and new. After twenty eight days I was just getting to the stage where I felt as if I had squeezed about as much juice from them as I could. Just as I was resigning myself to having to hunker down into more serious Lenten discipline, and as Daylight Savings kicked in, so did Passiontide in the CofE’s calendar!

Things are fresh again. Just in time. Still have to hunker down, but not out of boredom. For the remaining days of Lent, the cross looms larger and there will be blood.

For example, the Morning Prayer Canticle, A Song of the Lord’s Gracious Deeds, from Isaiah 63, asks,
1 Who is this that comes from Edom, •
coming from Bozrah, his garments stained crimson?
2 Who is this in glorious apparel, •
marching in the greatness of his strength?
3 ‘It is I, who announce that right has won the day, •
it is I,’ says the Lord, ‘for I am mighty to save.’
4 Why are your robes all red, O Lord, •
and your garments like theirs who tread the winepress?
5 ‘I have trodden the winepress alone, •
and from the peoples no one was with me.’
6 I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord, •
the praises of the Most High;
7 All that God has done for us in his mercy, •
by his many acts of love.
…mighty to save, blood stained and alone sounds like Jesus. But then I noticed that the Canticle skips a couple of verses of Isaiah’s biblical text between verses 5 and 6. Isaiah wrote:

            3 …I trod them in my anger
      and trampled them in my wrath;
                  their lifeblood spattered on my garments,
      and stained all my apparel.
            4 For the day of vengeance was in my heart,
      and my year of redemption had come.
            5 I looked, but there was no one to help;
      I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold;
                  so my own arm brought me salvation,
      and my wrath upheld me.
            6 I trampled down the peoples in my anger;
      I made them drunk in my wrath,
      and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.” (Isaiah 63:3–6 ESV)

What’s that about? The blood on the robes didn’t come from Jesus. On the face of it, it looks like inappropriate proof-texting and editing in the Canticle, but as I’m reflecting on it, I realize that leaning into Lent is not like leaning into a nice soft pillow. Leaning into Lent forces me to face up to the hard, sharp, bloody reality of sin—my own and in the world around me.

Passiontide brings me face to face with the reality of God’s righteous wrath, expiation, propitiation and the hard, sharp, death-dealing, bloody, yet life-giving work that had to be done by Jesus to put things right.