If you’ve missed our Wednesday Lenten worship services this year you’ve missed something excellent. But, don’t worry, we’ll be back for more of these midweek services when the Advent season comes around in December. The fellowship, the informality, and the spiritual depth of these services has been something quite remarkable.
This year’s theme has been “Return from Exile.” In the Old Testament the Israelites suffered two periods of exile from their Promised Land – first in Egypt and later in Babylon. So, each week we’ve heard Bible passages that highlight these journeys and the struggles they imposed on God’s people.
But the focus of these Lenten studies is really on our own journeys through exile. As fallen people we struggle with sin. It exiles us from God and we struggle on long, arduous journeys that seem to lead nowhere. But then God leads us by faith through the wilderness and guides us to His Promised Land. On earth Jesus leads us safely on this trail that runs through His Church.
In many ways this pattern is played out in the stories of the Old Testament. Each week we were presented with a motif from God’s Word that illustrates our journey with Christ through the wilderness of sin.
What is a motif, you ask? It’s a feature in literature or music that identifies a repeating theme. It’s something easily identifiable that’s connected to a deeper meaning. Sometimes that meaning is symbolic; sometimes that meaning is literal.
For example, the Tree motif takes us from the Tree the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden to the Tree of the Cross where Jesus redeemed us. And from that tree we’re taken to the Tree of Life in the New Jerusalem of Revelation 22.
The Mountain motif takes us from Mount Moriah, where Abraham was ready to sacrifice his own son to God, to Mount Calvary, where God sacrificed His own Son for our salvation, to the Temple Mount, where God dwells with His people.
The Water motif examines the connection between God liberating His people by letting them pass through the parted waters of the Red Sea, and God liberating His people by sending Jesus into the waters of Holy Baptism in the Jordan River.
Or, how about another Baptismal motif? God leads His people into the Promised Land with His presence in the Ark of the Covenant as He parts the waters of the Jordan River. They’re no longer wanderers – they’ve got a place in the Promised Land. Later, God’s people follow Jesus’ presence into the waters of Baptism, where our sins are exchanged for His righteousness. We’re no longer wandering in sin, we’ve got a home in Jesus’ Church and a place prepared for us in heaven.
One of the things that impresses me about God’s Word is how amazingly connected it is. Written by many authors over many centuries, it all ties together as if written by the most brilliantly focused author we could conceive of. That author, of course, is none other than God Himself, as “…men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” [2 Peter 1:21]
In awe of God’s guiding hand,