If you haven’t already, catch up on this week’s liturgy with our intro post for the week, Signs of Life.
So, there I am sitting on the side of the road with judgmental eyes passing me by. The accusatory red, blue, and white lights are flickering in my rearview mirror. My lead foot is resting heavy on the floorboard of my vehicle. Excuses like a school of fish start swimming through my head, searching for some great excuse as to why I was either breaking the speed limit…..or finding some way to make them see they got it wrong. Or, in my earlier days maybe…..just maybe….I could pull out my sure-fire “get out of jail free card”:
“I’m a minister!”
Na, they would never believe that. And if they did, I was just a youth minister and most people in authority are just annoyed by us anyways. Heck, I was. Then, the moment arrives. After what seems like forever, a serious stride develops in my rearview mirror threatening a lighter wallet and yet another point against my drivers license.
Then, the self talk really starts to set in.
“This isn’t fair! Don’t they have real criminals to catch? Didn’t a guy just pass me who was going much faster, but for some reason he pulled me over? Is he picking on me?”
As the long walk ends, the ever so patronizing question comes: “Sir, are you in a hurry to get somewhere?”
At this point, I know what will happen. Is there any point in trying to talk my way out of this? The reality is, I was speeding. Whether or not I had a good excuse seems to be irrelevant.
You see, the reality in this situation typically plays out in this way:
I get what I deserve.
I sped. I broke the law. No matter how much I want to justify things, I did it.
This is why courtroom dramas grip us. We fear the gavel. The final judgment. The sentence.
Because ultimately, we fear getting what we really deserve in the end.
And, isn’t this what justice is anyways? If there was no law or justice, would this not be a chaotic world?
Yet, when we look through the liturgy of the week – we find something quite different. There is this God who, even in the readings from the Old Testament, whispers of a different kind of justice. This justice is administered not from a place of law, but a place of love.
From the story of the prodigal son to the story of the cross we find a God who is so in love with his children that he would take the ultimate punishment for their sake. He would look foolish like the father in the prodigal son parable and shame himself by running like an idiot to embrace his boy – even though the boy deserved much less.
It would be like the aforementioned police officer saying:
“I’m gonna give you a ticket – but I’ll write the check to pay it. Now….stop speeding. I don’t want you to hurt someone or kill someone in your hurry to get somewhere”.
That is a forgiveness that could stick with a person.
So, in the end we don’t get what we really deserve. Yet, in what we do get – we understand as not only a reprieve but an invitation to live differently and better. It isn’t just being let off the hook to take advantage of the system to our own ends.
We are transformed and renewed. When we don’t get what we deserve, in a way we get what we deserve. This is truly, truly good news.