By Sarah Miller
Tuskawilla UMC, Casselberry, FL
First, read Romans 6:23
A few years ago to help theme the worship space for Lent I designed what I called a deadscape into the sanctuary. Friends helped me gather branches, tree trimmings, rocks, sand, and gravel and together we arranged them into an arid, lifeless scape in front of the altar. Each week of Lent we added a new element to the scape to help transform it from death to life, symbolic of the journey from Lent through Christ's Resurrection.
My friend, Bena, visited a local home and garden store shortly before Lent started that year and came across two dead bougainvillea plants on trellises. She asked a store associate if she could buy them; she thought they would be perfect additions to the deadscape. The store associate gladly gave them to Bena because the only place those dead bougainvilleas were headed was the dumpster.
Dry and leafless the bougainvillea brambles joined our deadscape. Each week of Lent another symbol was added to the scape to bring it back to life ... and each week those bougainvillea brambles, little by little, transformed back into vibrant plants! Slowly small green buds formed. Buds became leaves. Strings of leaves became vines. And just in time for Easter the bougainvilleas bloomed in the sanctuary!
These little plants were a true testament to the transformation of the Lenten season as we move towards Easter...and perhaps an indicator of how damp the sanctuary was because we did not water what we were sure were dead plants! The final word for that pair of bougainvilleas was life. Life is Christ's final word and gift for us.
The Apostle Paul tells us, “the wages of sin is death.” This is a lesson that Paul would have learned in his training and studies as a Pharisee, someone who is educated in the Hebrew Scripture and the Law. If you were disobedient to the commandments, the consequences were severe. Through his coming, Jesus fulfilled the Law through the gift of grace. Yes, we sin and because we sin our consequence should be death, but because of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, the final word for our lives is life.
We walk this path of transformation when we acknowledge our sin and ask to receive God’s grace through forgiveness. Sin makes our relationship with God very arid and dry, much like the deadscape in my sanctuary. Forgiveness and grace refresh our relationship with God and draw us deeper into relationship with the One who loves us so deeply and claims us as beloved children. God’s forgiveness and grace springs us into new life; we grow, we flourish, we bloom.
Prayer: Loving God, thank you for the gift of grace and the promise that you draw seemingly dead things into beautiful life. Thank you for the gift of your Son Jesus, who through his sacrifice, draws me into beautiful life eternal. Forgive me when my choices separate me from you. Strengthen me so that I may serve as your helpmate in building the Kingdom. Amen.
Take a few moments today to consider where your relationship with God has become dry and arid. Think about the choices you made and their resulting consequences. Then, ask God for grace and forgiveness that your relationship with God will be renewed.