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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Holy Week Prayers: The Surprise of Grace

Passages for Reflection: Matthew 23:1-36, 26:1-5, 30-35 Father in heaven,

You are a great God of mystery, and it is all too often that we fail to understand You and Your purposes. The gospel of grace is an endless surprise: by giving Your sinless Son for sinful humanity, you upend all of our expectations and overturn all of our religious conceptions. We can't help but notice how Jesus reserved His fiercest words for the religious and granted extraordinary grace to society's screw-ups. Your mission of redemption is unimaginable and unlike the one we ourselves would have planned.

We would have rewarded efforts, but you condemned all religious self-reliance. You have never been impressed with our eloquent prayers. You have perceived that it is not holiness but applause for which we've clamoured by all of our acts of giving and serving. Woe to each of us who gives and serves with the intention of being noticed. Woe to each of us who believes we have anything to offer worthy of your attention and approval. Woe to us who rely upon our rule-keeping for Your favor. Woe to us who read the Bible and extract only rules, straining gnats and swallowing camels.

We are surprised every time we learn that You demand more than these religious theatrics. We are crushed under the offense of the Cross, which announces forgiveness for all who would humble themselves and admit their pretence and rebellion. But we grow hopeful that this Cross, in its unexpected turn of mercy, will make way for our greatest freedom. In repentance and rest is our salvation.

The Cross is a rescue from our pretending, our indifference, and our corruption. The Cross is a way back for the betrayer, rest for the religiously exhausted. Your Son, Jesus, whose head hung by the weight of a crown of thorns, cries out to you, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do, and You hear on behalf of the One who did not pretend and was never indifferent or corrupt. Because of His perfect righteousness, You send your mercy rolling down from the heavens and let sins be removed as far as the east is from the west. We are welcomed as sons and daughters and given the inheritance of Christ.

Your goodness is beyond measure; Your ways are not our ways. O magnify the name of the Lord with me!