For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. When I want to do good, evil is with me. For in my inner self I joyfully agree with God's law. But I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh, to the law of sin.
Like the Apostle Paul, we face the continuing struggle to live as the children of God and the recipients of grace that God says we are. As we recall the events that led up to the glory of resurrection, we might acknowledge that we, like his disciples, would have slept as Jesus prayed for deliverance in the garden. We ponder whether we would have denied knowing him as he silently accepted his death sentence. We can, perhaps once again or perhaps for the first time, acknowledge the depth of what happened to Jesus, consider how he responded, and marvel at what he did on the cross.
When we come to the Lord's table we are cautioned not to do so mindlessly or lightly, but to partake of the body and blood with awareness and a right spirit. The same can be said for how we approach the mystery of how Messiah "was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities" (Isaiah 53:5).
Some years ago I realized that I was becoming too insulated. I spent most of my time with fellow Christians. I volunteered at the church and Ken and I were planning to study theology as soon as possible. One night I knelt by my bedside praying for a family member who was living in darkness. I didn't feel much compassion, and I asked God to help me realize what it was like to live without God as opposed to being a child of light (as Ephesians so gloriously describes it). I don't know what I expected, or if I expected anything, but something happened. I felt plunged into loneliness, hopelessness, sadmess and darkness. Fortunately the experience only lasted a few moments, but I will never forget it. Life without God? Unthinkable!
A stay in the garden and at the foot of the cross makes grace and resurrection life all the sweeter. We face what life was, is, and can be. We once again receive comfort, love, mercy, grace and forgiveness. How our hearts can then cry out, "Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord."
God of Grace, I pray that we, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. Grant that we will know this love that surpasses knowledge—that we may be filled with the fullness that comes of God. Amen