Anticipation of a New Creation

“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing.”  Isaiah 55:12   Anticipation is a less than hopeful word in our contemporary world. We are reminded daily that our future includes melting polar icecaps, rising sea levels, and a deteriorating ozone layer. The U. S. political system is most often described as chaotic, corrupt, and incapable of steering our nation on a clear and consistent course. Churches wring their hands as pews steadily empty. We are more likely to anticipate a future of a world on life support than the biblical vision of a restored and new creation without death or suffering. Yet, from the psalms to the prophets to Jesus to Paul, the anticipation we encounter is not of a world spiraling out of control. In the midst of wars and suffering and cultural chaos, the Scriptures share a vision of the future where God transforms our mourning into joyful celebration. Can we anticipate that future in our Lenten journey beginning this Wednesday and lasting through the end of March? How can we get past the daily reminders of our human situation and the decay that threatens our very existence? Some years ago I read a magazine article in which a man addressed his wife’s concerns that as her body aged he would fall out of love with her. He reminded her that every stretch mark, every wrinkle, and every grey hair were the product of a shared experience in their marriage. He would not change one cell in her body, for to do so would be a denial of trials and triumphs of their life together. I loved that magazine column. Reflecting on it through the lens of a follower of Christ, I believe it has a deeper spiritual meaning for those whose hope for the future is in God. Every one of us has scars we wish would disappear. I mourn the hair I’ve lost, the wrinkles I’ve gained through worry, the age spots on my hands that mark the advancing years. But these are the marks of the life I’ve lived; the life I’ve accepted as a gift from God. Lent asks us to remember, not deny, our humanity and all it entails. We begin with the mark of an ashen cross on the forehead and proceed with disciplines of fasting, and prayer, and devotion so that we might discover deeper truths about ourselves and our God. Lent does not ask us to pretend we are something we are not, to erase the evidence of our humanity. Instead we are asked to focus on our human frailties in order to fully appreciate the gift of the cross and the power of the resurrection. Lent asks us to believe that the end of the human journey is not universal catastrophic annihilation. Rather, it is the unveiling of a new creation where Christ welcomes and embraces us with nail-scarred hands. Those scars we treasure as the living proof of his humanity – and of his love. They remind us that even in the midst of our suffering and angst, God has a plan for us that extends beyond the tomb. Now, that is something to anticipate.