I enjoy how even the most impersonal pre-planned worship disciplines still produce such meaningful lessons to me personally. Two scriptures came together for me in a powerful way that I may never have otherwise seen. One is the book of Lamentations, which my lectionary has me reading during Holy Week, and other is a canticle (or song) from Isaiah 55 called Quærite Dominum. The latter starts off:
Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.
Meanwhile, the book of Jeremiah’s Lamentations is a series of expressions of sorrow over the destruction of Jerusalem after the Babylonians came in and conquered them. The net effect of these two passages read together forms an alarming reminder: there will come a time when the Lord can no longer be “found” because he will no longer be “near.” There will come a day when the wicked and the unrighteous will no longer be able to repent and enter into God’s compassionate pardon. This isn’t exactly everyone’s favorite feature of the Gospel, but nonetheless it’s there.
The graphic descriptions of desolate Jerusalem in the Lamentations enhances our realization of the finality of this reality. No wonder this is a good book to read during Holy Week (not just in my personal reading plan, but also some historical lectionaries too)! The image this produces for me is like a door that’s closing.
When Jesus trounced Satan on the cross, this door began to close. This age is the transition from Satan’s rule to Jesus’ rule, from wickedness to sanctification, from unrighteousness to justification.
Jesus promised that those who jump through the closing door at the last second will receive the same reward as those who step through early on. God is generous; he doesn’t want anyone on the other side of the door when it’s shut. But he’s not going to force anyone either.
If God’s that generous, what’s the rush? Why can’t I just hold off on my baptism until I’m older, had my fun, enjoyed the world, gotten rich, and had a chance to “experience” everything? First of all, that’d be dishonest of me – if I truly believe in God an his promises then I know it’s wrong to pursue a life of sin. But also, we don’t know when the door is going to shut. God’s generosity doesn’t give us a license to procrastinate any more than God’s grace grace gives us a license to sin! St. Paul makes that quite clear.