Favor with God
1 Peter 3:18-22
Today we use the lectionary for the first Sunday in Lent. It is traditional to focus on the penitential way beginning the liturgy (either just for this Sunday or perhaps each Sunday before Holy Week) with one of the Penitential Orders, and/or the Decalogue (fancy for inter-active 10 Commandments).
While I have usually followed that pattern in the past, my prayertime took me - with surprise - to another place this morning. A place of affirmation.
The Genesis story involves the covenant that God establishes with Noah, his descendants and "all flesh that is upon the earth". What an affirmation! If we back up in the story, Noah was singled out in the first place because Noah "...found favor in the sight of the Lord" (Gen.6:8).
We are loved despite our shortcomings in showing love, cared for despite our occasional negligence.
In the words of the writer of the Epistle, "...Christ suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God" (1Pet.3:18)
Finally, both in the reading last week and in the description of the Baptism, a recognition from beyond this mortal plane comes through to Jesus. In the Transfiguration story, the statements seem to be made for the benefit of the witnesses: This is my Son, the Beloved: [listen to Him]. In the Baptism account, God's address is profound and personal: You are my Son, the Beloved: with you I am well pleased. What an affirmation to hear... and own.
Scripture has a way of speaking to our inmost parts when we open ourselves to it. The message today in that quiet place was also profound and personal. I had labored in vain all these years to try to convince myself that I deserved the love of God. It never occurred to me that I had found favor with God, not really, really, really.... not until today.
My heart is lighter today.... and I can keep serving as an enduring thank you.... 'because He first loved me'.