Day 20: Friday in the Third Week of Lent
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
Israel’s founding story is about deliverance from bondage into freedom: they were slaves in Egypt and God brought them out with wondrous deeds. Christianity’s story is built on Israel’s story. The death and resurrection of Jesus not only happened at Passover, it is a Passover of its own, a deliverance from bondage, a journey from death into life. As Israel came through the Red Sea, Christians come through the waters of baptism. We live now in a new land. A land where we possess the promise that nothing in heaven or earth can separate us from the love of God. Our sins no longer condemn. Death no longer binds. Fear, guilt, shame, are washed away. We are citizens of the far country – the far country come near in Christ.
We are not free from responsibility for our words and deeds, of course, but we are freed from the power of our failings to condemn. We have been freed into a new life. Freed for compassion. Freed to share one another’s burdens. Freed to forgive as we have been forgiven. Freed to love God and neighbor. Freed to live the Spirit’s life.
I cannot adequately describe what happens when we play. Children do this easily: they lose themselves in the game. They are not thinking about how they look or what people think or whether you are following the rules. They just play. There is a deep and profound freedom in such play. They can be pirates or dragons or dragon pirates. They can fly or climb mountains. They can be a superhero or the family’s pet tiger. They can fish off the side of the bed or swim across the bedroom floor. All things are possible. There are free from self-consciousness.
The freedom of play can fail over questions of power – who’s in control of the game. It disappears, too, when we start to keep score to know who “wins”. Selfishness can rise up and destroy the game. Fear can invade our play. Anger or tears – or both – typically follow. We fall into the realm of shoulds and oughts, of judgment and shame. We end with recrimination rather than grace, tears rather than laughter.
To be in Christ is to be free from death’s dominion – to be free from those governing passions and powers. It is to inhabit a different realm, where grace and freedom reign. We fall from this freedom, but we keep coming back to our central story: unimaginable mercy and an empty tomb. We keep coming back to the mystery spoken in the font: our sins are washed away. We keep coming back to the table of peace where Christ comes to us anew. And those simple words “Christ is risen” carry us into the Spirit – and “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
in the waters of baptism you anointed us with your Holy Spirit.
Stir up within us your Spirit
and lead us this day in paths that are holy and true.
– A prayer for the third week of Lent
(For the reflection on this week’s theme: “Baptism & the Holy Spirit”)