• Steven Marsh

Connecting With Others in the Unconditional Love of the Triune God– “Living in Thankfulness fo

On Palm Sunday, Christians around the world begin to celebrate the passion narrative: the significance of Jerusalem, the Upper Room, Gethsemane, the crucifixion and resurrection for the salvation of humanity. It is through the experience of this week that we can truly live in thankfulness for the unconditional love of God. Henri Nouwen writes, “You have to celebrate your chosenness constantly. This means saying ‘thank you’ to God for having chosen you, and ‘thank you’ to all who remind you of your chosenness. Gratitude is the most fruitful way of deepening your consciousness that you are not an ‘accident,’ but a divine choice.”[1]It is hard for us to get our minds around God’s unconditional love for humanity. And for that we must be thankful.

Luke 19:28-40 demands our attention. On the way into Jerusalem, Jesus reframed the title, “Lord.” He identifies the title rather than it him.[2]The crowds expected Jesus to fulfill their hopes through the use of power. Using power for the people’s benefit was the role of the King in the Jewish people’s history. And now, after hundreds of years of not being a kingdom, the Jews anticipated returning to their promised place of kingdom and power. But that was not and is not the message of kingdom defined by Jesus. Jesus had surrendered his power to the Father in order for the people to see power through obedience to the One who knew them the best and loved them the most.

Psalm 118 is the last in the series of Egyptian Hallel psalms. These psalms retell the narrative of the Exodus. Psalm 118 is a call to praise and worship. The story of salvation told in this psalm first encounters themes of sorrow, betrayal and death, before victory over death, the fulfillment of the story of salvation which the empty tomb declares. As we ponder this psalm, our cry for salvation is muted. Without any doubt, however, Psalm 118 makes the case of God’s unconditional love for humanity. Eric Wall writes, “Along the way will be the washing of feet and the covenant of love. In the clamor of the palm and psalm, we might strain to see this one who comes in God’s name; our cry for salvation might also be plaintive, weak, or whispered.”[3]

Can Christians promote the mission of the Triune God’s unconditional love the way Jesus lived it? Loving God and loving others is not easy, particularly when we realize that turning to Jesus to fix things and then turning away from Jesus when he doesn’t do for us what we want is counterproductive to the mission. Jesus’ march to Jerusalem, the Upper Room, the Garden of Gethsemane and the cross was not easy. It was the unconditional love of the Father for him and his for us that kept him faithful.Randy Frazee writes, “Christianity has a long history of overcoming obstacles and swimming against the current…They [Christians] have the power within them through Jesus Christ to make it happen.”[4]

What does being embraced by the unconditional love of God feel like? It is comforting and encouraging…strengthening and empowering. No obstacle is too hard to overcome. No fear has ultimate power over you. The decision to love is yours to make. In the midst of our journey through Holy Saturday, as we anticipate the tomb being empty on Sunday, let us feel our own sorrow, betrayal and death, yet hear the words of Psalm 118:1, “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever.”

[1]Henri J. Nouwen in “Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World.Christianity Today, Vol. 40, no. 13.

[2]Adapted from Hans Frei, The Identity of Jesus Christ: The Hermeneutical Bases of Dogmatic Theology (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975), 136.

[3]Eric Wall in Joel B. Green, Thomas G. Long, Luke A. Powery and Cynthia L. Rigby, editors, Connections, Year C, Volume 2 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2018), 110.

[4]See Randy Frazee, The Connecting Church 2.0 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2013), 131.

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